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How to Keep Healthy and In Shape for Kids

Updated on December 28, 2012

Kids-A Great Reason to Be in Shape

Before we had our first baby, a friend of mind told me, “when they’re young, they are physically exhausting, as they get older, they become mentally exhausting.” What she didn’t tell me was that the physically exhausting part would continue long past the toddler years. I just get more sleep now.

Becoming a parent is a good reason to get fit and strong if there ever was one. Your arms and back will ache from carrying around babies and toddlers, and if that 20-pound bundle doesn’t make your arms burn, the stroller and diaper bag will.

As they start running around, you had better have the endurance to run with them; and climb, crawl, and sometimes climb and crawl with them on your back! At the end of the day you will want to fall asleep with them. Now that my kids are getting a little older, I still need endurance to keep up with them, and once in a while the strength to carry them around.

Here is how I have snuck in the exercise I need to be as active as my kids, and how you can do it to.


Healthy Eating

The number one step you can take to stay ready for action is to maintain a healthy diet. This means your go-to sources of energy are fruits and nuts, healthy fats, lean proteins, water and healthy energy drinks (think Odwalla, not Monster.)

Your no-no list includes processed sugars, or anything that can cause a blood sugar spike. You know these cuprits: regular pasta, white bread, white rice and corn syrup-laden juice drinks and condiments. The list is endless, but make this part simple by taking a quick look at the ingredients list. If it says sugar or high fructose corn syrup, leave it on the shelf.

Exercise with the Kids

You should have your own workout time 2-3 times a week just for sanity. But one of the easiest ways to stay fit enough to run with the little dogs is to run with them. For example:

  • When you go to the park, chase them around. Climb on the play equipment. You can even sneak in pullups, dips and leg raises here and there. By the end of a two hour park session these all add up.
  • At the beach, don't just lay in the sun. When the kids want to dig a hole big enough to lay down in, jump in and help. Shoveling is good exercise, plus you get to bond with your child. Encourage them to chase you on the sand, through the tides, or just crawl around. Kids love a good reason to roll around in the sand.
  • Always bring a ball to the outdoors. At the beach, the lake, the park, wherever. Have a soccer ball, football, handball, volleyball or even a tennis ball.
  • When it's playtime at home, let the kids jump on your back while you crawl around. If you are able, do planks and pushups with the added "weight."
  • Make sure you have a way to keep up with the kids when they ride their bikes, scooters or Big Wheels. I have a bike and skateboard, and I am not ashamed to jump on an extra scooter to ride with the kids. Forget the eliptical trainer!


Find Personal Exercise Time

This is much harder when you have a newborn, so this section is mainly targeted at those parents with a 1-whatever year old (after all, they don't get less demanding as they age!)

Finding a time to workout does not have to be a major ordeal. Line up your excuses:

  • Too tired in the morning
  • Too tired at night
  • Gym is too far
  • Don't belong to/can't join a gym
  • Family duties take too much time
  • Add your own

Did I get them all in there? Well here is what you do with those excuses: Dump them down a dark hole, because none of them should stop you. Don't worry about what's stopping you, just focus on what you want: 'You' time to get a short workout in. So let's knock out these excuses:

  • If you are too tired, take a good look at your diet. Maybe you need more water, nutrients, protein or a vitamin supplement? Can you find time for a power nap? 10-15 minutes works miracles.
  • You can get an excellent workout without a gym. An absolute dripping sweat, muscle-burning, heart pounding workout. With or without weights. There are tons of bodyweight instructional articles and videos, and you can build bodybuilder muscles with only a set of adjustable dumbbells.
  • Having a small window of time to workout is to your advantage. There is no time to slack off. You set a timer, get warmed up and kick the workout intensity way up. This method produces a huge metabolic response, which means more calories burned during and after the workout.
  • You probably have the time to workout if you look carefully at your schedule. Television and the internet are big time-wasters (even for those of us who work online.) Are you letting yourself lounge for an hour or two in front of the computer or TV screen after the kids have gone to bed? Get your workout done first and you will have energy to spare.

Dedicate a half hour or more to your personal exercise time everyday. Let the family know that this is your time and you are to be left alone. Lock the door if you have to. A good workout relieves stress and leaves you better prepared for the mental and physical challenges of the day. Make it a priority.

If you need help choosing equipment to workout with or putting together an effective workout for yourself, consider the videos and equipment below. I have put most of them to extensive use and had great results. So can you!

Home Workout Videos

There are too many home workout videos to count. Whether you are into yoga, building muscle, zumba, step aerobics, kettlebells or something else, there are follow-along home workout videos available.

Dive into this niche and find something you like. Buy more than one type of exercise video to have an alternative if you get bored. Here are some of my favorites:

p90x: The Beachbody company has great products, and you only have to ask a friend who has used this program to know it's the real deal. Minimal equipment, maximum results. If you try, that is.

Insanity: Another excellent Beachbody product. If you prefer using only your own bodyweight, this is the one for you. A lot plyometrics and high intensity calisthenics that will have you dripping sweat and dropping pounds. You'll have more endurance than you ever thought you could.

Lauren Brooks Kettlebell DVD's: Specifically geared toward women, but just as challenging for any man, Lauren is an RKC certified kettlebell instructor with excellent and inspiring videos.

Brian Kest Power Yoga DVD's: Brian Kest's power yoga classes are known to be some of the most challenging and rewarding. His DVD's are no different. Start with the introduction dvd and move on to more advanced videos as your body gets stronger and more flexible.


Space Efficient Home Gym Equipment

You can fit all the equipment you will ever need to get buff, ripped, lean or whatever you are looking to do in the floor space of a small closet. This is my personal list for tight spaces:

  • Adjustable Dumbbells: A set of adjustable dumbbells lets you do everything from short aerobic conditioning to intense bodybuilding. Just buy enough plates to add weight as you get stronger.
  • Suspension Trainer (TRX, Jungle Gym XT): A suspension trainer can be hooked onto the back of a door or to a small hook in the garage. They weigh about 2 pounds and can fit in a big jacket pocket. The workout is an endless variety of challenging exercises.
  • Medicine Ball: Collegiate and pro sports teams use medicine balls for improving endurance, quickness and coordination. Get a moderate weight ball you can bounce.
  • Jumprope: Jumproping is a skill that improves coordination while getting your heart rate up. Plus, it takes up next to no space.

If you have additional space you can add:

  • Kettlebells: Kettlebells are excellent for building strength, endurance and muscle all at the same time. You can buy one to get started and slowly acquire more as you master this ancient tool.
  • Pullup bar: Pullups, hanging leg raises, toes-to-bar, etc., etc.
  • Additional medicine balls: Buy a lighter and a heavier ball to adapt to different workouts.
  • Sandbags: You can make your own sandbags or buy a commercial brand. Either one is an effective strength and conditioning tool that only takes up a small corner.


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