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“Your life is going to change forever!”
You heard it a million times before starting a family. In addition to a host of other adjustments that come with a growing family, your activity and exercise routine will no doubt undergo some changes. With all the new responsibilities that come with the arrival of kids, exercise has a tendency to fall by the wayside. However, keeping up a fitness routine is important not only for your own health but also as an example for your children. Here are some tips to give your family a dose of preventive medicine as well as togetherness. With a bit of luck, your kids won’t even recognize it as exercise.
Naturally, your newborn is not ready for formal exercise just yet, but mom has recovered from delivery and is ready to return to a moderate exercise regimen. A good stroller is a great investment for not only getting the daily chores done, but also for introducing some brisk walking and eventually jogging. From the time your baby is 8 weeks old, it is safe to walk with him or her in a stroller, as long as you use a car seat adaptor. While you hit the pavement for your daily dose of endorphins, your baby will enjoy the rocking motions as well as the sights and sounds.
If you’re confined to the indoors, invest in a workout DVD to get your exercise fix. You’d be surprised how engrossed your baby can be while watching mom or dad working out in front of the screen. Purchase a jumper — a device that allows your baby to jump up and down securely in one spot — and put it somewhere where you can keep an eye on them while you get that all-important 20 minute workout.
Even in the digital age, some excitement can still be generated from a child’s first bike. Once your child is up and cycling without training wheels, the two of you can combine workouts by jogging and cycling together. Sure, the pace might be inconsistent and you may have to negotiate both road crossings and the random muses of a child, but use them to your advantage to vary the pace. You can even recruit your child as a coach, getting them to yell “Go” at random intervals. This type of training in athletic circles is called “fartlek,” a Swedish word meaning “speedplay.” It’s great cardiovascular training.
Not only is swimming a great exercise, but it’s also an important safety skill for kids to learn so that they can be comfortable and confident in and around water. A trip down to the public swimming pool is a great way to spend an afternoon getting some fun, informal exercise. Children can learn to swim at an early age, but if you don’t feel confident doing the teaching, enroll them in private or group swimming lessons. That way you can swim some laps while the kids are occupied.
Combine fun and exercise with trampolining. The kids will be so busy enjoying themselves they won’t even know they’re exercising. In many places around the United States, there are businesses that run warehouses of trampoline floors and walls where you can bounce around for hours. Whether jumping, running, or flipping, you and your child will burn calories, build muscle, and increase your balance and spatial coordination. It’s also a great idea for alternative birthday parties.
Suggesting a hiking trip may not elicit cries of joy from your tween initially, but there are some ways to spice up this exercise to make it more desirable. Attaching an activity — such as bird watching, plant identification, or map reading — may convert this outdoor pursuit into an active hobby, one that keeps them coming back. Educate yourself by reading some nature books specific to your location, or take a short, guided hike so that next time you’re out you can distract yourselves from the effort by reveling in the wonders of nature.
If you are successful in prying the video game controller or television remote out of your teen’s hands, pack him or her in the car and head to your local disc golf venue. Disc golf courses are outdoors, usually in naturally beautiful preserves, and all you need is a Frisbee. The goal is to throw the Frisbee into a basket located some distance from the tee. It is scored in the same way golf is; the person who completes the course with the least number of throws wins. By the time it’s over, you will have clocked three to four miles of walking and will have worked your shoulders and torso muscles with the throwing motion.
Think it’s impossible to get your teens up and away from the computer screen? There are computer games that can actually help you get some physical exercise. The Wii is a home video console built by Nintendo with a wide a selection of dance games designed specifically for the Wii. You hold the controls in your hands and avatars on the screen mimic your actions. The gamer copies the dance moves they see on the screen and scores points for accuracy. It’s a lot of fun and a great calorie burner. Using the multiplayer function, even uncoordinated parents can get sucked into the fun. Luckily, there are no points for style.
Written by: Martin Spierings
Medically reviewed on: Sep 08, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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