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Great tips for working out with your kids.

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Fitness and Family

Working Out With Kids
By Carol Krucoff

My teenage kids often admonish me to "get a life," but like countless mothers who juggle the demands of children, work, home, husband, parents, community service, etc., etc., I know this is much easier said than done.

That's why I laughed out loud when I read about a study that found: "Parenthood resulted in reduced leisure time physical activities in women."

Stop the presses!

This conclusion seems so obvious, it's natural to wonder why it took a 10-year study of more than 3,000 young adult men and women to reach it. As my children would say, "Well duh!"

Even the report's lead author acknowledges what she calls "the duh factor" in her findings.

"Half the population reading this, the females, will say 'Did we really need a study to establish this?'" admits Kathryn Schmitz, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist. "But in order for there to be any change, we have to get the realities down on paper."

The realities are that women's exercise levels drop by 20 percent after they become mothers, Schmitz says.

Sedentary Lifestyle Spells Concern

This change to a more sedentary lifestyle is a significant health hazard, on par with smoking, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure as a major risk factor for heart disease. As many as 250,000 deaths each year—about 12 percent of total deaths—are attributable to lack of regular physical activity.

Schmitz found that the biggest drop in exercise levels occurred after women became mothers for the first time; there was little if any change with subsequent children. The decline was similar for both married and single mothers. In contrast, men's exercise levels didn't change after they became parents, regardless of their marital status.

"This suggests that women are doing the lion's share of child care, whether the father is present or not," Schmitz says.

To reverse this trend toward sedentary habits, Schmitz says, "moms must take time to exercise, and programs should be designed that make it convenient for them to enjoy an active lifestyle."

Here's a sampling of ways to work out with your children:

  • Kangaroo Walk. Put your child in a baby carrier and take a walk.
  • Workout Video. Join your child in exercising to a kiddie workout video or try a mom-and-infant video.
  • Stroller Striding. Tie on a good pair of walking shoes and push your child in a stroller. For a tougher workout, run behind a jogging stroller or hike some challenging hills.
  • Track Time. Take your children to a school track. If they are very young, spread out a blanket and bring some toys for them to play with while you walk or jog. Bring sand toys if there's a sand pit for them to play in. When they are older, bring their tricycles, bikes or skates so they can wheel along beside you. 
  • Playground Health Club. Get off your bench and join your child on the exercise equipment. Swing, hang, slide, skip, crawl, climb, and laugh.
  • Get Classy. Sign up for a mom-and-tot exercise class, often offered through YMCAs or recreation departments.
  • Musical Moves. Find music that both you and your child enjoy and move to it. Be creative: toss a ball or march in time with the beat, move like animals, stop the music and "freeze" then start all over again.

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