Blending Exercise Into Family Life
Daniel S. Fick, MD and Stephen J. Goff, PhDTHE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 24 - NO. 2 - FEBRUARY 96
It all works out so well in fitness magazines. The young executive stops by the health club after work for a 45-minute workout, not including time spent getting ready and getting out. She arrives home for dinner feeling great. Exercise blends into her life with the rhythm of a well-oiled rowing machine.
But is this real life for most people, especially parents? You don't read about a dad having to race home from work to tend to a sick kid, change a diaper, and help get dinner on the table. Maybe after the grocery shopping is done and the kids are tucked in, he can combine exercise and quality time with his wife. They call it the housecleaning workout.
Whether you think you have time for it or not, exercise is essential for a healthy life. Experts for years have said that regular exercise—even moderate exercise such as walking—will help you improve fitness, lose weight, and reduce your risk of health problems like heart disease. To reap these benefits, you need about 30 minutes a day of exercise, several times a week. If you also count time spent traveling to your club or gym, dressing, warming up, cooling down, and showering, a workout can easily consume 60 to 90 minutes of your day.
But if you plan wisely, help your family understand your exercise philosophy, and maybe retool the way you view "working out," you can adopt exercise as just another member of the family.
People who have a strong family support system and strong commitment to family in activities other than exercise will experience the least conflict when trying to exercise amidst a busy family life. Here are a few tips on making exercise family-friendly. These pointers can also help avoid disagreements and conflicts about exercise commitments. No single method will succeed for every family, so choose the options that make most sense to you.
Taking Care of Busy-ness
Besides incorporating exercise into family life, another approach parents can use is to optimize the occasional lulls in their schedules. The suggestions below may help you find the time and energy to exercise on your own. (The last five tips are from the New York Road Runners Club.)
Bonds of Steel
You know that exercise is good for you, so make it a part of your daily schedule. You can successfully balance the demands of exercise with other responsibilities. When family conflicts arise, work them out together, allowing everyone's input to help solve problems.
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Dr Fick is an assistant professor of family practice at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City. Dr Goff is an assistant professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa.