26 Sep A Mum’s Guide to Exercise with Children, from Pregnancy to Teens
A mum’s life is a busy one and squeezing exercise into the day is a challenge we all face however being active from the very beginning will not only help mum’s physical and mental health, it also has a ripple effect on the entire household encouraging the whole family to be more active too!
Tips for mum’s with kids in the following age groups:
From PREGNANCY to BIRTH
The rule of thumb is to maintain your current physical activity when you fall pregnant. Avoid contact sports, exercises lying on your tummy (and back) and be weary of unstable joints however exercise is certainly safe and beneficial for mum and bub therefore should be encouraged. Pre-natal Exercises including aqua aerobics, yoga, Pilates and strength training classes run by Exercise Physiologists or Physiotherapists are a great place to start. In addition- don’t estimate the power of regular walking!
As the needs of the baby often rule your day, the secret to exercise is to include it as part of your daily (mum-bub) routine. Whether the exercise is a walk, pelvic floor exercises, workout at the gym, sport or a home circuit, the same principles apply. The time of day you choose has to work for your (mum-bub) routine. You may find it easier to exercise when baby is well fed and awake, not only are they happier but there is something extra special about the role modelling you are doing for your child. Or, you may just prefer to exercise during their nap time, either way, plan out your exercise and make it part of your schedule.
If you exercise at home or at the park have your baby outside with you, in a pram or on a play mat, they’ll be fascinated by nature and once you start exercising they’ll love watching you move too. Of course, have some tricks up your sleeve; toys, food, bumbo, carrier, jolly jumper, dummy, sippy cup, iPAD, DVD player, speaker, absolutely anything that will help occupy your bub. If you have a baby that protests start small with 10 min increments at a time, my ultimate goal for a home workout with little children is 30 mins. It’s almost always achievable!
We know preschool aged kids love to walk, run, climb, and explore, especially if mum is distracted! What you’ll find is preschool kids are much more interested in what mum’s doing than anything else and invited or not they will want to join in with your exercise.
Take this as a great opportunity to be active together! The best workouts with little kids are outdoor especially at the park! The kids may get bored after 10 mins and then they can just play while you finish. The backyard is always a convenient option too.
Opportunities for incidental exercise are at their PEAK with this age group! Kids would LOVE you to PLAY with them- kick a ball, throw a frisbee, play nerf wars or ninja warriors, tip or relay races, hopscotch or hoolahoops, dance or swim, shoot some hoops or goals – they just have so much energy to burn you may as well schedule some active playtime for the two of you!
This approach will also take the pressure off having to do a traditional ‘workout’.
While kids are often active at school, playing at lunch, participating in school activities and playing sport, most parents ALSO organise extracurricular summer and winter activities for their kids. The range varies from martial arts to rugby league to little athletics, swimming and rock climbing, there are just so many opportunities! But what about us Mum’s? Have you ever noticed how many parents just sit (gossip or Facebook) while they watch their child training? We are all a little guilty, it’s a bit of a culture that’s evolved but now it’s time to change.
These extracurricular activities that fill your afternoon are a great opportunity to get active and get involved. You could be a coach, a trainer or participant which not only fills time it also gives you opportunity through the week to ‘practice’ your new skills with your child.
Alternatively, do something else while your child trains, swim some laps, go for a walk, go to the gym, play some tennis, grab some other mums and pay a personal trainer to come and train you, once you start looking you won’t be able to stop finding new options for exercise that can fill that time more productively!
HIGH SCHOOL years
Just when you think you’ve gained all your independence back and you can start doing the exercise you want, where and when you want, I urge you to think again! Teens just want to grow up, it’s actually really appealing to them to do exercise that is grown up too (the kind of stuff you like to do!). They will want to learn how to do it properly and then how to beat you at it!
They LOVE a bit of boxing, body weight/boot camp style work outs and even hitting the gym (for cardio) is considered ‘cool’- so exercise CAN BE a great way to bond together as a family. There may be some great classes and options in your area you could both attend. Weekends can be filled with Park runs, Fun run events or simply going for hikes or beach walks it’s a great way to be social and active at the same time bringing teens and mums together with their friends – the more involved the merrier!
Being a busy mum is no excuse when it comes to exercise, in fact being a mum is the biggest REASON why you SHOULD exercise! It’s not only crucial for your own health and well-being it’s equally important for your child. The more you can role model an active life and provide opportunities to exercise together, the better your child’s own perceptions, beliefs and relationship with physical activity will be.