Parenthood, as all the initiated will tell you, is a tiring experience. From the early days of nappy changing, through the tantrums of toddlers to the mood swings of teens, there is nothing as relentless as rearing a child. Of course, it has its rewards too, but few would count amongst them a fitter mum or dad.
However, more and more smart parents are reaping the benefits of exercising with their offspring; it builds family bonds, aids better sleep for the children and makes parents fitter and better equipped to deal with the everyday demands of parenting.
Here’s how a growing number of families are blending exercise with family time.
A growing number of organisations now target the stay-at-home new parent with exercise classes involving babies from birth to walking (12-18 months). These classes are usually held outside and involve a warm-up walk or run pushing the pram followed by toning exercises.
If there’s not one near you it’s easy enough to pop on the trainers and go off road with the buggy – you’ll be surprised how many core muscles you engage pushing your little one up a hill at speed, not to mention the cardio requirements.
Added to this all the movement stimulates the baby while the fresh air helps them sleep more soundly at nap time.
Once the kids are moving there’s scope to exercise together and again formal classes are available for this age range that typically blend soft play equipment with games.
But don’t worry if there’s not one near you – clambering around your local soft play, kicking a ball in the park or a good game of tag for an hour or more will all help raise your heart rate and work a variety of muscles.
When you’re at the park playing introduce additional exercises by challenging your kids to hold a plank for longer than you can, giving them a piggy back while you do your squats or lifting them up above your head several times as if you’re doing a shoulder press. And the great thing about kids is that they grow so you don’t need to up your reps if you stick to this regime every Saturday!
Alongside the physical benefits, exercising with your children in this way will help them to understand the importance of exercise and also teach them that it’s fun too.
Park Runs and Charity Runs
There’s a wealth of open events that children can participate in under supervision, the most obvious of these being the park and charity runs that happen all over the UK.
The first time you get your child to a park run it will be a challenge for them – it’s a long distance for little legs. But most parents that manage it report that in a matter of weeks the speed and persistence is up and it’s an enjoyable way to start the day.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a child that goes to a school where they run The Daily Mile the chances are they’ll be the ones helping you around the course. The Daily Mile program has had a positive impact on childhood obesity and concentration in school, so as well as training the body your child’s brain will benefit too.
Of all the fitness disciplines martial arts is the one that best lends itself to families who want a formal activity they can all enjoy and progress in. Martial Arts are all about skills progression, whatever the age and many clubs offer mixed age sessions where parent and child can work towards and earn their various belts together.
As well as being a bonding experience in itself this type of exercise improves the concentration, reflexes, confidence and general respect of everyone taking part so you’ll be fitter, more alert and your child will learn to exercise their new skills with caution.
Getting out in the Countryside
Aside from a simple walk, there are so many simple, free and healthy outdoor activities that you can do as a family including tree climbing, den building and mountain biking.
And don’t let the British weather put you off, once you’re wrapped up and moving you’ll all get warm and enjoy the great outdoors.
Add an element of a challenge to your day let the kids wear a pedometer to count the steps and award a prize for the first to 1,000 or take a water pistol to test whether the den you build would let in the rain – keep building it until it doesn’t.
Remember the best childhood memories won’t be made in front of the TV or iPad, they’ll be those times you were out doing things together.
So during the exercise take selfies, then talk about them when you’re at home. When you do, the children will want to make more memories this way enabling you all to get fitter and instilling a ‘get up and do’ attitude that will serve them well for the long term.