How to Introduce Exercise into Your Parental Routine

By Jillian Lankford

Maintaining a household, littles, finances and a career can be more than enough to handle. Feeling unhappy with your health on top of it all can be upsetting. Whether you are a new mom, ex-avid runner, or have never exercised a day in your life, being a parent does not close the door on improving your health and wellness. These are a few ways to introduce, or re-introduce, exercise into your parental routine.

Stand when you can.

Inactivity is your enemy. The less you move, the less inclined you are to be productive at home or at the office. You burn more calories standing! Get off the couch and fold the laundry standing up. Stand in a conference call or outside while you watch the kids play. Stand in place of sitting where you can. Let’s face it, sitting can be dangerous… when you are sitting, even if it is rooms away, the kids will find a reason to need you more or develop an uncontrollable urge to sit on you. It’s just easier to stand. Your back will be much more stronger to carry the littles through their tantrums anyway.

Read more on the standing vs sitting debate

Book adventures.

Not reading adventures, but scheduled adventures. Unless you can read standing up and moving, continue doing that too. The zoo, the state park, the woods, kayaking on the river, the steepest hill in the neighborhood – all places little adventures can be made that include challenging your body with new movement. Include the kids in any activity that may bring sweat to your brow. Bribe them if you have to: How to Bribe a Toddler with 8 g of Sugar or Less. You will all be better off exerting a little bit of effort and energy trying something new.

Go for a walk.

Putting my toddlers in the stroller and walking the neighborhood has been a mental life saver. It can be challenging to actually get to the walk but once it starts there is no turning back. (Unless someone has to poop.) Carve out time during your lunch break or between meetings to walk the halls, or your yard if you are working from home. Your coworkers may think you’re manic but so what, you will feel much better after getting a few steps in. Make the time to walk with your significant other too, clear your heads together before conquering the next big decision. Once walking gets old and boring you’ll be ready to run!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Start stretching.

Bend and snap, bend and snap. Not only can stretching improve your posture, decrease back pain and improve your range of mobility, the rush of blood to your head will definitely clear your frustrations. Touch your toes, roll out your back or use some of the suggested stretches below to wake up your body or even calm it down. When you get the blood flowing and take time to focus on your breathing you allow yourself to clear your mind and start fresh. Wake up 5 minutes earlier or go to bed 5 minutes later just to get a few moments of stretching and breathing in. Include it on your lunch break or after a frustrating staff meeting. It will make all the difference.

Stretching for Beginners

Embrace uninterrupted play.

While this is not a point focused on a specific type of movement, there is something to be considered about not interrupting your child’s play. We do not have to schedule everything. When the kids are playing sneak out of the room and find something else to do. Stretch, do wall sits, or push ups off the counter. Utilize the few minutes they are engaged on their own to activate your body and mind.

Protect your will against MLM schemes and media.

Multi-level marketing schemes are everywhere. If you were meant to have a Beachbod you would. I’m not saying that you can’t but don’t give into to clever marketing designed to persuade you to think you should be able to transform your body after a few small fees, videos, subscriptions and memberships. If you are interested in trying a new physical activity or sport, research it first, read the good AND bad reviews and make sure it’s for you. Giving up your credit card or Instagram feed to be apart of a community that makes someone else money will not improve your health. Nor will scrolling aimlessly through picture perfect profiles of the hottest celebs and influencers.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Play tag with the kids.

Get moving with them. Tag or hide and seek are easy ways to get your heart rate up. Even hopscotch, follow the leader, or Simon says can keep you and the kids moving. These also don’t require much space. One of our favorite games to play at the park is “dinosaur”. My youngest child sits on my shoulders or back and we chase the other kids howling in our best dinosaur voices. Moving quickly carrying a toddler while shouting at the same time isn’t for the faint of heart. This is a legitimate exercise that will exhaust you. And if you become good at it, when the neighborhood gets together, you will surely be requested to saddle up.

Find a Pod Squad to be active with.

Volleyball at the playground while the kids are playing. Walking in circles, leg lifts on the bench, yoga in the woodchips. Moving with others keeps fitness goals alive. Read more about why Moms Who Exercise Together, Stay Sane Together. Find a close group of people you like and start moving with them. Don’t be afraid to be the first to plan a walking date instead of a wine mixer. If the kids interrupt, let them join in, there’s nothing more enjoyable than a spontaneous “I bet you can’t do this” challenge.

Take advantage of free resources.

The internet is full of free stuff. As well as the library, or even that super fit neighbor you see running every other day. Use these resources to your advantage. Start with simple searches like “from couch to 5k” or “how to do a push up”. You are bound to fall into a rabbit hole of free fitness offerings and challenges you can try. Then don’t forget to try them, either right on the spot or screen capture it and plug it into your Google calendar for later. Use the free-ness to your advantage. There is always something new to discover in the world of fitness that just might be what you need to improve your health and wellness.

Try yoga.

I save the best for last. Understand I add this reluctantly as I do not want to come off as an insane yoga enthusiast that swears by everything yoga. But I do. I swear by it. There is nothing like it. Once you start and learn basic moves and flows and breathing, your body and mind will never be the same. I am 10 months into a yoga journey that includes one weekly Pod Squad group session and few 15-20 minute solo exercises. My mind is not the same. I can feel the endorphins transmitting joy within my spirit when I take the time to practice. It is intoxicating. And free…yes free, follow Yoga with Adriene on You Tube, she has something for everyone.

With any new exercise, routine, or regimen it’s important to know your limitations. Listen to your body, not your mind psyching you out. Gage your max by regularly redefining your minimum and conquer these moves. Soon you’ll be ready to set your sights on a half marathon or mud run or parent/child piggy back race.

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