I recently came back from a trip to Europe and I found myself noticing the same thing in every airport. I would watch as parents carried two pieces of luggage and a screaming child while fumbling with passports and boarding passes. It seemed chaotic, but they did it. I was very impressed with how calm and collected each parent was (or so it seemed) as they worked together to get themselves on their flights. I look back now and laugh that my greatest worry was finding airport wifi. It was nothing compared to what those parents were going through. I give parents a lot of credit. As a parent, you are responsible for a little human while taking care of work, a house and of course your own well-being. Parenthood is a never-ending job and once you’re involved, your children take priority over everything.

So how do parents find time to exercise, eat healthy or just relax? Well the reality is, it can be extremely difficult and in many cases health is pushed to the side. As young adults enter parenthood, physical activity tends to decrease while other aspects of life take priority. Transitions such as finding a job, buying a house or having children all contribute to decreased fitness levels. As routines are broken, time becomes an issue and it becomes that much harder to meet fitness recommendations. Although it may seem impossible, try to consider all of the benefits fitness can bring to your life and your family’s lives.

The Benefits

It can be exhausting to keep up with your children, both physically and emotionally. Although I have not entered parenthood myself, I have worked with many parents as clients and can tell you that exercise made a difference in their lives. In order to feel less fatigued and boost your energy, you need to move! Introducing more movement increases mitochondria (organelles responsible for creating usable energy within a cell). These organelles are considered powerhouses or energy factories due to their role in energy production. Increased energy demands stimulates mitochondrial division to meet the needs of the body. With an increase in mitochondria leading to greater energy production, you are able to function more efficiently while having the energy to do so. Coming home from work, cooking a meal, playing with the kids and getting in a 30 minute workout will become a more achievable task as you add more activity into your routine. So what steps can you take to ensure you can make everything in your life flow while taking care of yourself?

Recommendations

The first step is to understand how much physical activity you need in order to meet the requirements. The general guideline for aerobic activity is 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity. This can be achieved through 30-60 minute exercise sessions, 3-5 times per week. As for resistance training, it is recommended that you complete 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week. Once you start to incorporate more exercise into your routine, you feel less tired during the day, sleep better at night and decrease stress levels. More exercise means you are also decreasing the risk of injury and preventing future illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease. It can be alarming to think of, but you want to do what you can now to stay around longer. A few push ups today can help postpone pushing up daisies forever. Fitness is a major component of a healthy lifestyle and it’s important to keep that in mind.

Alright, so let’s talk about where you are right now in your life. I want to help you understand HOW you can meet these recommendations and introduce some possible steps you can to take.
Every Minute Counts

My number one suggestion is, DO NOT WAIT until life becomes “easier” for you to start exercising. You may laugh at the thought of 150 minutes per week, but small attainable steps will help get you on track. Start off with a weekly planner and figure out the best time for you to integrate exercise into your day.

If you have an hour for lunch, throw on some running shoes and go out for a 30 minute walk. Little Jimmy has a soccer game, again throw on some running shoes and run some laps around the field…maybe even add ten squats every time you pass a goal post. There is nothing wrong with being the odd parent out that is taking time to exercise instead of setting up camp on the side lines with the massive lawn chair, foot rest and XL Tim’s coffee. As much as you may feel this is your time to relax, consider it an opportunity to start making a difference in your fitness and health.

Additional tips for the workday:

Wake up, sit at the end of your bed and stretch your neck and shoulders

Brush your teeth while in a lunge (stretching the hip flexors)

Walk or bike to and from work

If you drive to work, park further than normal to add in more steps

Take the stairs, not the elevator

Desk job: stand up and stretch or walk every 30 minutes

Long standing periods: complete high knees, butt kickers and calf raises on the spot

Family Style Fitness

Another fun way to utilize your time effectively is by exercising WITH your children. No matter what age, there is always a way to get the entire family moving. Research is the first step you need to take when planning family fitness. What activities do your children enjoy? Are they involved in any sports? Do they absolutely HATE exercise? Collecting this information means you are able to get creative with your family’s fitness. It might take a few trials before finding an activity everyone loves, however the benefits health wise are far beyond the little effort needed to make it happen. Plus, family time bonds everyone closer together in activities the whole family can enjoy.

Here are some suggestions:

Finding classes for parents and infants, i.e. Parent & Tot Aqua-fit Class

Research local community centers that have fitness classes DURING children’s programs

Find a gym that allows young teens to have a membership

Promote neighbourhood weekly activities, for example: parents vs. children baseball games

Research upcoming community events, i.e. local charity runs/walks or free public swims

Create a backyard obstacle course and use items you have around the house!

Staying active can be way more than just exercise. It’s a chance to bond as a family and create lasting memories for you all to look back on and enjoy.

You Are A Role Model

You are the biggest influence in your child’s life. You can guide your children to lead a healthy lifestyle by being a parent of example. Teach through your actions as words may not display the message you want. Being a role model encourages you to better yourself to have a positive influence on your child’s life. You want your children to recognize hard work and what they can achieve from it. Make the smallest tasks seem exciting and eventful. For example, allow your child to select your workout clothes. Let them take initiative and have a little fun with it…even if you end up looking a little crazy. Making tasks like this a habit will contribute to organization, decision-making and good ole’ fashion fun.

In conclusion, visualize your schedule and recognize where you can make a difference. A small change in a day adds up to a greater change in a week, a month and so on. Like I said, fitness is for forever. At Iron Athletics, we are looking to create a lifestyle that lasts you a lifetime. We are offering you a free fitness kit to jump start your health journey. Click here to get your free fitness kit!

If you are looking for more tips on planning activities and physical fitness for you and your family, contact me at amarconi@ironathleticscanada.ca or join our Facebook group: The Iron Association.

Don’t forget to follow us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and INSTAGRAM!