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He Ain't Heavy

Exercising with kids.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Craig H. Kliger, MD

Sept. 25, 2000 -- In the months after the birth of my first child, I became intimately familiar with the early-morning sights of my suburban Los Angeles neighborhood. My wife was in charge of midnight breastfeeding; my contribution was to climb out of bed at 6:30, put our daughter in a backpack, and take to the streets.

I acquired a great fondness for this routine -- not to mention the legs of a mountain goat. Unfortunately, as our family grew it became impossible to maintain. We had another child two years later, then twins two years after that. I've never seen a four-child backpack, and I certainly don't have a four-child back. My vigorous morning jaunts soon became a thing of the past.

With so many mouths to feed, I had to maintain a strict work schedule. When I emerged from my office each day, there was no way I could wave to my harried wife and tell her I was heading out for a run. I'm not that callous, or at least not that brave.

Exercising With Small Fry

I know I'm not alone in claiming that just about the only way I can exercise is by including the small fry. Procreators all over America must be in a similar position. How can we maintain a fitness routine while looking after the kids?

I made a few bumbling attempts on my own. First I tried including my older girls in sets of push-ups. I let the 5-year-old (aka the 40-pound weight) lie on my back for 10 push-ups, then the 3-year-old (25 pounds) for 10, followed by 10 more with no resistance. The girls enjoyed the attention, though they invariably counted too slowly, robbing me of credit for the reps I had earned.

Things improved when a friend bought us an InStep double-wide jogger as a Christmas present. Thanks to this three-wheeled folding contraption, exercise was transformed from an act of supreme selfishness to one of pure altruism. I wasn't running, I was babysitting! And the children loved it. When the twins occupied the double seats, they entered a semivegetative state; when I took the "big girls" out, they urged me on by reporting on the pirates and grizzly bears they imagined were pursuing us.

Still, some streets in my town weren't conducive to running with the jogger, so there were limits to where I could go with it. My girls loved just racing up and down the incline of our driveway, but I soon found myself getting bored.

That's when I decided to consult a few experts.

Harnessing the Imagination

"Imagination is the key," says Al Green, ACT, a former University of Kentucky athletic trainer who now runs Human Performance Solutions (which provides athletic training services to schools and special events) in Winter Haven, Fla. "There are a ton of things you can do with children, depending on their age and where you live."

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