“Your life is going to change forever!”
You heard it a million times before starting a family. Undoubtedly one of the adjustments has been to your exercise routine. With all the new responsibilities that are heaped upon you with the arrival of kids, exercise has a tendency to fall by the wayside. Keeping up the fitness routine is important not only for your own health but to be a role model for your children. Here are some tips to give your family a dose of preventative medicine as well as togetherness. With a bit of luck, your kids won’t even recognize it as exercise.
Exercise With a Baby
Naturally, your newborn is not ready for formal exercise just yet, but mom has recovered from birthing and is ready again for some exercise. A good stroller is a great investment for not only getting the daily chores done, but also for introducing some brisk walking and eventually jogging. From the time your baby is 8 weeks old, it is safe to walk with him or her in a stroller, as long as you use a car seat adaptor. However, it is recommended that you wait until your baby is eight months old before jogging or going off-road with your infant in the stroller. While you hit the pavement for your daily dose of endorphins, your baby will enjoy the rocking motions as well as the sights and sounds from the cockpit.
If you’re confined to the indoors, invest in a workout DVD or two to get your exercise fix. You’d be surprised how engrossed your baby can be while watching mom or dad working out in front of the screen. Purchase a jumper—a device that allows your baby to jump up and down securely in one spot—and put it somewhere where you can keep an eye on him or her while you get that all-important 20 minute workout in.
Even in the digital age, some excitement can still be generated from a child’s first bike. Once your child is up and cycling without training wheels, the two of you can combine workouts by jogging and cycling together. Sure, the pace might be inconsistent and you may have to negotiate both road crossings and the random muses of a toddler, but use them to your advantage to vary the pace. You can even recruit your child as a coach, getting them to yell “Go!” at random intervals. This type of training even has a name in athletic circles: “fartlek,” a Swedish word meaning “speedplay.” It’s great cardiovascular training.
Not only is swimming a great exercise, but it’s also an important safety skill for kids to learn, so that they can be comfortable and confident in and around water. A trip down to the public swimming pool is a great way to spend an afternoon getting some informal exercise. Children can learn to swim at an early age, but if you don’t feel confident doing the teaching, enroll them in private or group swimming lessons. That way you can swim some laps while the kids are occupied.
Exercise With Grade-Schoolers
Combine fun and exercise with trampolining. The kids will be so busy enjoying themselves they won’t even know they’re exercising. In many places around the U.S., there are businesses that run warehouses of trampoline floors and walls where you can bounce around for hours. Whether jumping, running, or flipping, you and your child will burn calories, build muscle, and increase your balance and spatial coordination. It’s a great idea for alternative birthday parties—grade-school birthdays, with pizza, cake, and more tend to be a pretty bad health trap.
Suggesting a hiking trip may not elicit cries of joy from your tween initially, but there are some ways to spice this exercise up to make it more desirable. Attaching an activity—such as bird watching, plant identification, or map reading—may convert this outdoor pursuit into an active hobby, one that keeps them coming back. Educate yourself by reading some nature books specific to your locale or take a short guided hike so that next time you’re out you can distract yourselves from the effort by reveling in the wonders of nature.
Exercise With Teens
If you are successful in prizing the video game controller or television remote out of your teen’s hands, pack him or her in the car and head to your local disc golf venue. Disc golf courses are outdoors, usually in naturally beautiful preserves, and all you need is a frisbee. The goal is to throw the frisbee into a basket located some distance from the tee. It is scored in the same way golf is; the least number of throws required to complete the course wins. By the time it’s over you will have clocked three to four miles of walking and will have worked your shoulders and torso muscles with the throwing motion.
So how do you get your teens away from the computer screen and moving? One solution: You don’t have to. There are computer games out there to which you can raise a decent physical sweat. The Wii is a home video console built by Nintendo. You hold it in your hands and your actions are mimicked by avatars on the screen. Enter the exercise solution for your sluggish teen, a selection of dance games designed for Wii. The gamer copies the dance moves they see on the screen and scores points for the accuracy in which he or she moves along to his or her favorite tunes. It’s a lot of fun and a great calorie burner. Using the multiplayer function, even uncoordinated parents can get sucked into the fun. Luckily, there are no points for style.
Note: While the Wii Fit may sound like a game that will get you exercising, it is somewhat of a misnomer. It is mostly a console to measure your weight and there are some balance exercises but it really doesn’t have enough functionality to really get the heart beating.