From the moment you become a parent, activity and healthy living choices seems to come second to the needs of your children. Even parents with a strong commitment to physical activity before parenthood may struggle to find the time and energy to stay fit. But when it comes to abandoning activity, you are hurting more than just yourself. Physical activity can help you stay healthy so you can keep up with your child’s needs and be around when they get older.
Even though most parents feel like they are always on the go, studies have shown that physical activity declines among the majority of new parents. Here are some tips to stay active and healthy for you and your family.
Be active all day.
You don’t have to go to the gym to be physically active. There are lots of little things you can do to incorporate activity into your day. Go for a walk with your child, take them to the park, take the stairs, park further away from your destination, or do a few exercises in between your daily routines. Make these small changes and commit to being active throughout your day—we think they will add up!
Don’t let time be an excuse.
Although your children take up a lot of the time you once had for yourself, it is not impossible to stay physically active during parenthood. It does not take a lot of time at the gym to reap the health benefits of exercise. Focusing on quality instead of quantity, a few short workouts every week can help you stay motivated and avoid burnout.
Find social support.
Having a friend, family member, or neighbor to who you can trust to care for your child is vital. Few exercise facilities provide childcare services, so this dilemma becomes a problem and long-term excuse for many parents. Establish a network of friends that you could trade off child care responsibilities with.
It is also helpful to find social support through an exercise partner that has similar goals. By making a commitment to exercising with someone, people feel more accountable and are more likely to follow through with their workout. Exercise partners can also provide continuous motivation and support.
Make it a family affair.
The best way to show your children the value of fitness is to be physically active with them. Take infants or toddlers for walks in their stroller or fit in quick exercises during their nap. Take your older children to the park or enjoy the opportunities that your community provides. Take advantage of each season—ride bikes in the spring, swim in the summer, take a scenic hike in the fall, and go sledding or ice-skating in the winter. Doing these physical activities will feel more like fun than exercise and can instill great habits in your children at a young age.
Set goals for yourself.
Motivation comes from within, so the first step to physical fitness is to have a reason to want it. It is important to set short-term goals that are measurable and attainable. Start with small, manageable goals and go from there. Continue to monitor your progress and set new goals accordingly. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet your exercise goal for a week. There is no reason to completely drop out; reevaluate and work hard next week!
Be a role model.
You serve as a huge role model in your child’s life, and your actions have a huge impact on the habits that they will form. Your children will likely mimic your behaviors, including physical activity practices; therefore, when teaching discipline, it is important for you as a parent to have some as well.