Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children

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Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children

Introduction

Even people who are very determined to keep up their healthy habits can lose them after they have children. Youngsters can demand so much of your time that you barely have time to breathe, let alone be physically active.

But there are ways to stay active that don't require a lot of extra time. You just need to figure out how to work activity into the other parts of your life.

 

Physical activity is key to improving your health and preventing serious illness. Experts say to do either of these things for at least 2½ hours a week to get and stay healthy:

  • Moderate activity, such as brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your heart rate can be included. You notice your heart beating faster with this kind of activity.
  • Vigorous activity, such as jogging, cycling fast, or cross-country skiing. You breathe rapidly and your heart beats much faster with this kind of activity.

Being active in several blocks of 10-minutes or more throughout the day can count toward these recommendations. You can choose to do one or more types of activity.

Test Your Knowledge

To be healthy, you need to do hard exercise every day.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You don't have to do hard exercise every day to be fit and healthy. Experts say to aim for 2½ hours a week of moderate to vigorous activity, like brisk walking or chores that raise your heart rate.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    You don't have to do hard exercise every day to be fit and healthy.Experts say to aim for 2½ hours a week of moderate to vigorous activity, like brisk walking or chores that raise your heart rate.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Your reason for wanting to be active is really important. It has to be your reason, not someone else's, or you're not likely to have success.

If you are the parent of a young child, your reasons may include one or more of the following:

  • You want to stay as healthy as possible so that you will be around for your children as they grow and become adults.
  • You want to have the energy to join your children in their activities.
  • You want to be a good role model for your children, so that they grow up knowing the importance of being active.
  • You have certain health problems, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, that can be improved with physical activity.
  • You want to be able to join your spouse or friends in their activities or just do something for yourself.

Test Your Knowledge

It's important to know why you want to be active.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    You're more likely to have success in changing your habits if you have your own reason for doing so.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    You're more likely to have success in changing your habits if you have your own reason for doing so.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

Having a young child doesn't leave you much time for yourself. But there still are ways to get active. And remember: You can get your exercise in small chunks. Three 10-minute periods of activity spread throughout the day are just as good as one 30-minute period. Find the time that works best for you and your family.

When your child is asleep

This is a good time to look to your own needs and your own health. Getting in some activity while your child is napping, or after he or she has gone to bed for the night, may work best for you.

  • If you can afford to buy a treadmill or an exercise bicycle, this is the time to hop on. Watch your favourite TV show to make the time go faster. Or read a book or magazine while you exercise.
  • If exercise equipment is not in your budget, try an exercise DVD. You can check them out for free at your local library. Or watch your favourite TV show while you jump rope, do stretching exercises, or do yoga. Use cans of food as hand weights. Or try exercising with surgical tubing or resistance bands.
  • Certain chores—like washing windows or floors—count as moderate activity, because they raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster.
  • For chores that don't raise your heart rate, like running the vacuum or dusting, turn on some music and dance while you do them.

When your child is awake

When young children are awake and active, you may find it easier if you break your physical activity into little chunks of time. The key is to think of ways to make your child part of that activity.

  • At home:
    • Do stomach crunches with your baby on your belly or your thighs. Or lift your baby up and down as you lie on your back. You can find lots of other exercises like this on the Internet or at the library.
    • Turn up the music, and dance around the house. Children love to dance and will happily join you.
    • Take your children outside while you garden. Use a stroller or playpen if you need to.
  • In the neighbourhood:
    • Go for a walk. Get a backpack or stroller so your very young child can go with you on walks.
    • While your children ride their bikes around the neighbourhood, jog alongside them.
    • If it's in your budget, get a trailer for your bicycle so that you can take your child (toddler age or older) with you on bike rides. Look carefully into the safety features of bike trailers before you buy.
      • Babies aren't strong enough to handle the bumpy ride in a bike trailer. When children are old enough to run or climb, which may not be until about age 2, they are probably strong enough to ride in a bike trailer.
      • Children in bike trailers should wear helmets.
  • At the park or playground:
    • Instead of sitting on the park bench while your children play, walk or run laps around the play area. You can still keep an eye on the kids.
    • Join your child on the playground. Swinging from the monkey bars is great for shoulders and upper body strength.
    • If your child plays on a soccer or T-ball team, walk or run laps around the field during practice and during games. If you need to be close enough to cheer, pace up and down the sidelines.
    • Play games like tag, hide and seek, and catch with your kids.
  • At the gym or community centre:
    • Join a "mommy and me" exercise or swim class.
    • Find a gym or centre that has child care so that you can exercise on your own.

Other ideas

  • Share 30-minute babysitting duties with your spouse, another relative, or a neighbour. That way, you'll each get some time for yourself.
  • If you work outside the home, exercise at work or on the way to and from work.

Test Your Knowledge

To get the right amount of physical activity, you need to be active for 30 minutes at a time.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You'll get the health benefits of 30 minutes of activity even if you do it just 10 minutes at a time.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    You'll get the health benefits of 30 minutes of activity even if you do it just 10 minutes at a time.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

For more information on becoming more active, the following resources are available:

Organizations

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
222 Queen Street
Suite 1402
Ottawa, ON  K1P 5V9
Phone: (613) 569-4361
Fax: (613) 569-3278
Web Address: www.heartandstroke.ca
 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada works to improve the health of Canadians by preventing and reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke through research, health promotion, and advocacy.


Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
Phone: Telephone numbers for PHAC vary by region. For your regional number, go to the listing on the PHAC website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/contac-eng.php.
Web Address: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/index-eng.php
 

The Public Health Agency of Canada's Healthy Living webpage provides information and resources about healthy eating, physical activity, and staying at a healthy weight.


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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
Last Revised February 24, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.