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The Busy Parent’s Guide to Find Time to Exercise with 15 Tips

The Physical Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes a week (21 minutes per day) of moderate to intense physical activity to help prevent and reduce chronic diseases. Only half of U.S. adults get enough exercise. How can busy parents find time to exercise?

Time is always to blame. 

This article will show you how to find time to exercise with 15 tips.

Hourglass on rocks.
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Some people believe that physical activity has to be intense, like running, to count. Or that if they’ve only got 10 minutes a day to exercise, it doesn’t count. Not true. 

  • Physical activity is defined as any kind of movement that gets your heart beating faster. 
  • Any exercise is better than no exercise.

FINDING MOTIVATION TO EXERCISE FOR BUSY PARENTS

Before we discover the ways parents can fit physical activity into their busy schedules, consider the benefits listed here to help get you motivated:

  1. Increased chance of living longer. 
  2. Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, and some cancers
  3. Reduced risk of falls
  4. Improved mental health and reduction in anxiety
  5. Reduced or slowed weight gain
  6. Weight loss if combined with reduced calorie intake
  7. Improved bone and muscle health 
  8. Brain health — improved thinking, learning, and judgment 
  9. Better quality of sleep 
  10. Improved sexual health

Now, make those benefits more personal for you busy parents so you can feel motivated to make time to exercise. Write it down on a piece of paper, take a picture of it, or enter it in your phone notes. Here are a few examples: 

I want to increase my chances of living longer for my family. 

I want to reduce my chances of heart disease; it runs in my family. 

I’ve got a family to provide for and need to sleep better and be sharp on the job. 

Look at this list when you don’t feel motivated to exercise and need a gentle nudge.

A family of 4 taking a sunset stroll at the beach.
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EXERCISE FOR BUSY PARENTS: 15 TIPS

Some of the suggestions here are places you take your kids to. Places designed for activity. If your child doesn’t need you to supervise or hover over them, then put the phone down and get moving. 

Walk laps in while your child is playing. If space is tight, move in place with marches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, high knees, or chair dips. Get more ideas on YouTube. 

Exercise tips for parents when you’re away from home

  1. At the park. Play with your kids, move, and walk around. 
  1. At an indoor playground. If space is tight here, move in place. 
  1. At your child’s outdoor extracurricular activities. Make use of the outer perimeter of a field, track, and steps at the bleachers. 
  1. At your child’s indoor extracurricular activities. While your child is at the gym; tutor class; computer, art, music class, etc… walk laps outside around the building. If there are stairs, use them. 
  1. At the mall. A good indoor option for parents with babies. Push the baby stroller while you walk and your baby gets a nap in. 
  1. At the parking lot. Park far. Every extra step you take counts. 
  1. Waiting rooms. How many minutes go by as you sit and wait for an appointment? Take advantage of that time. Move in place if there’s not much room to walk. 
Man running by a bridge
Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

Exercise tips when you’re at home

  1. While you’re on the phone. Catch up with a friend, return calls, or do a phone meeting while you walk around the house or office. Go outside for a change of scene. Get some squats, lunges, or other movements in. 
  1. While watching TV. Think about how much you can accomplish if you devoted even half your TV-watching time to exercise 
  1. Get active with exercises on YouTube. Search “low impact exercises” or “walking exercises”. Start with a 10-15 minute video. Break up the time if you need to. 
  1. Dance. Put on some music or search on YouTube for songs or artists you’d like to dance to. 
  1. Play video games you can dance or move to. Encourage your child to join for some fun family time. 
  1. Chores count. Save on house cleaning costs and clean your own house. Examples include vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing. 
  1. General yard work. Save on lawn services costs and mow, edge, weed whack, and rake your lawn. Break up the time in chunks. 
  2. Turn idle time into activity time. Walk around the house or exercise in place while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew or your food to cook.
Three colorful toy monkeys holding hands.
Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

HOW PARENTS CAN MAKE EXERCISE FUN

Combine movement with fun to boost your spirits and motivation. 

When exercise is fun, it doesn’t feel like something you have to do, but something you want to do. 

Add audio. Get in touch with your inner child and listen to the music you grew up to. Or listen to audiobooks and podcasts – there are genres and topics for everyone, the options are endless.

Add friends. Get together with friends for a walk and talk while the kids are on playdates. Or go on stroller dates. You might find activities more fun when others unite around a shared goal. 

Add a class or sport. This is a fun way to exercise, meet people, and make new friends, even if it’s only once or twice a week. Check out your local recreation center or shop around. 

Add a reward or gift. Squeeze in some exercise before you treat yourself to the salon. Walk laps around the mall before you shop. Upgrade your gear and buy new shoes or workout wear. 

Add variety. Walk at different areas of your neighborhood or check out different parks with your child. Try a different class, sport, video, or movement if you feel like you’re in a rut.

Walking on sidewalk along the lawn.
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

HOW TO EXERCISE SAFELY

Talk to your doctor first if you have any concerns or questions before you start exercising, especially If you have a medical condition or injury. Consult with your doctor if you suspect an illness.

Listen to your body. Slow down your movement if it’s too much. If you’re sick, feeling pain, or too tired, stop. Seek medical advice if the pain is persisting. 

Stay hydrated. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go. If you need to, set a daily reminder to pack a bottle or keep some bottles beside the door, by your shoes or keys so you can grab one before you head out. 

Always exercise in safe and well-lit places for pedestrians. 

Dress appropriately. Convenience is king for busy parents. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes when you’re out with your child or running errands. For parents who dress up for work, keep a bag of workout gear in your car. 

Dress properly in layers including a hat and gloves if you’re exercising outside in the cold.

How to set goals for exercise.
Photo by Ronnie Overgoor on Unsplash

HOW TO SET GOALS FOR EXERCISE

The beginning is the hard part. Set one or two S.M.A.R.T. goals to help you get started. Our brains do better with clear directions, not vague ones. 

S  =  SPECIFIC

M  =  MEASURABLE 

A  =  ACHIEVABLE 

R  =  REALISTIC

T  =  TIME-BOUND

Examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals: 

I will walk for 15 minutes three times a week while at the park or extracurricular activity with my child. 

My routine will include enjoying the music of my era 2-3 times a week while doing yard work or chores. 

On the weekend and one weekday, I will add 20 minutes of movement 3 times a week while I’m watching TV.

Woman holding a phone.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Do you still think you have no time? Download a time tracking app to see. You will find windows of opportunity for exercise. 

It all starts with mindset – self-awareness and a commitment to be intentional with your time. 

Imagine if you carried out your goal for a whole week. This might be a solid 1 hour if you add up all your activity time. 

You’re better off than where you were before with zero minutes logged in. And you’re one step closer to reaping the benefits.

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