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Parents Who Exercise: Overcoming the Challenges

8 tips for staying active when you have kids.

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 5: Establish Family Fitness

If you want your children to know the value of fitness, exercise with them.

With infants and toddlers, go for brisk walks with the baby in the stroller, says Chipko. While they nap during the day, fit in some fitness --- like doing basic lunges, squats, push-ups, and crunches.

"These are all things that don’t require any equipment or space and don’t take a lot of time," Schoenfeld says.

With preschool to school-aged children, strive for family fitness. Go to the park, ride bikes, hike, and swim while the weather’s nice. In the winter, ice-skate, snowshoe, cross-country ski, or go sledding.

"Physical activity time also provides a great opportunity to talk with your kids," adds Keller. "But sometimes, just doing something with them is worth more than we realize." 

Bottom line?

"Your desire to be physically active with your child will usually force a creative solution to do so," says Keller. "You may be the only parent who is jogging around your kid's soccer practice field, but your kid will get used to it."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 6: Set Goals

The very first step to staying fit or regaining fitness is to want it, say experts.

"Motivation comes from within," says Schoenfeld. "I can’t motivate someone if they don’t have a reason to do something."

Set short-term goals, says Schoenfeld, so as not to overwhelm yourself. If it’s four sizes you need to lose, start with one. If it’s 20 pounds, set a more manageable goal of 1-2 pounds per week.

Most people go too far and say, ‘I want to run a marathon,’" says Chipko. "That’s too big."

Goals have to be realistic, says Chipko: "If your goal is to look like Kelly Ripa or Angelina Jolie, your determination is going to be crushed if you work out and eat yogurt for a week and you don’t look like them."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 7: Put In the Effort

Don’t expect to get fit overnight, warns Chipko. "It’s a matter of putting time in. Anything worth having is hard. There is work involved."

But, you say, fitting in work and everything needed to run a household is hard enough. Who needs the added pressure of squeezing in a workout?

The truth, Keller says, is that exercise will actually give you more energy to tackle the tasks always hanging over your head.

And somewhere along the line, says Chipko, exercise will become a habit.

"People always ask me how long it’s going to take," he says. "Everybody wants that quick fix."

It may take a month, it may take a year, he says, but when you reach a goal you set on your own, it’s much more rewarding.

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