How to Stay Fit As a Stay at Home Parent

Three Parts:Fitting In Exercise as a Stay At Home ParentFinding Exercises to Do at HomeMeeting Exercise Guidelines

When you're a stay at home parent, you might find it difficult to fit in adequate amounts of exercise. It's hard to get a few minutes to yourself when you're watching one or more children, running errands and taking care of your household; however, it's essential for good health that you do stay active. Regular physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight (or lose weight), improves your mood, maintains and builds lean muscle mass, protects bone density and decreases your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.[1] Work with your schedule and kids to find simple ways to fit in exercise during your day so you can stay fit and active as a stay at home parent.

Part 1
Fitting In Exercise as a Stay At Home Parent

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    Ask for help. If you're a stay at home parent, you're most likely the only adult at home during the day. You're in charge of the kids and everything else going on in your home. It can be tough to find time to exercise during the day. If you want to spend some extra time exercising or doing a specific type of exercise (like taking a spin class), don't be afraid to ask for help from others so you can have time to get in some activity.[2]
    • Talk to your spouse or other family members (like older children or your parents) and ask if they can watch little children so you can have free time to do some exercise.
    • Also talk to others in your home about setting up an exercise schedule. Make a system in which one person can work out while the other person watches the kids.
    • Talk to another stay at home parent about taking turns watching each other's kids so the one of you can get in a workout, then switch.
    • Hire a babysitter, even for just an hour, to get through an exercise DVD.
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    Write out your schedule and find 30 minutes of free time. It's hard to think during the day of when you'll have a few free minutes to exercise. Setting up a workout schedule at the beginning of the week can help get around this barrier.[3]
    • Take 30 minutes or so when you have some down time (maybe on the weekends or during nap time) to write out your daily schedule. Make sure to write down everything you do during a typical day.
    • Review your schedule and look for 20 or 30 minutes of free time. This is when you should pencil in some physical activity.
    • Also look for time when you could make an extra 20 or 30 minutes. For example, could you wake up a few minutes earlier? Or could you exercise during other chores like waiting for the laundry? If you have older kids that play sports, plan on bringing younger kids with you and walk around the field or courts during practice.
    • Get consistent with making this schedule. You're more likely to stick to your routine when you have a pre-planned schedule. Keeping a routine will help you and your kids find times for the important things in your day.
    • At the same time, it can be tricky to have predictable free time as a parent. Be ready to get in some exercise without too much planning. Learn some bodyweight exercises, be prepared to squeeze in 100 jumping jacks while the kids are in the bath, or just go for it and do 10 squats or pushups before cleaning up the lunch dishes.
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    Take advantage of downtime. Although downtime might not be something you have often, take advantage of any spare minutes to fit in some extra activity. This is a great time to plan more structured exercise as well.
    • Think about your daily schedule. Do you normally have some down time? For example, does your child normally nap from two to four in the afternoon? This is a great time to fit in exercise.
    • Try to make the most of times when your child is asleep or otherwise occupied. This is a great time to pop in an exercise DVD or watch an online video.
    • You can also try to get your child to nap in a stroller. Many children are lulled to sleep while in a stroller. This could be a great time for them to nap and for you to get in a long walk.
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    Find a fitness center with childcare. If you're the type of person that wants to do more intense activity, take gym classes or have access to more equipment, you might want to hit the gym. You'll need to have someone watch your child as you work out. If you're lucky, your spouse, other children or a friend can help you watch your child. If this is not possible, look for a facility that offers daycare.
    • Many gyms offer child care as a service to their customers.
    • Many gym and fitness center child care services are not as highly regulated as daycare facilities. Although most are safe, make sure to thoroughly review the policies set by your gym.
    • Ask if the staff members have CPR training, ask how many children are allowed at one time, if they perform background checks on staff and what age range is allowed.[4]
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    Keep gym equipment at home. If you need to stay at home, especially if you have a small child, you might want to consider having some basic gym equipment at home. This will allow you to do more in your home instead of having to go to a gym.
    • Consider keeping one or two sets of small dumbbells or kettlebells at home. You can do a whole variety of strength training exercises with just a few weights.
    • Also consider having a yoga or fitness mat at home as well. If you want to do pilates or other floor exercises, these mats can make these activities much more comfortable.
    • If you have the space and the budget, you may also want to have a cardio machine at home. A treadmill or elliptical are great machines to have at home and allow you to do cardio anytime.
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    Make your workouts efficient. If you're short on time as a stay at home parent, you need to make sure you get the most out of your time. Making your workouts efficient can help you cut down on the time spent on exercising.
    • Aim to do more than one exercise at the same time. Whether you combine both cardio and strength training exercises or do multiple strength exercises at once, this can help make your workouts more efficient.
    • HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a great type of workout to do as a stay at home parents. It's quick, high-intensity and can incorporate both strength and aerobic exercise.
    • Also consider doing multiple strength exercises at once. For example, as you do lunges also do bicep curls. Or as you do squats, also do shoulder presses.

Part 2
Finding Exercises to Do at Home

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    Take your kids along for a run or bike ride. If you enjoy running or biking outdoors, you don't have to avoid or skip these workouts if you're a stay at home parent. With a little planning and the right equipment, you can still enjoy exercising in the outdoors.
    • Consider purchasing a running stroller. These may be a little expensive, but a great investment if you're a runner. Plus, running while pushing a stroller adds resistance to your runs and can help improve the strength and endurance in your legs.
    • If you're a cyclist, you might want to consider purchasing a toddler carrier. You attach these little wagon-like carriers to the back of your bicycle. You can securely fasten your child inside and enjoy a nice long bike ride.
    • If your child is old enough, they may be able to ride their bike alongside of you as you run or jog.
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    Ask your child to participate in yoga. If you enjoy yoga, you might enjoy doing this relaxing and strengthening exercise with your child. This is a particularly good workout if you have a toddler at home.
    • Many toddlers love to imitate their parents and participate in the same activities. Take advantage of this childhood stage and get them involved in doing yoga with you.[5]
    • Since children may not be able to do all poses or stay focused for a 45 minute yoga session, try doing a 10 minute sun salutation routine with your child.
    • There are also some poses that you can do with your child. Downward dog, sun bathing rock and boat pose are great for young children.
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    Use your child's weight to add resistance. If you have a baby or infant, consider bringing your baby as part of your exercise routine in a front carrier. Depending on the weight of your child, she will add 10 or 15 pounds of extra weight and resistance to your body.[6]
    • To start simple, you can just go for walks outside or bring your child with you to the grocery store or the mall. Again, the extra weight adds more resistance to your walk.
    • You can also strap on your child to add more weight and resistance to strength training exercises. Try it first with a bag of potatoes or something heavy in the carrier to make sure you can do the exercise safely with your child strapped to you. The extra weight in front or on your back affects your balance, so start gradually. Once you have established that you can do a move safely with a child strapped to you, proceed with caution.
    • For example, you can do lunges, squats or skater lunges with your child securely fastened in a front carrier.
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    Purchase exercise DVDs or use online videos. If you need a little inspiration to get you to exercise more regularly, consider purchasing and using exercise DVDs or online videos. These help you have access to multiple types of workouts right in your own home.[7]
    • Before purchasing any DVD's or downloading videos (that have a cost) read reviews and overviews of what the DVDs contain.
    • Also choose DVDs or videos that will fit your needs. Some videos have 15 or 20 minute intense cardio sessions, some have 60 minute cardio sessions and some have a combination of both strength training and cardio.
    • DVDs and online videos are great, especially when you have some down time at home. You can pop in a video and get in a quick workout without having to leave your home.
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    Play games with your kids. Going for a run or hitting up the gym for a spin class isn't the only type of exercise you can do. If you're a stay at home parent, make exercise something fun for both you and your child.[8]
    • Playing kids games, either indoors or outdoors, is a great way to stay active and burn calories. For example, you can play hide and go seek or tag outside with your child to get in more movement.
    • Crank up the music (either your favorite or your child's) and have a dance party together.
    • You can also have races with your child. Whether you're running or biking together, race against each other.
    • Remember that you are the parent and your child's safety is your responsibility. Don't get competitive and always be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards. Children can fall or trip where you might not. Be aware of this and behave accordingly.

Part 3
Meeting Exercise Guidelines

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    Aim for 150 minutes of cardio weekly. When you're planning out your weekly exercise, make sure to try and aim for a minimum of 150 minutes each week.This is the guideline set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[9]
    • If you set up a schedule and plan ahead, you should be able to get in the recommended 150 minutes each week. It's only about 2 1/2 hours total.
    • To count as cardio, you need to do an activity for at least 10 minutes. That means you have a lot of freedom on how to split up the 150 minutes.
    • For example, you can do 30 minutes five times a week. Or you could do 10 minutes three times a day, five days a week. All end up meeting the 150 minute guideline.
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    Include one to two days of strength training. In addition to cardiovascular exercises, it's also important to get in adequate amounts of strength training. The required amount is significantly less than cardiovascular exercise.
    • Aim for at least one or two days of strength training each week. Your workout should last about 20 minutes and you need to work every major muscle group.[10]
    • Like cardio exercises, you can also split up your strength training exercises. As long as you work every major muscle group, you'll meet the requirements.
    • For example, you can do a 10 minute upper body workout in the morning and a 10 minute lower body workout in the afternoon.
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    Bulk up your lifestyle activities. You won't necessarily be able to get in a traditional workout everyday — especially as a stay at home parent; however, adding more lifestyle activity to your routine can help you stay fit and active.
    • Lifestyle activities are those activities that you do on a normal and typical day. They do not burn many calories alone, but when added up at the end of the day, can have a significant impact on your health.[11]
    • In fact, studies have shown that the benefits seen with more structured aerobic exercise are very similar to the benefits seen with high quantities of lifestyle activities.
    • Lifestyle activities can include exercises like: gardening, mopping the floor, going out to get the mail, carrying the laundry up and down the stairs, chasing after your toddler at the playground or parking farther away when you go out.
    • Think through a typical day and try find times or situations in which you can move more, take more steps or be more active. Try taking the stairs more often, get out and play with your kids in the yard or try to do more housework during the day. Go to the shopping mall and take the stairs, walk the length of the mall, holding hands or carrying the little one.
    • Kids love yard work like digging or raking. Get them child-sized garden tools to help and you might get more done than you expected.
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    Always include a rest day. In addition to all the activity that you're planning on doing during the week, it's also important to include a rest day. These are just as essential to your overall fitness routine.
    • If you find it hard to be active every single day of the week as a stay at home parent, you're in luck. It's actually important to have about one or two rest days each week.[12]
    • Rest days are when you see the most gains in strength and muscle mass. If you're looking to increase these, make sure to include rest days.
    • Rest days are also great for your overall health and mind. It gives you time to relax, unwind and let your body recover from other activities.
    • Although you shouldn't do a lot of activity on rest days, you can still go for a walk or participate in your regular lifestyle activities.


  • Just because you're a stay at home parent, doesn't mean that you can't workout or stay in shape. It just takes extra planning on your part.
  • Take advantage of nap breaks to get in extra exercise during the day.
  • Look for gyms that have adequate child care if you want to do more exercise during the day.

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Categories: Motivation to Exercise | Personal Fitness