If you don’t have kids, I’ll leave you with two interesting articles for your “Work Out Wednesday:” This article shares the 4 biggest half-marathon mistakes, and this one gives all you yogis several postures to help tone various body parts.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t have kids, so this post is not based on experience per se. However, I have 4 adorable and sweet nieces and one “cool” (he’d kill me if I said “adorable and sweet!”) nephew … and I have actually gotten asked this question from three of you now, so let’s talk about how to fit in exercise with your kids.
I read a Runner’s World article yesterday called “Fit Kids are Better Learners.” The study cited in the article shows that for the hardest recall tests, kids who scored higher on fitness also scored higher on memory tests. Although the results aren’t quite as dramatic as the title of the article suggests, this is still pretty amazing … active, healthy, fit kids can also reap benefits in terms of mental abilities! If that isn’t enough to get you moving with your family, I don’t know what is!
So now that you’re ready to get moving, how do you actually make it work? I truly believe that the most important thing you can do to set your child up for exercise success is to have the right attitude: show them that exercise is important to you, show them that you make adjustments to your schedule to prioritize your health, and show them that exercise is fun. You know why so many people grow up hating running? Because it is used as “punishment” in other sports! The same mentality applies to you – if your kids see you complaining about exercise, dreading exercise, or avoiding exercise, they’ll be less likely to want to make it a part of their own lives.
Here are my top tips for staying fit with your kids:
- Take a walk/ jog/ bike ride with your kids. Most recommendations start at around 5 years old for both running and biking for kids (younger kids can ride a tricycle or a bike with training wheels). The Road Runner’s Club of America says that kids 5-8 years old can safely run/ walk shorter distances (just let them be the judge of their exertion, and don’t push them too hard!), kids 8-12 should keep their regular runs to about 5K distance, and kids 13-15 can aim for up to a half marathon. Just be careful … when my older sister started running with Brendan, she was leading him along, and now … let’s just say he’s waiting for her at the finish line! Kids can show huge speed improvements in a short period of time!
- Have your kids count your reps if you’re doing a repetition-based workout (like lifting weights, or doing body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.). I got this idea from STUFT mama, who often posts videos of her kids “helping her” with her workouts, and sometimes even doing the workouts alongside her! This is a great way to involve your kids, keep them occupied, and help them see the fun in working out.
- Set goals for them as you’re setting goals for yourself. Are you training for a marathon? Why not use this awesome tracking page I found from Marathon Kids (see p. 25 of the pdf) and mark your child off each time he/ she completes 1/4 of a mile, so that he/ she can “run a marathon” with you? Are you trying to work up to 25 burpees? Why not see if your child can do 25 jumping jacks? If your child feels like he/ she is accomplishing something too, he/ she will be more likely to enjoy the workout.
- Dance, cardio/ aerobics, stretching, or yoga exercise videos. I know that for moms, it can be impossible to even get out of the house to get your workout in, but I’ve heard both Marathon Training Academy and Jillian Michaels (two of my favorite podcasters) recommend doing workout videos with your kids in the room. Allow them to participate to make it a family affair – most kids should be allowed to do any exercise they feel capable of (as long as they are only using their body weight and not using weights or equipment). Just let them be the guide of their own exertion.
- Make it into a game. Try to make your workout fun, and create a “game” of it for your kids. Here’s a fun workout with playing cards that I made up for you to do with your kids. Or, so something as simple as playing hide and seek – but the “hider” and the “seeker” have to be on different floors, to force you to use the stairs.
- Be realistic. Taking care of your kids is hard work! In most circumstances, expecting to do a 2-hour workout every single day, then take a leisurely shower, make a gourmet recovery meal, and enjoy a 3-hour nap is just not possible! Be proud of yourself for whatever you can fit in, and give yourself a pat on the back for setting your kids up for success in their exercise futures.
- Be efficient. I have spoken a lot about the benefits of high intensity interval training, and it’s a perfect way for busy moms to cram a lot of workout benefit into a little bit of time. So if you choose not to work out with your kids, check out this Shape article on Tabata for moms, my post on home/ hotel room workouts here, or my Pinterest workout board for more ideas.
**Please note that I am NOT a doctor or trainer, and this is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, especially for your kids.**
So tell me in the comments … if you have kids, how do you include them in your healthy lifestyle? If you don’t have kids, any ideas for those that do? Or just want to tell me how cute my nieces and nephew are?
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This is such great timing! My co-worker was just saying she has no time to workout between working and caring for her girls. I’m going to show this to her and suggest combing a workout with the quality time. 🙂
Aw, thanks for sharing! I know it must be really tough to combine a healthy lifestyle with being a parent, but I also know it is possible! Good luck to your co-worker!
i’m not sure if you’ve ever read mizfit’s blog, but she (carla) has some awesome suggestions for how to parent kids with an active lifestyle. she is all about PLAY!
Thanks, Caitlin! I don’t have kids but that would be a great resource for any others who are reading this post and curious! I’ve heard a lot about Mizfit and follow her on Instagram, but don’t think I’ve read her blog yet!
I just want to tell you how cute your nieces and nephew are 🙂
I agree!!! Thanks for sharing them with me!
I do not have kids, however, I remember when I was younger my parents always advocated that we go outside and play. We had a pool, tennis court and large yards to play! We also lived on a great street where we could bike ride. Pretty much, I had the BEST childhood! Another PLUS about it? NO TECHNOLOGY!!! Except a TV and a LAND LINE telephone!!! I miss the days! I remember when we got our first computer – we still would have rather played in the exercise room my parents had, or outside! 😀
Haha – I KNOW!!!! I can’t even imagine my life without all the technology we have nowadays, but I remember our first computer, too, and thinking it was SO slow! It makes me sad that kids play outside less and less these days :(.
These are great tips, ESPECIALLY the one about making it into a game. I saw another article today that was talking about how recess improves kids’ performance in school. Its definitely true. I don’t have kids either, but I definitely want to incorporate walks and being active into their lives when I do.
That’s so interesting, Amy! I never used to like recess all that much (because I wasn’t good at kickball!), but I completely support it – I see how it breaks up the day for kids, helps them burn off pent up energy, and gets their blood flowing! I think it’s great for kids to get outside and think of exercise as fun.
I love this post! I don’t have kids yet either BUT I think that most children learn the importance of fitness and being active when they are young, why not start them out on the right foot early on!? I think the same thing goes with healthy eating!
I agree, Sara. I don’t like the idea of FORCING kids to eat things from an early age, but I think that if you give them a variety of foods and help them develop their taste bugs for healthier options earlier, you can set them up for success!
My nephew and I play games on our Wii! Let me tell you, hula hoop competitions on wii are a serious workout. Just in general trying to keep up with a 4 year old is a workout though. Great post!
OK, embarrassing fact – I am TERRIBLE at hula hooping!! I was even a dancer from when I was 3 until part-way through college, but I just can’t hula hoop! Great workout, though, you’re right!