To Your Health
May, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 05)
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Parents Need Exercise, Too!

By Julie Engebretson

I will exercise regularly. It's quite possibly the most common New Year's resolution next to I will start eating better. Unfortunately, it's also the most frequently abandoned resolution of them all. Those who have resolve enough to change start strong, but eventually, fitness falls off the list of priorities.

Parents usually feel they have the least amount of time to exercise, considering their myriad responsibilities: childcare, household errands and upkeep, (limited) sleep, a spouse, pets, bills, meals, along with a full- or part-time job. Few know the busy parent's struggle to find time for fitness better than Jason Keigher, a certified personal trainer in New York City whose client base comprises mostly pre- and postnatal mothers and parents with young children.

"Many of my clients work 40-plus hours a week and have little time to exercise," says Keigher. "But the truth is, it doesn't take a lot of time to exercise, if you're doing it correctly." In nearly 10 years of training busy parents, Keigher has heard an assortment of excuses for avoiding a workout. "The three most common excuses I hear are, 'There is not enough time in my day,' 'The baby was up all night and I'm so tired,' and 'My kids come first,'" Keigher explains.

A father using his feet to suspend his young son in the air. - Copyright ‚Äď Stock Photo / Register Mark The key to combating these routine excuses is changing the routine. Rearranging the day's events to include exercise may be easier than you think. A little effort and creativity yield countless health and wellness benefits, including increased longevity, better sleep and overall health, and improved confidence. And of course, as Keigher emphasizes, "You lose fat, gain muscle and energy, and improve mental health."

It seems many Americans have a somewhat skewed understanding of exercise. To many men and women, exercise requires expensive gear, fitness equipment, a weight room and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. No one exploits this misconception better than private gyms and fitness clubs. When the spring season rolls around, their print ads and loud commercials chide us about our broken resolutions, and threaten us with the impending bathing suit season. What the ads fail to mention is the truth: Fitness doesn't require a monthly payment. "Anyone can work fitness into their life," says Keigher. "You don't need a personal trainer or a gym membership to get good exercise. With a single 5- to 10-pound dumbbell, maybe a fun exercise tape, and a pair of comfortable, inexpensive sneakers, you're on your way to a healthier life without ever leaving the house." Each parent's situation is unique and depends largely on the ages of the children. But whether your young ones are in high chairs or high school, there are plenty of effective, inventive ways to make a change for the fitter in your life.

Keigher knows well the dilemma of a brand-new mother who wants to bond with baby, but still work up a good sweat a few days per week. "One of the greatest aspects of motherhood is bonding time," Keigher admits. "But you can exercise and spend time with your newborn simultaneously." For example, parents living in San Francisco can join the Noe Valley Stroller Group, a citywide parent support group that organizes parent-child events for every day of the week, including fitness strolls, swim days at the YMCA, and even parent-child yoga sessions. "These stroller groups are so popular, moms and dads can find one and join in no matter where they live, nationwide," says Keigher. Many groups, like the Noe Valley Stroller Group, are designed especially for parents of newborn to kindergarten-age children. They're a great way to meet other new parents and explore the city with your child, and in most cases, membership is free!