Nine ways to exercise with children

Have you been lamenting your lack of exercise? Thinking back on the days when you used to get to go to the gym, or run around your neighborhood or swim laps at the pool? Kid time is sometimes almost all our time—and the kind of “running around” we do with them doesn’t always feed our body’s need for vigorous (or gentle) and sustained exercise.

Here are some of the ways I’ve found to bring exercise back in, with activities that you and your kids both enjoy, and that give you the added benefit of that exercise you’ve been craving to round out your life, keep you physically fit, and elevate your mood. You can adapt these suggestions to your mobility level.

1. Go for a long walk outdoors. People who walk in nature report that they feel happier after a walk in the woods than they did when they started. Find a trail where you can both walk, or where you can walk and push a stroller, or where your child can run, or scoot on a scooter (a great way for them to develop coordination). A brisk walk can revitalize your and your child’s circulatory system, and a controlled dose of sunshine will do you both some good. If it’s cold, bundle up. If it’s raining, throw on ponchos.

2. Play chase. Pretend you can’t catch your child, so they can feel powerful. Then run away from them and let them “catch” you. Before you do, you might be able to run several laps around them. Depending on how long their energy lasts, you might be able to get in a good aerobic workout.

3. Go for an actual dedicated run with your child around a local track.  If you have an infant or very young child, you might be able to run pushing a stroller.  Or, if your older child runs slower, you can run circles around them, and make a game out of it. In this case, your goal will be to keep up your own pace. You can talk with them beforehand about your goals, for example, “I want to run for twenty minutes. You can run with me, let me run around you, follow on your scooter, or stay on the side where I can see you and play with your toys and books.” Did I mention it helps to bring toys and books almost anywhere?

4. “Fly” your child. If you lie on your back, you can “fly” your child on the bottoms of your feet, on your hands, or both. With your back supported on the ground, or on a mat, you can work on your core abdominal strength as you delight your child. If you feel comfortable, you can experiment with many variations on this “flight.” My son likes to put his feet in my hands and his hands on my feet and support himself. He also likes to sit on my feet and be lifted into the air.

5. Go to a local dance jam and play. Many cities host open free-form dance spaces that are kid-friendly. Check with your local dance studios, and ask around until you find free-form dance enthusiasts. If none exist, you might be able to persuade one of the local dance studios to start one, or host your own. Basically, all you need is a large open space (some churches or synagogues might have rooms you could use), and some upbeat music. It also helps to have props like physio balls, scarves, hula hoops, costumes, stuff to crawl into and on, or anything your imagination dictates. Grownups and kids then get to play, jump, fly, roll around, or whatever moves them. And you get to have some exercise!

6. Get into some water. Even if you can’t leave your child long enough to swim some laps, you can “run” in the water while you play with your child. The resistance of the water provides a great workout.  Kids love to play “shark” too, another chasing game, this time in the water! If you have another adult along, you can take turns watching the kids and swimming laps.

7. Check out your local Y. The large ones provide subsidized child care, and often have a play space. You can do a workout, then play with your child in the play space. Or vice versa.

8. Exercise here and there. If you are standing in a line wearing your baby, do some toe raises and knee bends. When you lean down to pick up something off the florr, bend from your knees with a straight back to use your gluteus maximus (AKA your butt muscles) instead of straining your lower back. Do some stretches at the park. If you feel self-conscious, just remember, you might be inspiring other parents! It might seem like a small measure, but if you multiply several minutes of these over many weeks, your body will thank you in the form of greater strength, flexibility and endurance.

9. Use the playground equipment along with your child. Many play structures contain opportunities for chin-ups, inversions, stair ascension, and more. Try to keep up with your child. You’ll delight and connect with her as you burn calories and strengthen your muscles!

Note: As with any new physical undertaking, consult your doctor before beginning these types of exercises to make sure they’re compatible with your constitution.

We’d love to hear how it’s going—please tell us in the space below how you manage (or not) to integrate exercise with parenting, or include it alongside.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll talk about getting to have parties, gardening, keeping old friendships alive, and creating and nurturing the village it takes to raise your child, all so you can have most whole life possible.

6 comments
Doctor Jobs Australia
Doctor Jobs Australia

Very good stuff, really this will not only give you a exercise but will also develop the relationship with the children more and at the end they will become good citizens.

Sandy
Sandy

Great tips! Lately, with the weather getting warmer, I've been taking my 8 year old nephew to the park so he can use up some of the excess energy he has. I have him running laps around the track every other day. Of course this motivates me as well to exercise.

hamil
hamil

Children like to play chase. I agree it is a good way to exercise.

copter
copter

Oh wow I needed this. We have gotten so lazy! I really try to take walks with the boys but they are seeming fewer and farther between. We have been playing "hide and go seek" today and that has gotten them running some and me a little so that's good.

news
news

nice idea !
I love the most 2! play chase :))

news’s last blog post..Poli?i?tii au re?inut un suspect în cazul celor doi b?rba?i împu?ca?i la Gala?i

Nacha
Nacha

Very efficient, me likey!