2. Set Realistic Goals to Get Fit
CDC guidelines call for adults to do 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. That's a 30-minute walk five days a week. If you kick it up a notch -- jogging or running, for example – it can be 15 minutes a day, five days a week.
You can aim for these exercise guidelines, but don't try to meet them at the start. "People lose their motivation to exercise when they try to do too much too soon," says Hanson.
So instead of walking for 30 minutes a day right off the bat, start out doing 15 minutes a day, two or three days a week.
Set weekly goals, gradually adding more time and intensity. At the end of each week, take a look at how you did. If you reached your goal, celebrate! "And if you didn't reach your goal," Hanson says, "think about what went wrong and how you're going to respond differently next time."
3. Stop Thinking of It as Exercise -- Do Something You Enjoy
You don't have to go to the gym to get a good workout. It's all about moving more -- however you do it. For some people, going to the gym provides structure that helps them focus and a sense of accomplishment when they're done. For others, it's a chore -- one they wind up avoiding as often as they can.
What else can you do? Almost anything that gets you -- and your family -- moving:
- Walk the dog, or walk a neighbor's dog. They'll be grateful for the help!
- Have dance contests with the kids instead of watching TV.
- Go to the park and play hide-and-seek.
- Shoot hoops with the kids.
- Walk or bike to the store instead of driving, or park far away from the entrance.
- Get off the train a stop early and walk the rest of the way to your office.
If you think about it, you're surrounded by opportunities to get more active. Find the ones that you get excited about. You're more likely to keep doing them if you're having fun.
4. Plan How to Fit Exercise Into a Hectic Schedule
For busy parents, a major obstacle to getting fit is lack of time. If you wait for time to open up, chances are you won't be able to squeeze in a walk or a dance class very often. To avoid getting sidetracked by the daily demands of life, try these tips:
- "Sit down with your schedule and really carve out blocks of time," says psychologist Susan Bartell, PsyD, author of Dr. Susan's Fit and Fun Family Action Plan. Put it in your calendar like any other appointment.
- Add physical activity to things you already do. For example, pedal a stationary bike while reading or watching TV. Or take a walk with a friend to catch up instead of calling each other on the phone.
- Plan activities you can do with your kids, such as going for bike rides or skating. Not only will you find more time for fitness, you'll help inspire your kids to move more.
If you plan ahead for potholes on the road to fitness, you're more likely to stay on course, Bartell says. "When you think through solutions to problems in advance, you're less likely to give up when a pothole comes along."