By Charity Curley Mathews
The moment your little cherub arrived on the scene, any chances you'd make that 60-minute Zumba class went from fairly likely to practically nada. I have three small children of my own and a closet full of clothes that don't quite fit to prove it. Life with kids means having little pockets of time: bathtime, naptime, yay-they're-watching-a-video time. The good news? Experts say that a pocket of time is all you need to reap the benefits of exercise: even 10 minutes a day can be enough to look and feel great.
"The reality is that exercise can be cumulative," says Kathy Kaehler, author of Celebrity Workouts: How to Get a Hollywood Body in Just 30 Minutes a Day. "You can make some great physical changes in that short of time. [You can] burn calories, boost metabolism, improve mood, break a sweat, feel good about yourself and get a blast of energy that lasts throughout the day." So what's the catch? "For a ten-minute workout to be effective, you need to kick it up," says Kaehler. "What you want are explosive moves."
For any new mom, it can be exhausting to think about "explosive moves" that don't happen in a diaper. For a 10-minute workout to work out, you have to make it a habit. Our experts suggestions' may require some heavy lifting (literally), but every one beats praying that bedtime goes smoothly so you can hustle to that 7 p.m. class... and stay awake through the whole thing!
Don't Resist Resistance
If you want to torch calories, resistance -- in the form of weights or bands -- can go a long way in a short amount of time. You'll need five-pound weights, kettle bells or resistance bands, but the payoff will be huge. "What you will get from short, intense strength workouts is increased strength, endurance, muscle mass, bone density, improved blood pressure, some fat loss and a de-aging effect at the genetic level," says Fred Hahn, author of The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution. Think: arm curls, chest raises and squats with hand weights. Work every muscle and rotate through two to three different routines during the week. Best of all, we multitasking moms can do them tubside while the little guys soak.
Make Old-School Moves
Remember Rocky IV, when Rocky gets all, "I don't need a fancy gym; just let me chop wood to fight the Russian"? Old-school fitness moves like sit-ups, push-ups and lunges can totally torque a workout. Lanre Idewu, founder of Fit4LA, recommends using all the major muscles of the body, taking few rest periods and using complex movements to make the most of it. Pump up your heart rate with jumping jacks, pistol squats with arm curls (one-legged squats) and burpees (alternating between a squatting position to plank pose). You can pull this off in the time it takes to watch a 22-minute video, with enough time left over to fold a basket of laundry.
Just Move It -- And See Results, Too
If you'd rather walk the plank than do a plank, know that getting fit is a process. Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes, explains the numerous benefits: "You immediately begin to develop physiological changes throughout your body that reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia, potentially adding years to your lifespan," she says. (She also says that the rate of return diminishes rapidly after 20 minutes, so don't worry about not going longer.)
Still don't think you have time for fitness? Here are some surprising ways even a busy mom like you can stay on the move:
- Walk to the playgroup instead of taking the car -- or better yet, vow to hit the greenways with a friend every week. Stroll with your kids and bring an iPhone for emergency tantrum prevention.
- Get yourself a pedometer or fitness band and work up to 10,000 steps. Depending on your weight, this magical number can mean burning 200-300 calories, the equivalent of a fairly strenuous workout.
- Get a bike and ride. And no, this isn't the sweaty, bike-shorts wearing suggestion it sounds like. Ever been to Amsterdam? Nearly every businessman, woman and child rides a bike every day. No one is sweating, everyone is wearing normal clothes; they're just upping their feel-good endorphins.
- Chaperoning soccer practice? Suit up, walk around the field and listen to that podcast that annoys the kids when you play it in the car.
- Even cooking can be aerobic. Do leg lifts at the sink, butt squeezes at the stove... (You get the idea.)
- Dance. Fill your YouTube playlist with major tunes or find a fun video to crank along to. With three kids under four, we burn off energy after dinner, when each person gets to pick a song and dance around until it's time for bed.