The Ultimate Workout Partners: Your Kids
If you're like most parents, you find it difficult to make time for yourself. Sometimes it's even hard to fit in a shower, let alone a workout, once baby makes three. Some find that joining a gym is the answer, but others feel uneasy about entrusting their kids to a person whose only childcare qualification is that she wants a free membership. A new category of fitness videos and classes presents the opportunity for moms and dads to exercise with their children.
One thing all parents can attest to -- whenever you get on the phone, shut a door or pop an exercise tape in the VCR, your children will need your immediate and undivided attention. So why not include them in your exercise regimen? There are several baby-play moves you do regularly which can be converted into fitness moves.
The following exercises should be performed in two sets of eight, working up to three sets of 12.
l Warm up. Pick up baby, holding her securely, and march for five minutes.
l Next, sit in your straight-backed chair with the towel rolled under your knees. Set your baby or toddler on your ankles, holding the little one's hands, just like you've done a thousand times to give him a horsey ride. Only this time, you'll want to keep your back straight, shoulders down and abdominal muscles tight. Don't bounce baby fast -- instead, straighten your legs to the count of a slow five until they are parallel to the floor. Hold for two beats, then bring your feet back to the floor to the count of five.
l Now lay on your back, leaning your sitting baby against your bent knees. Holding the baby firmly with one hand, perform crunches while playing "peek-a-boo" with your child. Keep abdominals tight and crunch upward eight times.
l Called the Kisser, this exercise begins with baby face-up on the floor. Place your hands shoulder width apart on either side of baby's face. From knees or toes, perform pushups slowly and deliberately, kissing baby with each rep. If you have a toddler or older child, he can crawl up on your shoulders and add weight to the pushup.
When it surveyed 1,600 adults last year, Shape Up America!, a health advocacy group, found that one-third of all respondents were reluctant to exercise because they didn't want to leave their children home alone. If this is your guilt trip, lead your kids on evening walks, even if it means pushing a baby stroller. Studies have shown that children of active mothers and fathers are, respectively, two and three and a half times more likely to be active than their counterparts. When families exercise together, they grow closer.
While there are many calisthenic-type exercises into which a baby or toddler can be incorporated, what about aerobic exercise? A few of the parent-and-baby exercise videos are aerobic in nature, although they require a front baby-carrier and you can only use them up until the baby gets too heavy.
If that's not your cup of tea, get out the stroller or baby carrier and go for a walk. Get a bicycle baby seat, trailer or tag-along and go for a ride. If the weather's bad, go to the mall and walk. Hold your baby and dance around the living room to your favorite music. Or you can try the old stand-by -- wake up an hour earlier and pop in that exercise tape.
You can even use playground equipment to enhance your fitness while you keep an eye on the young-ins at play. Do chin-ups on the monkey bars, step-ups onto a slide and tricep dips using a bench. In other words, using your imagination and ingenuity is key. The days of being able to spend hours on yourself are officially over, so stop living in the past and use it to your advantage.
As the children get older, it's time to participate in physical activities with them, not just for your fitness, but to continue teaching them that exercise is a part of life. Shoot hoops. Go ice or roller-skating. Ski. Play some of the old neighborhood games you played as a kid with your kids, like Red Light-Green Light, Red Rover, Gray Ghost, Hide and Seek or Tag.
You need reasons? Exercise will:
l Ease your stress to help you be patient with your kids
l Increase your energy level so you can keep up with them
l Let you spend time having fun together
l Incorporate fitness into their lives at an early age, when habits are most likely to stick for life
The reasons to get your kids exercising are just as numerous. You've no doubt heard about studies that enumerate the benefits for kids. With childhood obesity on the rise, you'd better get them moving early and often. And girls who participate in team sports are less likely to have sex in their teen years. All kids who are fit are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and do better in school.
So get out there and get started. Your body -- and your kids -- will thank you for it.