By Alexis Hall
Finding the time to exercise as a single parent is nearly impossible. Chances are, you’re overextended, worn out, stressed out, and feel bad putting yourself first. But if you want to be the best you can be for your kids, you need to make time to care for yourself.
Physical activity is important for both your physical and mental health and is one proven way to relieve stress, which is something all parents feel from time to time. As a single parent, you know that all too well.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Invest in home equipment
Home gym equipment may be a high initial cost but is a better value overall when compared to a gym membership you won’t use. Furthermore, working out at home can be easier than finding the time to break away from the kids. Consider these pieces for a comprehensive at-home workout:
- A boxing bag complete with gloves and wraps. Not only is this a great strength and cardio exercise, it doubles as a physical outlet for pent up stress.
- A pull-up bar, resistance bands, dumbbells, medicine ball, yoga mat, and jump rope are relatively inexpensive and extremely versatile when it comes to creating a home workout regimen. If budget is a concern, shop for these items first.
- Treadmills and stationary bikes provide reliable cardio workouts, especially when weather conditions aren’t conducive to being outdoors.
Remember that exercise can help you relax and feel good from the inside
Running, hiking, and yoga are the most beneficial activities when it comes to reducing depression and anxiety. According to Health.com, “The repetitive motions of running appear to have a meditative effect on the brain,” similar to the effect of conscious breathing exercises and exposure to nature. Pick the one that best fits your lifestyle and start creating a more relaxed version of yourself.
Know your limits
As a single parent, some days you simply won’t find the time to work out and that’s okay. When things gets overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get someone to watch the kids if you need to carve out some time alone, whether it’s to workout or simply breathe without having to be responsible for a tiny human. Be sure to check your guilt at the door; all parents deserve a break and you’ve already pulled double duty. You will only make things more stressful if you spend your “you” time worrying that the kids won’t love you for checking out for an hour.
Get the kids involved
Parents.com notes that it’s never too early to instill positive habits in your children. Rethink working out alone and make it a family affair with some of these ideas:
- Turn up the music and dance throughout the house.
- Go for walks with the dog before or after dinner.
- Race to get chores done and come up with a reward for the winner.
- Tackle yard work together.
- Join a walk to raise money for a cause near and dear to your heart. (As an added benefit, giving to charity can actually trigger your brain’s reward center, which can temporarily quell stress and anxiety.)
Sneak workouts into other activities
- Park far away and always take the stairs when out and about.
- If you have a baby, let them nap in a stroller while you go for a jog.
- Workout during commercials.
- Find a gym you can join near work, and make it a point to utilize your lunches. Even 10 minutes a day is better than nothing!
There are plenty of ways to include fitness in your busy schedule without spending tons of money. Start out small and look for options that best suit your budget and lifestyle. By taking care of yourself and finding the best way to get physical, you set the stage for a healthier state-of-mind each and every day. Being a single mom or dad isn’t easy but you can reduce stress and be a positive role model for your kids by focusing on your own physical and mental health.
Alexis Hall is a single mom to three kids who works as an in-home health nurse. Besides blogging, when she finds time for herself she likes to run, swim and bike.