Juggling fitness with family responsibilities

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In society today, women especially find they often have little or no time to exercise. Faced with looking after children and cooking meals for the family as well as juggling a full-time job, opportunities (and sometimes, space) for exercise are often limited. Social events like entertaining, hosting barbecues and school holidays can all impact upon any woman’s fitness programmes.

The key to good cardiovascular health is a healthy diet, coupled with brisk exercise for thirty minutes at least three times a week. If the working mom finds an extra fifteen to twenty minutes free in her busy schedule, then there are many exercises to help condition the body, tone the legs and tighten the stomach and thighs.

One option is the celebrity fitness DVD, giving you the opportunity to press play whenever you seize that golden opportunity to exercise for fifteen minutes. They are often recorded in segments and you can choose the quick mini-workout to suit your tight schedule.

It may also help to set the alarm for thirty minutes earlier and get up and do some squat thrusts, press-ups and sit-ups in the comfort of your own bedroom. As an added bonus, an early morning workout kick-starts your metabolic rate.

Here are some ideas for mini-workouts:

Jogging in place – lift your knees and pump your arms to get your heart rate up – this is a great ‘short-burst’ form of exercise. Or try lunges – begin in a basic lunge position. In an explosive movement, jump, switch legs while you are in the air and land with your knees bent into lunge. This takes some time to perfect but the results are well worth it. Ski hops are also an option and to do this, simply stand with feet together, then jump from side to side, landing with knees bent. The wider you jump and the lower you squat into the jump, the harder your muscles will work. There are also benefits to be gained by skipping. Take a good day for example. Instead of sitting in the garden having a glass of juice, put the time to good use by exercising.

And if you are a single parent or are busy looking after children, there are gym facilities which allow your offspring to come along. I spoke to a woman from Northern Ireland who is encouraging new moms to enrol in her baby-friendly fitness classes and get back in shape.

Leanne Johnston is a physical education teacher and personal fitness instructor, and she has organised morning classes in her community where women can enjoy the benefits of the traditional gym while still having their babies close at hand. The dedicated baby area is situated adjacent to the fitness suite so that moms can keep a watchful eye on their offspring during their exercise programme.

Leanne has a young son called Matthew, and she told me she decided to organise baby-friendly classes as she knows the numerous challenges facing new moms.

“I came up with this idea to give mothers the chance to come along and get back into the gym and enjoy working out by doing aerobics and boxercise. Being a mum myself, I was finding it difficult to get time to train with all the responsibilities that come with having a baby,” she said.

This is one option which will allow you more time to exercise. But think of the exercise that you could be enjoying every day – and don’t! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a lunch-time walk, perhaps around the university campus, or cycle to work if it allows. Remember exercise is the key to good health and it must be high on your list of priorities.

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