Our last article discussed diet tips for busy moms. Although diet is more important for health and weight loss, physical activity is also important. Exercise benefits your body as a while (e.g. the circulatory, respiratory, and muscular systems), not just your appearance. Since moms often feel like they lack the time or opportunity to work out, here are tips to increase physical activity.
Do shorter workouts
Though you may feel like a workout has to be at least 50 minutes to be effective, it doesn’t. Shorter workouts can work, especially if you maximize your efforts. Even without time constraints, I often did a 20-minute bodyweight routine or a 10-minute HIIT routine most days. Yes, longer workouts can burn more calories, but it depends on the intensity. You can reap the same benefits (calorie burn, increased strength and endurance) with a shorter workout with sufficient intensity. Despite doing short daily workouts, I was obviously still in good shape, because I could handle longer, 60-minute workouts (e.g. outdoor bootcamp classes). However, once I was used to shorter workouts, I didn’t care to spend that much time working out.
The point is not to have the all-or-nothing mentality that if you cannot devote 30+ minutes a day to working out, that you shouldn’t work out at all. Something is better than nothing, and if you’re used to feeling wiped from long workouts, then simply increase the intensity of shorter workouts to avoid feeling shortchanged. For instance, instead of doing multiple reps with hand weights, I’d do pull ups and pushups to build strength. At one point, Josh would pull a weighted sled or push the car outside. Even though you can’t do a lot of these types of exercises at a time, they are intense.
Skip the gym
You don’t have to go to a gym to get a good workout. I’ve been working out at home for years now, after having my first child. That way, I didn’t have to factor in commute time, or the time to walk to and through the gym. I did miss the community feel of a gym, but I thought the shorter time devoted to working out was a positive trade off. If you’re used to using weight machines, then you can get weights at home, which work just as well. (Some people even think using free weights and barbells are superior to machines!) You don’t need a ton of equipment. For instance, I only use a pull up bar and suspension straps regularly for my bodyweight routines, and sometimes dumbbells. You can find all of those on our Shop page.
Work out in segments
Another option is to do several small workouts during the day. YouTube has a lot of shorter workout videos (e.g. HIIT routines, or workouts for isolated muscles like legs, arms, etc.). That way, if you cannot commit to any large block of time at a time, then you may be able to handle 10 minutes or less at a time instead. It’s easier not to feel shortchanged if you complete a segment versus pausing a longer workout to resume later. For instance, since my baby’s naps are unpredictable in length, I will do short routines at a time. That way, if he wakes up, I would have completed one or more 6- to 12-minute routines without feeling interrupted and can do more the next time he naps. Although you might feel more gratified doing one long routine, doing several short ones can also be gratifying. Again, something is better than nothing.
Increase your daily movement
If working out simply doesn’t appeal to you or seems impossible, then try to maximize your daily movement. For instance, play tag or other active games with your kids, or dance with your baby to music. If you go to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk outside during lunch or other breaks. You can probably find a coworker willing to join you on these walks, especially ones also into improving their health or appearance. If you take phone calls on a mobile phone or headset, move around while you talk. Regardless of whether you work, try family walks. We do nightly walks whenever possible. They are great to get everyone out of the house and moving, to relax, and to allow uninterrupted conversation. Consider replacing a regular evening activity like watching TV with a family walk. Like anything that you do regularly, efforts to incorporate more daily activity will just become habit.
Hand the kids off
If you have a partner or other person able to watch the kids at any point during the day, then don’t be afraid to hand your kids off. Again, if you feel pressed for time, you don’t need to do a full 60-minute workout. If your partner doesn’t want to “actively” watch the kids, then you can try squeezing in a workout in the morning while the kids are asleep. That way, if one of your kids suddenly awakens, your partner can handle it, but doesn’t have to be on active watch while your kids are asleep. Alternatively, if you work out with your partner or someone else, you both can alternate watching the kids. For instance, during strength workouts, you can alternate watching kids between sets.
Take your child to work out
More and more gyms are offering childcare for parents to drop children off while working out. Some classes here incorporate babies into workouts, like Baby and Me yoga classes or stroller mom workouts. Another local group conducts daily workouts where kids are welcomed to run and play freely in the room while parents are working out. So, you may want to explore what baby- or kid-friendly options are in your area. If your area doesn’t have any options, you can take the initiative to try to organize or request such programs or find other moms who are equally interested.
If you are really motivated to increase daily physical activity, you will find a way. The tips above are for if you are short on time. Even when I was sleep-deprived with a newborn, I’d work out to maintain my momentum. Although my performance may have been lacking, I didn’t want to abandon being active. Once you resolve not to work out, maintaining that the status quo becomes easier. That’s why you should get rid of the excuse about not having time or energy. Besides, working out can increase your energy and endurance with time, motivating you to work out even more. You just have to get past the initial hurdle of figuring out a way.