Exercise For Busy Parents

By Eric Butterman for Live Right Live Well

Between career and kids, parents aren't left with much time to keep their shape, let alone their head. We leave the noggin up to you, but we've found time for exercise when you didn't think you had a moment to spare. Here, the ultimate in mom/dad multi-tasking:

Line up for Ab Exercises
In the age of instant gratification, nothing is more aggravating than waiting in line. So when they close the express checkout, instead of getting mad, use the time for an ab checkup. “Abdominal vacuums are a simple way to turn any moment into a chance to strengthen your stomach,” says Kendra Kessel, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer. Simply tense your midsection, hitting both the abs and the intercostals (the tie-in muscles to the side of the stomach), and hold for a five-second count. Don’t forget to breathe. With each repetition, hold for a little longer while resting less in between.

Don’t Call Them “Dumbbell,” Unless ....
It’s never nice to call your children names, but seeing them as a dumbbell might be the smartest thing you ever do. The next time you’re sitting and your kid grabs hold of the front of your leg, slowly raise your foot straight out, shooting to get your calf parallel to the ground. You get a workout; your tot gets a ride. You can also strengthen your legs with squats while holding your child against your chest, then lifting him up and down above your head to hit your shoulders, advises Scott White, a personal trainer based in Scottsdale, Ariz. When squatting, keep it safe by lowering yourself only until your thighs are parallel to the ground -- no lower. When lifting, keep your elbows slightly bent; don’t straighten your arms until your elbows are locked. With these simple moves, “you can have a whole workout just with your kids,” says White.

Couches Aren’t Just for Potatoes
When it’s time for family TV, ask for a little more room on the sofa and get a lot more workout. Leg raises work your hip flexors, providing stability for your whole body. While perched on the edge of the couch, begin with your feet together flat on the floor. Raise your calf until it’s parallel to the ground, then slowly lower to get the negative. Want to hit those hard-to-help lower abs? Lie down on the sofa, knees bent and together, then pull your knees toward your chest. When you feel your hips lift slightly off the couch, hold for a beat and then return to the starting position. Feel the burn while you belt out tunes with “American Idol.”

Way to Go, Coach!
When you’re going to be at your child’s sporting event anyway, offer to help out as an assistant coach. You can lead the sprints, hit ground balls or just sweat off calories with extra-loud cheering while working the sidelines, says White. “This is the best combination because you get in great shape and also get closer with your kids,” he says. Plus, you’re not letting them have all the fun!

Take Your Cell for a Walk
The next time you catch up with a loved one on the phone, test your cellular coverage with a long stroll, says Kessel. “When you talk on the phone, time flies by,” she says. “Imagine getting a workout done without even knowing it!” For an extra challenge, hold that water bottle as you walk, and switch between hands to create a makeshift hand weight. Now even your water is multitasking!

As great as it is to kill two birds with one stone, sometimes there’s no substitute for the gym. So if certain exercises feel better done by the weight rack, save them for the gym one day a week. Most people can eke out at least that much time, says White. “If you get up 15 minutes earlier and go to bed 15 minutes later, there’s half an hour to get it done,” he says. Now let the fitness begin!

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