4 Hidden Secrets to Stay Active as Busy Parents

As parents, it can be pretty hard to fit exercise into our hectic schedules. Come on, we ain’t got time for that.

By the time I have a moment to myself, I just want to watch some Netflix and head to bed (and maybe eat that bag of chips I’ve hidden from myself). I’ve worked in the healthcare system for over a decade, did my undergrad in Kinesiology and grad studies in health sciences, and I still make these excuses for myself. That was until I discovered a few secrets about exercise that I only learned by becoming a mom. It can actually be a lot of fun and simple to incorporate into our busy days.

Here I share some of my secrets about finding the fun in the fundamentals of exercise. Don’t worry, I’m not going to punish you with more puns.

There’s a Thing Called YouTube and It’s Free

When I first became a mom, I did the usual stroller walks and baby carrier hikes.  That was when she was a small lump of flesh that could be carried around and had no interest in chasing after birds. She’s a summer baby and the weather cooperated. But then the weather did its Canadian thing; I wasn’t as motivated to go outside and being inside malls had too many tempting sales.

The variety of choices kept it interesting and a lot of them didn’t require any equipment

I was bored at home when I found the YouTube function on my TV. I searched for workouts and a ton of videos came up. From yoga to kickboxing to straight up buns and thighs, there were endless ways to work my body. The variety of choices kept it interesting and a lot of them didn’t require any equipment. I didn’t want to do anything that made me bounce around. Let’s just say I was breastfeeding. So I picked low impact workouts and trust me, my heart was pounding after doing just a few minutes of mountain climbers.

Having a Phone Actually has Health Benefits

When I went back to work, my routine changed. I’m lucky there is a gym inside my office building so I get to exercise during my lunch hour. I bring my phone to the gym, put in earphones, press play on the YouTube exercise videos that I enjoyed doing during my maternity leave and do them in front of the mirror. I get so caught up listening to the video, I forget I’m in a public place with all these iron pumping gymrats around me.

The point is I want to have fun at the gym so I don’t dread going.

Then there are days I don’t feel like doing the YouTube workout so I put on my favourite podcast and do some intervals on the stationary bike. If I’m feeling extra sappy, I’ll watch a part of those made for TV Christmas romance movies with a strong female lead while pounding the treadmill, pretending to chase down the man of my dreams. The point is I want to have fun at the gym so I don’t dread going. Plus, I want to find out when if she ends up with Mr. Right.

So we now live in a world where there is a phone app for pretty much anything.  Did you know there are ones that give you rewards for counting your steps? I have a free one on my phone and if I meet my target for another week, it will give me a free movie ticket. You can also add friends on this app. My husband and I can literally stalk how many steps each of us has taken throughout the day.

Being a Parent Means You Have an Excuse to Be a Kid

Before being a mom, I did a lot of heavy weights, explosive movements, high intensity training and long distance running. They were what cool people did and it required a lot of alone time and dedication.

There are tons of ideas online on how to exercise with your kids.

As a parent now, I’m part of the even cooler crowd, one that can hang out at playgrounds, jumping off swings and climbing on monkey bars without looking creepy silly. While grocery shopping, I’ll grab a cantaloupe, start doing squats and play peekaboo with it as my daughter laughs her butt off in the cart. At home, I’ll alternate between staircase pushups and chest stretches while following her as she climbs up and down the stairs.

There are tons of ideas online on how to exercise with your kids. However, instead of viewing it as exercise, I like to think of it as my opportunity to be a kid again after so many years of serious adulting. They can’t stay still and I need to move more.

Try a Family Dance Party

If I haven’t moved enough by the end of the week, I’ll host an impromptu Family Dance Party. Here’s how you plan your extravagant party:

• Change into your most comfortable clothes

• Get a pitcher of water and glasses (Refreshments are crucial to any party)

• Invite yourself/partner/kids/neighbours/pets to the party

• Put your phone in your pocket to track those steps

• Press play on your favourite playlist (I’m a millennial so the 90s are my jam)

• Start dancing

Some tips for those who have 2 left feet:

• Try bopping your head sideways to “What is Love” from Haddaway (Always a crowd pleaser)

• Headbang and play air guitar to any Nirvana classic, reliving your mosh pit days

• Grab one of your kid’s light up toys, turn down the lights and change the party to a rave (Where no one really cares how you dance)

• Do the robot dance and sing with your partner as Ken/Barbie to Aqua’s famous hit

• Last but not least, everyone knows the “Macarena”

• For most parties, it’s just me pretending to be Posh Spice, running around the house shouting lyrics to “Wannabe” at an invisible camera as my daughter follows behind like a backup dancer. 5 songs in and I’m sweating buckets, “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and excited about “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”.

Since becoming a parent, my reasons to exercise changed. I now exercise to improve my mental health. The benefits to my physical health are just side effects to all the fun I’m having.

So PLNers, what are some fun ideas that you’ve tried to stay active as a parent? Remember to invite me to your next Family Dance Party.


Katharine Chan

Katharine Chan

Katharine Chan is a Canadian born Chinese mom who loves to cook, sweat, write and have real conversations with people. Her blog, Sum on Sleeve, is a raw and honest look at her culture and upbringing, sharing personal stories with a witty sense of humour while reflecting on her role as a mom. She’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram