To be a parent is to be tired. To be a parent is also, for many of us, to be in something less than the best shape of our lives. Study after study has shown that new parents tend to gain weight. As researchers at the University of Utah have pointed out, factors include poor sleeping habits, mindless eating and stress. Even new fathers, who don’t endure the physical experience of pregnancy and childbirth, report gaining 3-4 pounds after becoming dads. In other words, as MarketWatch uncharitably put it in a 2015, your kids are making you fat.
This much you probably already know. But what can you do about it? And perhaps just as importantly, when?
We talked with Jaime McFaden, a mom and trainer with audio fitness app Aaptiv, about whether busy parents should work out in the morning or in the evening, or whether they should have a consistent workout time at all. (Aaptiv is a partner of Haven Life Plus — a no-cost rider to the Haven Term life insurance policy that gives policyholders access to benefits that help them live healthier, fuller and more protected lives. Haven Life Plus customers receive yearly Aaptiv subscription at no cost.)
What Jaime told us was, well, some, all and none of the above. “Ultimately, you’ve gotta move,” she said. “If it’s five minutes in the morning, five minutes at lunch, ten minutes at night, you just racked up 20 minutes of movement.” In other words, the when doesn’t matter as long as you’re moving. (For what it’s worth, the research agrees with Jaime. As Quartz helpfully put it in an article compiling the recent research, “the best time of day to exercise is when you will actually do it.”)
So if you’re a morning person, lean into that—you can pull up the Aaptiv app and finish a workout before your coffee has brewed. If you’re a night owl, embrace it—you can finish an Aaptiv workout after the kids are in bed and before (or while) you indulge in some comfort TV. Maybe your work schedule is flexible, or you’re a stay-at-home parent, in which case you can schedule your exercises for your break or for junior’s nap time.
If even this sounds intimidating, Jaime says to start with a baseline of just making sure you move every day—walk or stretch for a few minutes in the morning, a few minutes at work, and a few minutes at night, and before long, you’ll be moving more and more over time. Better yet, studies show that even a small amount of movement will kick off a virtuous cycle that will find you sleeping better, eating better, and generally getting healthier and more energized. You’ll even feel happier.
If finding time remains a challenge, Jaime encourages you to focus on your why—as in, why do you want to work out and feel healthier. Maybe you want to look better, or maybe you want to be stronger. Whatever it is, it matters. Because, as Jaime says, “If you find your why, you’ll inevitably find your how.”
Workouts for busy parents with only a few minutes
Now, which workouts should you do with these pockets of time? We’re so glad you asked. We asked Jaime—who, as a working mother, knows what she’s talking about—for a couple easy workouts any parent can do morning, night or in-between. All of them are in the Aaptiv app, which Haven Life customers can enjoy for free as part of Haven Life Plus , and all of them are 20 minutes or less, with no equipment required. (“So NO excuses,” Jaime told us.)
Pop That Booty by Jaime
This quick lower-body workout entails exercises like donkey kicks and bridges for one minute each. This will sculpt and tone your glutes—and burn 100 calories in just nine minutes.
Workout: One minute each of …
- Single leg bridges
- Pulse lunges
- Overhead press
- Dumbbell squats
- Plie pulses
- Butterfly bridge
- Donkey kicks
- Plie squats
- Chair squats
Love Your Core by Jaime
A 15-minute workout focused on breath and movement. (New moms, take note: Jaime also offers Support Your Core and Mama Floor Core, both of which are short and designed with new moms in mind.)
Workout includes slow versions of clam shells, cat cow, bird dog, pelvic tilts, bridges, side planks, tabletop and child’s pose.
Believe in Your Legs by Jaime
A lower-body burning workout that will burn 100 calories in roughly 13 minutes. Starts with a quick cardio warm-up, then sweat through a strength circuit of three moves, followed by a cardio circuit, and then another strength circuit. End with a set of floor exercises.
The workout features 13 moves, including jumping jacks, lunges, squats, planks and more.
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Ab Assassin by Kenta
Got nine minutes? Then you have time for this workout, which will strengthen your core and help you burn 100 calories by doing nine core exercises for 30 seconds each.
These include crunches, situps, scissors and something called the Russian Twist, which we promise is not a crazy new dance craze in Moscow.
No Gym, No Problem by Ackeem
An intermediate-level, 17-minute workout focused on mobility and core work (and, true to its name, requires no equipment). You’ll burn approximately 150 calories.
Includes leg raises, lunges, jump squats, planks, burpees, crunches and more.
The 100 Squat Challenge by Kenta
Believe it or not, this workout entails doing 100 squats. You’ll have seven minutes to pull it off, in sets of 10, 20, 30 and 40. Trainer Kenta provides energetic feedback, music and motivation.
Pull off the namesake feat, and you’ll have burned 75 calories for your effort.
Smooth Stretches by Ackeem
As Jaime mentions, sometimes stretching is as important as lunges and crunches and pushups. (Frankly, as any parent knows, raising kids provides plenty of opportunities for all that.) A soundtrack featuring Leon Bridges will stretch your soul (in a good way).
This soothing 10-minute workout pairs well with winding down for your day, or getting loose at its start.
Use the workout that fits best with your schedule
Busy parents should exercise whenever they can find a free moment. With an audio fitness app like Aaptiv, which has more than 1,700 workouts, you can pick r an exercise routine that you like to do whether it’s morning or night.
Oh, and note: A postpartum workout section is coming to the app soon, which should be welcome news for anyone expecting a baby.
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children. This article is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency. Opinions are his own.
Aaptiv is available as part of the Haven Life Plus rider, included in the Haven Term life insurance policy. Aaptiv also is available independently of the Haven Life Plus rider, as a free or paid app.
The primary reason for the purchase of life insurance is the need for the death benefit. Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to “Plus Benefits,” which are additional products, services and benefits. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners).