Multi-tasking takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a working parent.
Between running a household, shuttling children to school and activities, holding down a job and ensuring you still have time for yourself, squeezing in time for physical activity might sound like yet another daunting task to add to the list.
But it is possible! And we promise: you and your family don’t need hours of free time or expensive equipment to reap the benefits of physical activity. We’re here to help you fold exercise into your day, even if it’s for five minutes at a time.
Before we dive into our game plan, let’s discuss why physical activity is so important for everyone in your household.
Why physical activity is important for kids and adults
For adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. If you break that down, that’s about 21 minutes of moderate or just under 11 minutes of vigorous activity each day.
And in the time it takes to stream a sitcom episode, you can unlock all sorts of benefits from exercise, including improved mood, increased energy levels, promoted bone and muscle health, better sleep and weight loss support with increased calorie burn. For a list of perks that robust, we can make time for 20-ish minutes of activity in our day, right?
As for kids, they need more exercise because of their growing bodies and endless heaps of energy. Therefore, the World Health Organization recommends consistent daily activity for preschool-aged children and 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous daily activity for children between the ages of 5-17.
By taking part in daily activities, children assist in their development of healthy bones and muscles, cardiovascular system, motor skills, body weight and psychological health.
Moderate vs. vigorous activity
We have used the words “moderate” and “vigorous” here and you might be wondering a few things. What’s the difference? How do I know which category my chosen activity falls under? The answers boil down to heart rate.
When you are not engaging in an activity (such as working at your desk or watching TV), your heart is at its resting rate. So, for moderate exercise, think of activities you can maintain for longer periods of time that keep your heart rate above its resting pace. Examples include:
- Mowing the lawn
- Riding your bicycle at less than 10 mph
Now, if you are looking to maximize your time and want the challenge of taking it up a notch, vigorous activity can be a great option. These are activities that push you beyond that moderate heart rate, which include:
- Basketball, soccer or other team sports
- Bicycling at over 10 mph
- Games with bursts of speed, like tag
A fitness tracker can be a great tool to help monitor your heart rate and we have an entire guide on these here. But if you are making a major change to your lifestyle, you should consult your primary care physician first.
How to fit activity into your day
Now that we covered the different types of activities and why they are important, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: how to fit this important exercise into both you and your child’s day.
Turn their playtime into yours
A popular piece of advice for new parents is “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but that same logic can also be applied to when kids play. Instead of trying to check another task off your list while the kids play, join in the fun!
Whether it’s a game of tag, shooting some hoops or visiting the playground, you can easily get your heart rate up and bond with your family at the same time. Now that is some multi-tasking we can get behind!
Here are some outdoor games you can play with your family, some of which are old classics you’ll probably recognize from your own playground days.
Utilize online workouts
Exercise is not a one-size-fits-all activity. The gym atmosphere isn’t for everyone and personal trainers are out of reach for many budgets. But the good news is that you simply don’t need those resources to stay fit.
The internet has a treasure trove of exercise videos for all levels of fitness and all you need is a smartphone and free YouTube account. Many routines are also 30 minutes or less, so it is a great way to sneak in a workout before work, on your lunch hour or during some blissful free time in the evening.
You can even make it a family affair and try everything from Latin dance to yoga with the kiddos. Here is a list of 15 videos you can do with kids, all recommended by wellness professionals.
Schedule mini breaks into your day
If activity is too hard to squeeze into a 20-minute block, try breaking up the time into smaller intervals. On your work calendar or phone, scatter some five-minute breaks during the day and honor them, just as you would a meeting or appointment.
As it turns out, you can do a lot in five minutes! This quickie workout from Very Well Fit can burn up to 20 calories each time you do it and you don’t even need equipment. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with each exercise before you start to avoid potential injury.
Do each exercise for one minute and take a 15-second rest in between:
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Running in place
Other easy options include going for a small walk around the yard, turning up the music for a quick dance party or standing up for a good stretch. (Bonus: we have a whole post on stretching here!) And don’t get discouraged if you can’t achieve a full 20 minutes in one day. Any progress is good progress and tomorrow is another day!
All movement counts
Think of all the errands you run during the day. You might not realize it, but all those steps seriously add up! Exercise isn’t an all or nothing thing and even little bursts of movement throughout the day can have a positive impact on your health. All movement counts.
Here are some tips to maximize movement during your day:
- Park further away
- Take the stairs
- Exercise while you watch TV
- Put on some music to make chores a dance party
For more tips on folding more movement into your day, check out this article.
The bottom line: It is definitely possible for busy families to fold physical activity into their days. Just 20 minutes a day for adults and 60 minutes for kids can have a huge impact on overall well-being. Don’t forget that all movement counts and you don’t need expensive equipment to achieve fitness goals.