Frequent and consistent exercise is one of the most essential segments to a healthier, longer life. So we’re told. Parents often focus so much daily on verifying that the family, career, and home are all well taken care of that it becomes challenging to concentrate efforts on ourselves, including in the departments of eating well and working out. For so many, parenting itself is a painstaking mental exercise. Anything else is an exercise in futility because parenthood practically knocks out all other ability to do any other activity, even those requisite for good adult health.
We have to get back to thinking about ourselves just a smidgen, especially when it comes to our bodies. I am no different. Thankfully, our roots are sufficiently physiologic. A bit of fitness is a dandy starting point.
It is amusedly ironic that those mainstay golden rules of physical fitness, those that are usually cornerstone advice nuggets for beginners and experts alike, or those that have erred little over the years, seem to come quite naturally to toddlers. My two little ones are not the savviest, sportiest of the bunch, but they have spurts of manic energy, particularly before bedtime, that gives me pause sometimes. It is often in our best interest as parents to allow that energy to dump itself as fully as possible or to realign that energy in the manner most recommended by specialists.
Those pillar ingredients of movement that govern our inner active toddlers can be recognized as critical to a new or existing adult workout routine.
Move for 30-45 minutes per day. Toddlers are notorious for rarely sitting still for long periods of time, and there’s a reason for it. “‘Humans are not biologically designed to be sedentary,’ says Elisa Terry, program director of the UCLA Recreation Fitwell program.” (Albin, 2016) My toddlers do cardio all day. After two sessions of recess at daycare, one would think that my 3-year-old would come home exhausted. He often begs to play outside when he gets home, even as he scratches his stomach due to it being “hot.” Since learning to walk, baby girl wastes no time seated on the floor. She is usually seen wandering room to room, seeking nothing specific, but racking up fitness points.
Stated in an article by PediaStaff, “Children require huge amounts of movement, preferably outside, every single day. Movement and exercise is as essential as food for children in order to stay organized, develop and mature their nervous systems, improve their coordination, strength and motor planning, and to be healthy.” (Shlaes, 2011) Likewise, this rule for adults aids in both weight management and weight loss, as well as decreasing the risk of a number of health conditions. The American Heart Association recommends 75 weekly minutes of vigorous exercise for adults or the alternative 150 minutes of low-level movement per week. (Albin, 2016) That’s not the hours that some children devise per day, but it’s a solid 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week for busy moms and dads.
Strength train 2-3 times per week. Jrue scales each room of the house to seek out gadgets that he can stockpile on a bed or while he is using the potty. He lifts these items weighing ounces with a precisely chosen focus, careful not to drop the handful. Sometimes, he uses his legs to lift, completing a few valuable reps in quick bursts. Amongst Jai’s constant cardio is a cohesive bending at the legs to pick up items to her interest. She executes various core exercises when being tickled, and her back is strong from arm-wrapping hugs.
Unfortunately, strengthening for adults isn’t as fun. Or is it? Pilates, swimming, yoga, boxing/kickboxing, and kettlebells are all ideas for toning the body that extends beyond the sometimes dreaded dumbbell and barbell weight lifting. (“Fun Strength Training Ideas”) A regular cardio routine is beneficial for the heart, but an additional strengthening habit is important for long-term weight maintenance, simply because the more muscle owned, the more fat burned.
Focus on enacting proper technique. Major or minor injury is nearly inevitable as a kid. If we are lucky, we will not have memories of a childhood spent in emergency rooms, though, this is the reality of parents of boys and girls alike around the world. As much as we wish the opposite, parents cannot always prevent our children’s pain, even as we do all we can to safeguard them just short of bubble-wrapping. Safe Kids Worldwide keeps infographics and fact sheets on such protection efforts of children as wheeled sports safety, swimming and boating safety, home safety, car seat safety, pedestrian safety, and others.
Going to the ER as an adult whose intentions to exercise fell short due to negligence or ignorance is lamentable. Therefore, it is vital to pursue knowledge and follow it when in physical performance. According to the Mayo Clinic, “incorrect weight training technique can lead to sprains, strains, fractures and other painful injuries that may hamper your weight training efforts. . .Learn to do each exercise correctly. When lifting weights, move through the full range of motion in your joints. The better your form, the better your results, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself.” (“Weight Training: Do’s and don’ts of proper technique,” 2015) It is also suggested to start slowly: take command of the “less is more” adage by launching a routine with lower weights or repetitions and to avoid rushing through motions.
Change up the workout ever so often. My children are diverse, equal-opportunity lovers. Jrue watches different YouTube videos during screen time with a mere exploration of his swiping fingers. He also loves his assortment of cars, which we switch out when he’s at school to buy new ones. Jai is heavily into our family children’s book collection right now and blindly pulls books from the shelf based on any given appeal of the covers. They both have certain movies that can be played everyday unceasingly, and Jrue can eat potato chips for breakfast day-after-day if allowed, but their days mostly vary with toys and art and activities and playmates to stave off boredom.
Switching up a workout notably keeps adults from getting bored. An article from One Medical states, “Regular exercise is good for you, but it’s also important to vary your fitness routine. ‘There are numerous benefits to mixing up your workout routine,’ says Arnold Lee, MD, a physician at One Medical Group in San Francisco. ‘It’s the key to stimulating different muscle groups and preventing boredom.'” (Wadyka, 2012) Our bodies work harder when we activate new practices. Adjusting a route or adding heavier weights or even changing the surroundings can work wonders.
Don’t overdo it. Of course, once Jrue and Jai have depleted their energy stores, they usually go to sleep, an exquisite time for most parents. If they don’t fall asleep right away, or fight going, they are tearful or clumsy or easily agitated. These sleepiness indications are also witnessed in children who do not receive the recommended amount of downtime per day, seen in this chart from the National Sleep Foundation. Similarly, these effects are also evident in adults who push exercising just a bit too far.
Pain, breathlessness, exhaustion, feeling down, and reduced immunity are all signs that a person has over-exercised. (“Symptoms of Overdoing a Workout”) Other uncomfortable signs include sleep troubles, “heavy” legs, irritability, and soreness for days. (Mercola, 2012). The methodology under preventing over-exercising is primarily listening to the body and not “pushing through” pain, as well as plenty of hydration and quality rest.
The foremost difficulty in all of this working out mumbo jumbo is starting it up or changing it up. Adhering to these most-recommended guidelines will yield a result of some type; at barest minimum, working out gives a parent a break from the children or provides well-needed stress relief. When in doubt, act like a toddler.
Albin, Amy. “Simply moving 30 minutes a day can lower your health risks.” UCLA Newsroom, Aug. 11, 2016, http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/simply-moving-30-minutes-a-day-can-lower-your-health-risks. Accessed May 19, 2017.
“Fun Strength Training Ideas.” 24/7 Health Club and Wellness Center, n.d., http://besthuntsvillehealthclub.com/fun-strength-training-ideas/. Accessed May 19, 2017.
Mercola, Dr. “7 Signs You’re Exercising Too Much.” Peak Fitness, Dec. 28, 2012, http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/12/28/7-hidden-signs-of-overtraining.aspx. Accessed May 19, 2017.
Shlaes, Loren. “Twenty-Two Reasons Why a Child Can’t Sit Still.” PediaStaff, Oct. 7, 2011, http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/twenty-reasons-why-a-child-cant-sit-still-5034. Accessed May 19, 2017.
“Symptoms of Overdoing a Workout.” AZ Central, n.d., http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/symptoms-overdoing-workout-2326.html. Accessed May 19, 2017.
Wadyka, Sally. “7 Reasons to Switch Up Your Workout.” One Medical, May 14, 2012, http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/7-reasons-to-switch-up-your-workout/. Accessed May 19, 2017.
“Weight training: Do’s and don’ts of proper technique.” Mayo Clinic, Aug. 14, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/weight-training/art-20045842?pg=1. Accessed May 19, 2017.