Find the motivation to work out with these excuse-proof tips for the whole family. Plus, get healthy eating tips, exercise ideas, and more ways to shape up with Parenting’s Fit Generation 2012!
Get Them Going
The excuse: My child is too young to do much—and there are only so many times I can take her to the park or out for a walk.
The fix: Do a little bit of digging and you’re bound to find other options. Call local yoga and dance studios or gymnastics academies—many of them offer classes geared to toddlers or have open gym times where you can drop in and have fun. Have a baby? Don’t mistake your tot’s immobility for your own. Get a child trailer for your bike, or look into stroller-friendly nature walks or hiking trails near your home (Google the phrase “nature trails” along with your zip code).
The excuse: My kid just isn’t very physical—she prefers doing more sedentary stuff, like watching TV, coloring, or playing Legos.
The fix: “Often I find that the issue really is that the child just isn’t inspired,” says DiDio. “You have to find something she likes to do.” If she’s into art, give her some sidewalk chalk or roll out a big sheet of paper and let her finger-paint. “For a little kid, that’s a workout,” adds DiDio. She also recommends active games: Check out Elefun ($17) and The Cat in the Hat—“I Can Do That!” ($20; both on amazon.com). They’re fun and focused on physical activity.
The excuse: My son is addicted to his stroller. He may walk for two minutes, then he sits again.
The fix: “I had this problem when my daughter was little,” says DiDio. “The way I got her out was to make her a part of the activity. I put her favorite doll in the stroller, and her job was to be the ‘mommy’ and push her around.” Another trick DiDio used: Give your kid a bucket and have him seek and find objects on your walk together—like a feather, dandelion, shiny rock, etc. When children have a mission, they tend to forget all about the stroller.
The excuse: My kid is not into sports.
The fix: Soccer and field hockey are far from the only options your kid has for being active, says DiDio. “At the end of the day, kids just want to play and do stuff they enjoy.” For some children, a team-based sport like baseball is their idea of fun. For others, team sports are too structured. If that’s the case, try swimming or hiking, which don’t require expensive equipment. Other options include martial arts and dance classes, which allow for individual growth and achievement in a group setting.
The excuse: There’s too much homework for my kid to be out playing on a school night.
The fix: Let him take an active work break. “Getting the blood flowing in the middle of a homework session actually boosts memory and focus,” says DiDio. After your child has been studying for 30 minutes, have him take a break for five to ten minutes to shoot baskets or tool around on his skateboard, then call him back inside. Not only does the break help him blow off steam and stress, the idea of getting another breather—if he stays on task—serves as a dangling carrot.
Get Yourself Going
The excuse: I don’t have time to exercise—and after a long, crazy day, I often wind up grabbing fast food or takeout.
The fix: A lot of people think they don’t have time, but they actually do. (Are you up to date on your episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Gossip Girl? We thought so.) We know it’s tough, but your health must become a priority.
If exercising at home best fits your schedule, it doesn’t require expensive equipment. In fact, your TV is the only equipment you need. Pop in an exercise DVD or tune in to FitTV, which has workout programs around the clock. If time truly isn’t on your side, try slipping in 15 minutes of exercise here and there. Go for a quick walk or run in the morning before you hop in the shower. (Bonus: Working out in the a.m. kick-starts your metabolism for the day.) As for the dinnertime-crunch problem, just because you need something fast doesn’t mean takeout is the only option. Grab a bag of baby spinach, whole-grain rolls, and a rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket. Or pick up pre-made sushi, wraps, and soup. You’re in and out of the grocery store in five minutes.
The excuse: I just…have…no…energy.
The fix: “I’ve got two kids, a husband, and a full-time job. I completely understand how you feel,” says DiDio. “But I think you’ll find that if you make an effort to do a little something, you’ll realize that working out can actually help you gain energy.”It may seem counterintuitive, but rather than leaving you feeling more wiped out, the endorphin release from exercise improves mood and alertness and reduces fatigue.
Don’t think you can drag your butt to the gym? Try this motivation trick: Go, but with the promise that you can leave after ten minutes if you’re still feeling zonked. “Most of the time, you’ll find that once you get there, your blood gets pumping and you’ll stay,” adds DiDio. “And you’ll feel even better when you’re done.”
The excuse: I’ve never been active, and I’m at a bit of a loss on how to get my family going.
The fix: Get that imaginative offspring of yours in on the process! Explain that it’s important to be active, then brainstorm ideas you can do together. Says DiDio: “Kids love to be part of the decision making. So ask what they’d like to do, and fitness-ize it.” Make it a weekly activity to think of new ideas, and keep a list of possibilities on your fridge. Create a sticker chart, and let your kids add a smiley face on the days you all do something active.
When they get bored, don’t turn on the TV: The lack of distraction forces kids to get active on their own. And remember that you’re the role model. If your kids regularly see you hanging out on the couch, that’s what they’re going to be tempted to do.