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Parents Who Exercise: Overcoming the Challenges

8 tips for staying active when you have kids.

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 1: Be Active All Day

You don't have to be athletic to be physically active, says Keller.

Move around, walk to your neighbor’s house instead of calling, take the stairs, park farther away from your destination. All these things help burn calories and keep you moving -- and they all add up.

"You are tied to the child. You can’t leave them, but you can get up and move around," Keller says.

"There are lots of ways parents can incorporate physical activity into their day, or just as importantly, as a family activity," says Hull. "It may take more preparation for parents, but physical activity can and should be balanced back in."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 2: Defy the Myth of Time

Granted, children take up a lot of time you previously had for yourself.

But here’s the great part, says Brad Schoenfeld, a fitness trainer in Scarsdale, N.Y.: "It does not take a lot of time to achieve a basic level of fitness.

"People tend to think they need to spend hours on end at the gym. It’s the quality, not the quantity. With a 15- to 20-minute weight workout, you can achieve great benefits."

Schoenfeld, author of two fitness books, says that even the advanced athletes he trains complete their workouts in about 3 to 3 1/2 hours a week.

"You don’t need 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a day in one continuous bout," says Hull. Shoot for 10 to 15 minutes a couple times throughout the day, he recommends.

Exercising in small chunks will help you avoid burnout and may also keep you motivated, experts say.

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 3: Define Your Priorities

Many athletes, celebrities, and those who just exercise for fitness and health have kids, says Chipko.

"It’s a matter of priorities," he says. "I have a 44-year-old mother of four who still finds time to exercise five days a week for 45 minutes."

When you’re stretched for time or crave a little time to yourself, Chipko says, it’s easy to go for the quick fix, like going shopping, stopping for a latte, or watching TV.

"Somewhere along the line you’re substituting a long-term goal for something short term," says Chipko. "In the long run, quick fixes are not going to benefit you."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 4: Cultivate Social Support

Having a parent, a friend, or a neighbor to whom you can entrust the care of your children will pay dividends.

"A lot [of what happens with an exercise routine] depends on the opportunity [a parent] has to leave the child and do exercise outside the home," says Keller.

If you don't have family nearby, says Hull, "establish a network of friends that you trust and can trade off child care with."

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