Back to School, Back to Fitness

Nutrition & Movement


Now that the kids are back to school, are you hopeful you'll find more time to exercise? I speak from experience when I say that you won't find the time unless you schedule the time.

My kids are grown, but I haven't forgotten those crazy-busy days with kids and their many activities. True confession: When my daughters were young, I went almost 10 years without regular exercise, other than chasing the kids all over the place. I don't recommend that. I got out of shape and overweight and had to work to recover my health and set a good example for my kids.

So, what can you do when life is crazy?

What eventually worked for me is that I went straight to the gym after I dropped my kids at school. I worked out from about 7:15 to 8 in the morning, three to five days a week, and was home and ready to start work by 9. I coupled that with dog walks, walks with friends and walks while my kids practiced soccer. And it worked.

I didn't suddenly become the fittest or thinnest woman on the block, but I was healthy—and I was setting a good example for my two daughters.

There's no magic formula. Just discover what you enjoy and what works for you and your family.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Schedule it. Look at your calendar, including all the school activities, work hours and other obligations. Search for little gaps in the day, whether it's early in the morning before anyone wakes, after the kids go to school, during lunch break or evenings. Just find some time—even if it's only 10 minutes at a time. A few short exercise breaks during the day add up—10 minutes of yoga stretches or stair climbing when you get up, a short walk at lunch and a bike ride with the kids after work.
  • Make it routine. We sometimes forget how important it is to move throughout the day. A recent study out of the United Kingdom revealed that people who walk, cycle or take public transportation to work have less body fat than people who drive. If driving is your only option, park farther from the door. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, lifting your knees high on each step. Walk your kids to their bus stop and do some stretches as you wait—or walk them to school. While watching TV, helping the kids with homework or talking on the phone, do exercises like planks, leg lifts, bridges, squats and lunges. If you have a desk job, set a timer to remind you to get up and move around. Spend 5 minutes every hour walking or doing simple stretches. Your muscles will thank you.
  • Skip the gym. With all the DVDs and online workouts now available, you don't need to go to the gym. For little or no cost, many websites and apps offer workouts that you can do in your living room, anytime you like, no equipment needed.
  • Play While the Kids Play. My daughters each played soccer for about 12 years. That's a lot of soccer practices. I learned to use their practice time to take walks around the fields or parks where they practiced or through nearby neighborhoods. On game days, they had to arrive at least 30 minutes before game time, so I'd arrive in my walking shoes and take a walk while they warmed up.
  • Play With the Kids. Don't underestimate the importance of doing physical activities with your kids, whether it's kicking around a soccer ball, pitching a football or baseball, riding bikes, hiking, jogging or practicing martial arts. An old-fashioned family game of badminton or dodge ball can be fun. With the real young ones, get down on the floor and play with them or go out together to swing or play chase.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we grown-ups get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week—that's 30 minutes, five times a week. Sounds like a lot, especially when every day is busy and exhausting. Start with 10 minutes here and there. Use a fitness app (or pen and paper) to track your progress.

You may be surprised how quickly the minutes add up. Give yourself an A+!

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