24 hours in a day. 8 hours of sleep. 8 hours of work. 8 hours to squeeze everything else we need or want to accomplish in a day. Have kids? That time available seems to quickly dwindle and suddenly the idea of adding physical activity to the list at all seems downright tough. If you are anything like me, this routinely becomes a juggling act of priorities. But what if we reframed this to look at a few ways to build healthy habits together? If we focus on combining physical activity with those must dos, we’ll avoid letting our excuses of quantity, quality or perfection get in the way of doing anything at all.
As a former fitness professional and marathon runner, I thought keeping my physical activity routine going strong after kids would be no problem. Turns out not so easy. My priorities shifted and I struggled a lot with letting go of perfection – if it wasn’t my strict regimen then did it even count as exercise? Some folks figure out a way to keep those routines going and that’s great! I unfortunately, like many people I know, haven’t been able to unlock the right routine. Instead of continuing to ride my excuse train, I decided to take a different approach and see where I could start pairing physical activity with things that I was already doing. Is it as strenuous of exercise as I had before? No. But are some minutes better than no minutes? Absolutely!
Here are a few ideas to prioritize that precious family time together while keeping active:
- Frog, cheetah, sloth, unicorn Family Walk: take turns calling out and moving like these various animals (or choose your own, these are just the ones my kiddos enjoy) and up the excitement on your walk
- Monkey bar contests: Who can hang the longest? Make it all the way across? Do a pull-up at the end?
- Game of tag – or as my littles like to call it, being chased by the tickle monster
- Trampoline park – Have you tried jumping into a big pile of foam blocks and then getting out? You’ll use all sorts of different muscles to wade your way out.
- Explore new destinations: With a little more time on the weekends, we take longer walks/bike/scooter rides to explore new playgrounds or destinations that are a bit outside of our neighborhood.
- Gardening together – we start planting tomato seeds in February. The kids take care of them and help transplant, dragging bags and buckets of dirt around, lifting watering cans throughout the summer and definitely love helping pick the fruits of their labor. Bonus that we are building in a healthy nutrition habit early on too.
- Scavenger hunts – what treasures can you find in your neighborhood?
- Laps around the playground or practice field/court when shuttling between practices and games – chatting with other parents? Talk and walk – help them get moving too
With or without kids in the mix, there are other ways to get creative with building in physical activity amidst time constraints:
- Dance party while cleaning
- Turn a meeting or two/week into a walking meeting
- March in place while brushing your teeth
- Calf raises while you are waiting in line
At the end of the day, one of my top priorities as a parent is to spend time with my kids. I also want my kids to feel like exercise is not a chore and staying physically active is something to build into your everyday routine – and why can’t you make it fun? No one says it has to be painful for to it to be beneficial! The more time we do spend together it helps remind me of the importance of taking care of my health to enjoy quality years with my family. And just with most things, the more you do something, the easier it becomes to prioritize once you’ve already built the habit. What unusual way to stay active are you going to try this week?
A former personal trainer and on-site corporate fitness specialist, Christine now spends her days as the Health Strategy Solutions, Manager at Vitality – helping both internal and external partners unlock unique solutions to meet their goals. You can find her staying active these days by chasing her two tiniest clients (2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter) around Chicago to explore as many parks and playgrounds as possible.