To Your Health
May, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 05)
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As children grow older, their own activities, appointments and social engagements have a tendency to start stacking up. More work for your little ones inevitably means more work for you, and it's common to become overwhelmed.

But, as Keigher suggests, "when the kids are working out on the soccer field, don't just sit on the sidelines." While your children are preoccupied with ballet, softball or gymnastics for an hour or two, that allows plenty of time for you to go on a run, a long walk or get to a kickboxing class at your local recreation center. "Parents who aren't already making fitness a priority should remember that they too need exercise," says Keigher. "Finding time in the day to work out - particularly while the kids are already busy with an extracur-ricular activity - will increase your energy and stamina, and help you keep up with your kids."

For some parents, working full-time means working overtime - every day. Some occupations require long hours behind a desk. Many moms and dads arrive to work in the early morning and don't pick up the kids from the babysitter's or day care until sometime in the evening. When time for a proper meal at lunchtime is rare, fitting in a workout may sound like a joke. But these overworked parents may be surprised by the exercise they can get with a little imagination and a spare pair of sneakers.

A young woman holding dumbbell weights. - Copyright ‚Äď Stock Photo / Register Mark The hard-working parent should make it a necessity to get out of the office for 20 to 30 minutes each day and get moving. "Walking at lunchtime with a coworker or a small group is a great way to get in some low-intensity aerobic exercise," says Keigher. "And it's good for business: Over time, you can build stronger professional relationships with your walking buddies." Keep a pair of sneakers in the trunk of your car or under your desk for comfortable walking. And along with your shoes, it's not a bad idea to keep a light dumbbell by your side. "Doing some quick two-minute exercises, such as bicep curls, a couple of times a day offers some easy strength training and can help boost your metabolism," suggests Keigher.

Also, if it's not disruptive in the office setting, you can try these simple toning exercises at your convenience:

Abdominal squeezes: While seated at your desk, keep your spine straight and gently contract the stomach muscles, exhaling slowly. When you're out of air, hold this "squeeze" for a few seconds, and then release. A dozen of these each day, and you're on your way to washboard abs!

Chair squats: Standing behind your desk chair, with feet shoulder-width apart, place one hand on the chair's back for balance.  Slowly lower your body into the squat by bending your knees and keeping your spine perfectly straight. If you're doing the exercise correctly, it doesn't take much to feel the burn in those quads and glutes!

Curls: Keep a pair of lightweight dumbbells or wrist weights under your desk. Do a few sets of biceps or triceps curls periodically during the day to keep your arms toned and blood circulating.

When it comes down to it, fitting in fitness is a decision. Only you can put it, and keep it, at the top of your list of priorities. In doing so, you only stand to gain improved health and longevity, self-confidence, better rest, and the energy to keep up with your children. "But, you might lose a few pounds," says Keigher, adding: "There is always time to work out. You have to take charge and decide to make it an important part of your life, and you will naturally find the time. Parents often say it, but they could stand to be reminded - anything and everything is possible if you put your mind to it!"

Julie Engebretson is a freelance writer for To Your Health. She currently resides in New York City.