Parents Who Exercise: Staying Active with Kids (cont.)

When you're stretched for time or crave a little time to yourself, Chipko says, it's easy to go for the quick fix, like going shopping, stopping for a latte, or watching TV.

"Somewhere along the line you're substituting a long-term goal for something short term," says Chipko. "In the long run, quick fixes are not going to benefit you."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 4: Cultivate Social Support

Having a parent, a friend, or a neighbor to whom you can entrust the care of your children will pay dividends.

"A lot [of what happens with an exercise routine] depends on the opportunity [a parent] has to leave the child and do exercise outside the home," says Keller.

If you don't have family nearby, says Hull, "establish a network of friends that you trust and can trade off child care with."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 5: Establish Family Fitness

If you want your children to know the value of fitness, exercise with them.

With infants and toddlers, go for brisk walks with the baby in the stroller, says Chipko. While they nap during the day, fit in some fitness --- doing basic lunges, squats, push-ups, and crunches.

"These are all things that don't require any equipment or space and don't take a lot of time," Schoenfeld says.

With preschool to school-aged children, strive for family fitness. Go to the park, ride bikes, hike, and swim while the weather's nice. In the winter, ice-skate, snowshoe, cross-country ski, or go sledding.

"Physical activity time also provides a great opportunity to talk with your kids," adds Keller. "But sometimes, just doing something with them is worth more than we realize."

Bottom line?

"Your desire to be physically active with your child will usually force a creative solution to do so," says Keller. "You may be the only parent who is jogging around your kid's soccer practice field, but your kid will get used to it."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 6: Set Goals

The very first step to staying fit or regaining fitness is to want it, say experts.

"Motivation comes from within," says Schoenfeld. "I can't motivate someone if they don't have a reason to do something."

Set short-term goals, says Schoenfeld, so as not to overwhelm yourself. If it's four sizes you need to lose, start with one. If it's 20 pounds, set a more manageable goal of 1-2 pounds per week.

Most people go too far and say, 'I want to run a marathon,'" says Chipko. "That's too big."

Goals have to be realistic, says Chipko: "If your goal is to look like Kelly Ripa or Angelina Jolie, your determination is going to be crushed if you work out and eat yogurt for a week and you don't look like them."

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 7: Put In the Effort

Don't expect to get fit overnight, warns Chipko. "It's a matter of putting time in. Anything worth having is hard. There is work involved."

But, you say, fitting in work and everything needed to run a household is hard enough. Who needs the added pressure of squeezing in a workout?

The truth, Keller says, is that exercise will actually give you more energy to tackle the tasks always hanging over your head.

And somewhere along the line, says Chipko, exercise will become a habit.

"People always ask me how long it's going to take," he says. "Everybody wants that quick fix."

It may take a month, it may take a year, he says, but when you reach a goal you set on your own, it's much more rewarding.

Exercise Tip for Parents No. 8: Be a Role Model

Whether they admit it or not, kids look to their parents as role models.

"What you do has a huge effect on what they do," says Chipko, who works with youth from 9 to 18.

If you're a couch potato, you may pass that trait on to your children. On the other hand, if kids grow up in a family where they walk the dog, hike, or go for bike rides, they will emulate that behavior, says Keller.

"When trying to teach kids discipline," says Chipko, "you as a parent should have some as well."

Published September 5, 2007.

SOURCES: WebMD News: "Parenthood Squashes Workout Time." Betsy Keller, PhD, professor of exercise and sports sciences, Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y. Ethan E. Hull, MEd, PhD candidate in exercise physiology, University of Pittsburgh. Jon J. Chipko, CSCS, sports performance nutritionist and medical exercise specialist; owner, BodyGoals, Montclair, N.J. Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS, CPT, ACE personal trainer; president, Global Fitness Services, Scarsdale, N.Y.

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