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How to Exercise as a Single Parent

Parenting is a hard job full of unexpected twists and turns. It can be twice as difficult for single parents. Without anyone to share the work and responsibility of raising children, there’s little time for anything else. Focusing on your children’s needs is instinctual and great, but we want to encourage you to take care of your own needs too. 

Disregarding your physical and emotional health can make it tough to be the parent you want to be, which is why it’s so important to eat well, get some exercise and enough sleep. A little ingenuity and persistence can help you find the time, energy and resources you need to stay in shape. It’s in your best interest, and that of your kids, to work on it now rather than later because the longer you wait, the harder you may find it to get the exercise you need.

Lose weight and stress

Frequent physical activity helps you stay fit and feel more relaxed. The Centers for Disease Control recommends regular exercise for reducing stress and staving off emotional problems like depression. Before you begin making time for exercise, consider the importance of getting enough sleep, which is closely connected to successful physical activity according to a Northwestern University study. Good sleep habits is another good way to keep your stress level down and your energy up. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions. Part of this is due to biology — the body is regulating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts.

A manageable routine

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 30 minutes of exercise each day. But if you’re a single parent, 30 minutes can be a real challenge. The key is to find a window of time just long enough to fit it in. That could be just before bedtime, while your kids are at school, playing with friends, or while they’re doing their homework (assuming of course they don’t need you for that). The trick is to work exercise into your schedule and establish a consistent, manageable routine. Try getting in a few laps at a nearby park or around the block while you’re waiting for your kids to be dismissed from school. If you’re really strapped for time, consider doing 30 minutes a day in 10-minute “mini” workouts (work breaks are perfect for this).

Exercise options

Your exercise options may be determined by the age of your children. For example, if you have little ones, going for a walk using a jogging stroller may allow you to work up a decent sweat without bouncing your kid all over the place. It may even be possible to go for a light jog (just  make sure it’s over a smooth surface). A bike with a secure baby seat is another good exercise choice. 

Exercise equipment such as kettlebells, free weights and pull-up bars make for an affordable and convenient in-home exercise area. If you’re into something a bit more ambitious, consider setting up an in-home gym with an elliptical or rowing machine. If that’s a little too ambitious for your bank account, consider asking friends or family to chip in on new equipment as a Christmas or birthday present. 

Errands and exercise

For single parents, the only “exercise” they may get is during the course of a busy day. If you just can’t find time for planned physical activity, try working in a little exercise by walking or jogging when you go to the store or pick up your dry cleaning, provided it’s not too far. A conveniently placed set of stairs near your office can provide an opportunity to get in a little cardio work. If you’re a recovered addict or alcoholic, many forms of exercise, formal or informal, can help keep you focused on staying clean and sober. 

Try not to get too discouraged if you find it hard to get the exercise you need — that comes with the territory if you’re a single parent. You just might need to get a little creative in getting your 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

Guest article by: Alexis Hall

A note from Carly: I'm excited to share this guest article from Alexis on exercising as a single parent. (Thank you, Alexis!) You see, I grew up as a single child and saw first-hand my mom's effort to set a good example for me. Especially when it comes to physical activity, taking care of your own needs as a single parent IS HARD. There's no doubt about it. I hope you single parents pull out some really inspiring and practical tips for taking care of yourself from this article. And everyone, single or not, be encouraged... regular physical activity is one of the best daily choices you can make for you and, thus, your loved ones.

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