As a parent you’re always looking for simple ways to do things. And exercise is no different.
If you look at the acronym I employ for family fitness strategy, F.I.T., the "I" stands for incremental, itty bits or – if you want to jump on the trend in bookstores – "idiot" as in "The Idiot’s Guide to Family Fitness" (Please don’t take offense, I’m only tapping into the trend of tremendously popular how-to book titles). In other words, key to keeping fitness a part of your family life is keeping it simple.
There are a few ways to do this:
1. Bring it home.
This makes the biggest difference. I don’t know about you but every trip away from home with kids in tow becomes an adventure. Not to mention the baggage. I remember bringing my daughter to work when she toddling and wishing I had a couple spare arms to help lug everything back and forth.
So don’t make an expedition unless you have to. There are times when we’ve belonged to a gym and we certainly take daytrips and longer ones for new fitness experiences. And it certainly is the best solution in certain circumstances. But bottomline, even if you belong to a gym, for family fitness, home gym access can make or break your fitness success.
Now it may seem like a bit of an investment to purchase a treadmill, but compare it to the money you spend on gym membership. And even a treadmill or machine of some sort isn’t necessary to stay in shape. Some simple aerobic tapes and cheaper weights can set you up to do some serious training.
So invest a little in bringing some well-chosen equipment into the home.
And there’s another angle to this, think twice about signing your children up for kids fitness activities elsewhere like Little League or baby gym class. See my discussion of why to exercise some caution with kids recreational activities.
2. Break it up.
Who says you have to do all your exercise at once!? I didn’t and it has certainly helped me keep fit. I do some yoga stretches in the morning, fit in a few calisthenics or weights a couple times a day and maybe spend 10-15 minutes on the treadmill before lunch doing interval sprints.
Later on, when the kids get home from school and my husband back from work, we may go out on a bike ride or play some soccer.
Add it up. That’s the key. Do a few crunches with your giggling baby. Run outside if you have little ones at home and play a quick game of tag. Do a few push ups or butt crunches watching tv at night.
In fact, short intervals have been shown to do better in helping people lose weight, tone up and regulate their blood sugar.
3. No need for fancy stuff.
I’ll admit I like my treadmill. And the free weights bench we recently purchased has been great for my legs. But for years we did with much less. I hooked my bike up to a special stand that transformed it into an exercise bike.
When my kids were doing something like soccer camp or swimming, I did curls with water bottles or did some squat jumps or calf raises. And I have a neighbor who has stayed trim through 7 children with the help of some good aerobic videos.
The good old army-style calisthenics are tried and true. Situps, jumping jacks, pushups, squats. Your body weight is great resistance for weight training.
Essentially, while some nice equipment can bring a new angle to your fitness, don’t use it’s absence as an excuse. You don’t need the equipment to get moving. Have some doubts? Watch Rocky beat up some beef and lift some chains. (We’ll leave the egg-swilling part out).
4. Regular exercise as part of regular life.
The best way to make exercise part of your life is to make it part of your life. In other words, find little ways to be more active. Stand up when you’re on the phone. Rake the leaves instead of using a leaf blower. Walk up the stairs instead of using an elevator.
You’ve probably heard some of this before, but it really does make a significant difference. You can learn more about the science behind making regular exercise part of everyday life in my article about the Mayo Clinic’s N.E.A.T. research
So to keep fitness in your family life, keep fitness simple: Bring it home. Break it up. No fancy stuff. And make it everyday fare. As Nike says, "Just Do It!"