How to Fit Exercise into a Busy Parent Schedule

fitness tips for the perpetually busy
How to fit exercise into a busy schedule: Workout gear on floor
© Shutterstock / Mariiaa

You spend your day planning meals, packing lunches, and cleaning clothes, perhaps all while sitting at your full-time job. Your day is so packed with taking care of everyone else that before you know it, the week is over and you realize you haven’t had a minute to yourself, so how can you possibly manage a workout routine? If you are really struggling to meet your exercise goals for the year, check out these tips on how to work in a workout.

Get up early or stay up late

Many gyms will open around 5 a.m. and some are even open 24 hours. Believe it or not, there are people who exercise at 2 a.m. and you will not be alone if that is the best time for your schedule. Ideally, if you know your kids have to be up by 7 a.m., you hit the gym around 5:30 a.m., have an efficient workout and make it home in time to get everyone ready for the day. If an evening workout is your thing, put everyone to bed and hit the treadmill for a bit before the end of your day. Of course, this all depends on your energy level throughout the day, but productivity and efficiency tend to spike after just 20 minutes of exercise.

Build it into the day

Trainers can help you create a workout routine that can be done at home, work, school, or wherever you need to be. Desk workouts can include pushups against the desk, squats beside the table, lunges around the office or jumping jacks between tasks. If you work in an office setting, you are likely not the only one who could use a break. Gather some colleagues and take the stairs up and down, or get a step counter and make it a fun competition!

Exercise with kids

This one can be trickier depending on the age of your kids. For toddlers and babies, there are plenty of workout videos that take 20-30 minutes of your time and involve using your toddler as some resistance. For younger kids, consider having a dance party in the living room, where everyone gets their heart rate up and enjoys a couple of good tunes. And of course for older kids, helping them practice their moves on the soccer field, going for a hike or taking a jog through the neighbourhood encourages them to see activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Ask for help

Again, this may not be feasible for everyone, but programs exist for the purpose of allowing parents to exercise. Some gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness, offer programs at certain locations where kids can enjoy a daycare-type setting with an adult, while you enjoy your classes and get your workout in. Consider asking family members or friends to babysit for an hour while you take some time for yourself or hire the next door neighbour's teenager to make some extra cash for an hour or two after school.

Schedule time off for yourself

Exercise improves productivity and increases efficiency in the workplace. This is why so many employers are eager to provide staff with access to a gym and encourage a healthy lifestyle — It’s a win-win situation. If you have a good relationship with your boss but are unsure of flexibility in your work schedule, consider scheduling one morning off per week, or adjusting your day to start a bit later so you can still get the work done. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Keep it short and sweet

A high intensity interval training workout routine will leave you drenched in sweat in just 20 minutes. It doesn’t drag on and leaves you feeling stronger and accomplished in a short period of time. If you have less than an hour to fit your workout in, consider keeping it short and sweet with YouTube videos and websites that don’t require any equipment to get your blood pumping.

Make it fun and social

If you are finding it hard to exercise, and always seem to be entertaining guests, consider modifying the type of activities you do with them. For example, after dinner with friends, suggest everyone go for a 20 minute walk before dessert. If you enjoy exercising with friends, consider signing up for a Zumba class together or check out the local Groupon deals that allow you to try something new without breaking the bank.

Finding time for anything is a challenge when your day is so stacked with tasks that you're too tired to feel motivated, and you don’t have enough help to accomplish everything. Fitting in a workout routine may seem low-priority, but it's a key factor in optimal physical, mental and emotional health. Once you find the right work-life balance, you can reap all the rewards of fantastic energy and your body will love you for it.

*Originally published March 3, 2017