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Reclaim “Me” Time: Exercise Tips For Busy Parents

By June 16, 2017August 16th, 2021Fitness Well-being Wellness
Parents taking an exercise class with their young children

I frequently describe parenting as a 14-hour work day. Parents out there know what I’m talking about. For me, the day starts at 7 a.m. and goes full steam ahead until around 9:30 p.m.

My days are filled with chores, joy, frustration, chores, fun, tedium, chores, and all the other challenges and rewards of working to support a family of five. You might say, parenting is a lifestyle.

Parents just don’t have much left in the tank at the end of the day for “me” time — time to learn new skills, to work on hobbies and projects, or to better ourselves in general. So, we plop down in front of the latest streaming show or gaming system (*cough*), or we stare at our phones or laptops before eventually settling in to bed.

Spend energy to make energy

Luckily, there’s a way to help keep your mind sharp and focused, even after the last dish is put away and the next day’s lunches are packed. Studies show that routine exercise (it doesn’t even have to be overly strenuous!) keeps your brain happier, more creative, and sharper. With regular physical activity throughout the week, your nights can become more productive and fulfilling.

Here’s the rub: it can be hard to find the time to exercise during those aforementioned 14-hour days. You’ll need to get creative and multitask, combining exercise and familial responsibility whenever possible.

How to fit exercise into a busy schedule? Here are some ways I find time to stay active while on dad duty or during work hours:

  • Get on your bike. One of the main ways I get exercise every day is by taking my kids to school (and then myself to work) on my fantastic cargo bike. If dropping off the kids isn’t part of your daily routine, you can still shuttle yourself to and from the office on a regular bike. Just a few miles per day is all you need to reap the benefits. I live in the city, which perhaps makes my commute more reasonable, but if you live in the suburbs and can get to work safely on a bike, consider trying it out, if only a few times per month. Added bonus: reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Take an anti-lunch break. My favorite way to spend my lunch break is to pop in my earbuds, fire up a podcast, and head out for a walk around the city. At my previous job out in the suburbs, there was a delightful walking path alongside the Schuylkill River. Remember, you don’t have to run a 5k to get the mental benefits of physical activity. Simply moving your muscles for a half hour or so will do. Much better than eating in front of the computer while obsessively checking Twitter (*cough*).
  • Stay outside and offline. A simple way to combine parenting and exercise is to get active with your children. During the months of the year when it’s still light out when I get home, I’ll strap the six-month-old to my back and the older kids and I will head out to the park. Or we’ll go across the street to the empty lot and I’ll help my daughter learn to ride her bike while my son rides his scooter. In the spring, one of our favorite things to do is go out into our backyard and work in the garden. All of these activities keep both me and the kids off of screens and moving our bodies.

Other exercise tips for busy parents

Check for local programs that encourage family exercise, such as yoga, Zumba, or swimming lessons. With a little effort you’ll find no end to the variety of ways to fit exercise into a busy schedule.

And by taking the time to work exercise into your daily routine, you’ll have the energy you need at night to finish editing that family video, to finally learn HTML, or to stay awake long enough to get through another chapter of your favorite read.


Brendan Huffman

Father of three kids in the city, interested in sustainability, food, cycling, music, exercise, and anything that has to do with the future and our evolving relationship with technology. I love to explore and write about change, renewal, and growth, be it personal, local, or global.