Exercising with your kids is a fantastic way to role model healthy behaviours and habits.
As anyone who has ever tried to accomplish any simple task with kids knows – it’s not always easy and it works better if you come prepared.
Here are 5 (and a half) top suggestions to include your kids in your exercise, and to keep it fun!
1. Play music
Kids of any age can be attracted and distracted by the joy of music. Make your exercise a dance party with a well-selected playlist and you can keep them dancing (for at least a few tracks) while you sweat. Focus on the beats per minute and you can ‘suggest’ whether the energy should be high (for cardio) or low (for stretching). For older kids, it can be great to share some of your favourite hits or get them to be the DJ (*Note: they will likely tell you your music is “trash” but take it on the chin).
2. Include them
Kids make great:
- Running targets
Carrying a baby while doing squats is an easy way to ramp up the intensity. Whether you use a carrier or hold them in your arms centrally.
Make sure you are:
- cleared to exercise
- in control of your pelvic floor
- adapting to work out safely (falls risks to children are real so keep two feet on the ground).
Other alternatives include having young kids sit on your lap while you do rows, or older kids climb on your back while you do push ups. For the super little ones, mutual tummy time is great. Pilates and floor work can allow you to keep relatively still while looking at your little one while they work out.
As they get older, they can start to suggest exercises or, if you’re lucky, yell out supporting phrases to you. A way of getting kids involved at Fit For 2 uses the “dice game”. The lucky kids roll the dice, and the number rolled selects the exercise we do. A very important job.
3. Plan ahead
If you’re hoping to focus on some intensity, be prepared with a series of toys, books, colouring or even the iPad. While some equipment might not be safe to share, items like resistance bands make surprisingly good teethers (always supervise), or a spiky massage ball or roller might be just the right sensory level for a 10-month-old to enjoy. Once they start playing, the clock starts.
4. Provide a safe environment
If you make sure your child’s equipment and where they practice or play is safe you can relax in knowing that while they may make mischief, at least they will be contained and safe. Pick exercise areas that are enclosed and able to be controlled. Gated parks, cricket nets and your own living room can be great examples. For little babies, rockers and playpens are also options.
5. Adjust your expectations
Workouts with kids might be shorter. You might manage three 10-minute sessions throughout the day instead of one continuous 30-45 minutes session. It might be that you start doing squats while you’re pushing them on the swings at the park, then do pilates while watching some Baby Shark. Kids have good days and bad; some days they’ll be interested, and other days you’ll need to accept defeat and change tack. Flexibility is a key parenting skill.
The bonus: Do a class with support
While technically the kids might not be “involved” in your training, many parent-focused training programs exist where the trainer is able to offer a level of childcare/support while you work out. Many larger gym facilities offer occasional care timed with classes, PT or gym sessions. This means you can drop your child off, let them have some interactions and adventures and you can get your workout done in peace. It takes a tribe and many options.
At Fit For 2 we welcome babies and kids of any age. We will incorporate the little ones where needed and I love training with the babies too allowing mum to get her workout session done. Most of all kids love attending mum’s workout session as they see it as a positive self-care time for mum.
You got this.
Anita Guerra is a Registered Midwife and Certified Fitness Trainer. She runs Fit For 2 in South Morang, Victoria. To find out more about her and get in touch, click here.
You can also find her on Instagram.