A big part of parenting is being a good role model, and a part of that means also living a healthy life, which includes healthy eating, staying active and exercising often.
However, exercising after having a baby isn’t always as easy as it seems. Finding the energy and inspiration can be tough, but mostly the time and just simply being able to organize childcare is what kills the motivation.
With sunnier days around the corner and plenty of motivation to get out and be active, here is some advice and insight to exercising with your children.
Start by asking around in your community if there are any parent and baby fitness classes. “Joining a mom and baby fitness class means that mom and babe can be together which helps alleviate any separation anxiety or stress of being apart, particularly if the mom is breastfeeding,” says pre and postnatal fitness instructor and mom of two Kathleen Neilson. Neilson is a trainer based out of Duncan, B.C.’s Monkey Bar Gym program, which is inspired by the way children move and the joy they find in movement. The Monkey Bar Gym offers “Mom and Monkeys” classes specific to post-partum women and their babies or toddlers as well as mom and baby yoga classes.
Embracing natural movement
“Children naturally love to run, crawl, climb and jump and we want to take a lesson from them,” she said. “All of our classes are inspired by these basic, natural movement patterns.”
“Motherhood has the potential to be a really lonely place and joining a class can combat that loneliness,” Neilson said on benefits to exercising with children. “Going to a class with other moms in the same life stage as you has a way of making the big changes you’re experiencing seem less challenging.”
Moms also benefit from the physical changes that come with working out, including gaining strength, loosing fat, improving their cardiovascular functions and gaining flexibility. The little ones benefit too. “As a mom myself, I’ve seen the way my love of exercise has instilled a love of movement in my children. When a child sees mom working out in a positive environment, with a smile on her face, having some laughs along the way that child learns that movement is fun and exercise is not a chore. Exercising together is a great way to lay a strong foundation for healthy habits.”
Exercising with your little one can come with challenges
Sometimes babies don’t want to participate or are particularly fussy and want to be held. “I always recommend having some toys and snacks with you just in case,” Neilson said.
“If it’s one of those days and your baby doesn’t want to be put down we can modify any exercise to allow you to hold your child and still get an effective workout.”
Quite often parents include their kids in their day to day fitness routines, whether that’s holding baby while doing squats and lunges, or sitting them close by while getting in some sit-ups. With nicer weather, walking or running with children in a stroller is always an option (see our post on picking out the perfect jogging stroller), as is hiking with them in a baby carrier. Even getting together with a group of other parents and exercising in a park can work.
For days when it’s a challenge just getting out of the house, a lot of parents will get their fitness done in the comfort of their own home.
Just ask mom Alison Kimmerly; “I've started doing almost daily workouts with Ayla at home,” she said, keeping in mind she is well past the post-natal timeline where it’s important to get clearance from a health practitioner before exercising.
“We start off with playing music and dancing. We also practice jumping, one foot, two feet, and switching feet and squat jumps,” she said. Kimmerly also does squats with Ayla on her back as well as pushups and planks to strengthen her core. “Ayla also uses the bosu ball and jumps off and does different little tricks she's made up. She does this while I do some cardio on the machines. “We make it a fun activity for us both to enjoy,” she said. “I love that she enjoys doing it with me. I feel good knowing she is building a positive attitude towards exercise and being healthy. We talk about how it keeps us healthy and strong.”
Engaging with your children early on in healthy movement and exercise is a great way to role model that behaviour, offering them inspiration for a lifetime of health.