Parents Who Exercise: Staying Active with Kids (cont.)
"The priorities of a family just change," says Hull. "The focus isn't with your friends, it isn't with yourself, it isn't with your spouse; it's with that child. Your own physical activity just isn't as important as the attention you're giving that child."
But when it comes to abandoning physical activity, you're not just hurting yourself, say experts.
"Now that you have kids, you want to be around for the kids," says Jon Chipko, a certified strength and conditioning coach from Montclair, N.J. "You want to be healthy, to be able to play with them, to be around when they get older."
Time constraints, lack of sleep, and selflessness are all perfectly valid excuses for the short term, says Hull. But, he warns, be careful how much time you let go by.
"It's easy to sit on the couch," Hull says. "It's not easy to get out and exercise. [But] down the road, if parents have lost all this physical activity for years, they're not going to snap back."
Whether you are a mom or a dad, a parent of a newborn or a teenager, here are some effective ways to incorporate exercise back into your life and fight the tendency to become more sedentary.
Exercise Tip for Parents No. 1: Be Active All Day
You don't have to be athletic to be physically active, says Keller.
Move around, walk to your neighbor's house instead of calling, take the stairs, park farther away from your destination. All these things help burn calories and keep you moving -- and they all add up.
"You are tied to the child. You can't leave them, but you can get up and move around," Keller says.
"There are lots of ways parents can incorporate physical activity into their day, or just as importantly, as a family activity," says Hull. "It may take more preparation for parents, but physical activity can and should be balanced back in."
Exercise Tip for Parents No. 2: Defy the Myth of Time
Granted, children take up a lot of time you previously had for yourself.
But here's the great part, says Brad Schoenfeld, a fitness trainer in Scarsdale, N.Y.: "It does not take a lot of time to achieve a basic level of fitness.
"People tend to think they need to spend hours on end at the gym. It's the quality, not the quantity. With a 15- to 20-minute weight workout, you can achieve great benefits."
Schoenfeld, author of two fitness books, says that even the advanced athletes he trains complete their workouts in about 3 to 3 1/2 hours a week.
"You don't need 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a day in one continuous bout," says Hull. Shoot for 10 to 15 minutes a couple times throughout the day, he recommends.
Exercising in small chunks will help you avoid burnout and may also keep you motivated, experts say.
Exercise Tip for Parents No. 3: Define Your Priorities