First, some bad news: Finding time to work out when you’re a busy parent is almost impossible. Now, some worse news: Finding time to work out when you’re a busy parent in quarantine? Actually impossible.
Or so it might seem. Yes, the challenge of staying fit while parenting has been made even more difficult after global events erased alone time altogether for millions of people with school-age children. The pandemic shutdown has also created another problem: Children who are glued to the couch, their screens, or both at the same time.
But the solution? Taking time to work out as a family. With gyms still mostly closed, Aaptiv, our favorite home workout app (and one whose services are included at no-cost with the Haven Life Plus rider), is a great resource for exactly that. Jaime McFaden is a workout coach on the app, who also happens to be a parent. We asked her for some tips on working out as a family, regardless of your children’s ages. Here’s what she told us about planning a group family workout, including her stress-fighting exercises at the very bottom.
Be flexible (in mind as well as body)
When parents talk about their kids and structure, they’re likelier to talk about Junior’s latest Lego creation than anything like a regular schedule. And that’s why prodding them to do a specific workout at a particular time isn’t likely to work. Even if your family is older, timing is complicated. Her suggestion for starting a family workout routine? “Try to carve out at least three times per week that will work for your family” for group exercise.
“I used to have a set time I would work out,” she says. “Now it’s sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. The bottom line is making sure it happens. The best time of the day to work out is whenever you can realistically fit it in.”
Know your goals (and your family’s)
“As a parent, focus on why exercise is important to you,” Jaime says. “To live a healthy, long life? To see grandchildren someday? To be able to run around with your kids? What is your why behind exercise? Once you know that, it becomes a helpful tool to explain to your kids. As for expectations — take a minute with your family members and work on goals for health. What is important to each family member? Collectively share fitness goals and work together to reach them. Maybe one family member wants to eat healthier, one family member wants to train for a marathon, and one family member wants to fly like Superman.” Indeed, the motivation for younger children might be as simple as spending time with you. “Whatever your fitness goals are, work together with your family to reach them.”
When you’re trying to motivate the whole family to exercise, Jaime recommends showing them the positive aspects of it, instead of treating fitness as an obligation. “Exercise has numerous benefits and you can start by simply educating your kids about feeling good,” she says. “Instead of focusing on pressure or bribing your kids,” make them aware that “there are hormones in our bodies that are activated by exercise and that make us feel good. I have become the queen of family workouts in my entire family, and they usually agree to do it. They acknowledge that if I didn’t push them they probably wouldn’t do it, but they feel great after and want more. That is such a benefit of exercise.” And as mentioned above, a little of your attention is often motivation enough.
One way of getting children to exercise with you regularly is to be open-minded about what “exercise” can be. “I have a three-year-old daughter, and we work out together almost daily,” Jaime says. “Sometimes the workouts are taking a hike, other times it’s squatting in the kitchen while we wait for pasta to boil. Depending on your children’s age(s), you can try to incorporate at least five to ten minutes of daily family exercise into your routine. Workouts can consist of taking a walk with your family, performing a number of strength training exercises from home, taking a yoga class together online, playing games like red light green light and getting creative by adding a move like squats or jumping jacks — there are so many options and luckily more and more resources,” especially mobile resources like Aaptiv.
Lead by example
As with what you eat, what words you use, and, just about everything else, your children learn by watching you. Same for fitness, and taking care of yourself in general. “I design my workouts for families to participate together,” says Jaime. “However, a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old will have different physical capabilities and attention spans, so I suggest to parents no matter what age their kids — lead by example,” says Jaime. “If you are doing it and having fun, chances are your kids will join in too.”
Jaime’s workout routines
Speaking of, Jaime has created a number of workouts on Aaptiv that have been specifically designed to help families improve their physical activity. Developing healthy habits early on is not only good for the body, but it is also an excellent way to bring the entire family together. Her favorites include:
Family Walk in Nature: Walk with your family, your dogs, and your kids and play a game noticing what is outside.
Strolling With My Family: Take a quick walk around the block with the kiddos. Take this time to connect with your family, have some fun, play a quick game of I Spy, and take a moment to notice all the beauty in nearby nature. You don’t have to have a high fitness level to go on a nice stroll through your neighborhood park. The point here is just to break a sweat and get your family moving.
Family Fitness Challenge: A fun, nine-minute workout for the whole family.
House of Cardio: A fun, sweaty cardio workout in the house, featuring simple moves — but lots of fun.