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When it comes to physical fitness, single parents are in a tough spot. Demands on your time make it vital that you keep your energy level up, but those same demands make it nearly impossible to find the time. You’re the sole caregiver for your kids. When they need help with homework, a shoulder to cry on, a ride to a friend’s house, and a thousand other needs and activities, they come to you. Then there’s the pressure of keeping up with responsibilities at work, showing up on time, and working late when asked. It’s no wonder that single parents often feel like their time doesn’t belong to them because in many ways, it doesn’t. Ultimately, you know that you can’t be an effective parent if you can’t take care of yourself. That means putting a plan together to eat right, get enough sleep, and find time to exercise.

Even if you can squeeze in a little activity on the weekends, you need to figure out how to exercise Monday through Friday. So how do you find the time? It definitely requires some creativity and a lot of determination, but you can make it work. The secret lies in your weekly routine and in finding ways to piggyback physical activity onto those things you do every single day.

Windows of opportunity

You need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. The good news is that you can find many different ways to get moving at work, at home, and in-between. Whether your company has exercise equipment or not, your lunch break is the perfect time to get in a quick workout. It could be as simple as running up and down a flight of stairs or taking a few laps around your office building. If you have a sedentary job, take 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the afternoon to run in place, do isometric exercises, or get in some stretching. Motion is motion, and you don’t need to do it all at once. Five minutes here and there will work just fine, as long as you do it consistently. If you do, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll sleep better. You’re also less likely to get sick or become depressed. Better yet, you’ll be more engaged with your kids.


Move while you’re waiting

If your kids play sports, you can take a few minutes to walk laps or do jumping jacks during games or while you’re waiting for practice to be over. If you have a little one, put him or her in a baby carrier strapped to your back and head for the store, or the two of you could go for a spin around the neighborhood on your bike right before dinner. You can also use exercise as a family activity. Pop in a workout DVD and get the kids doing Pilates or a cardio exercise routine right along with you. Or you could have your toddler come along for the ride, riding on your back as you do push-ups.

Finding time to exercise during a busy week can be a daunting prospect. Sometimes, all it takes is looking at your life in a different light, finding small opportunities to get in some motion and elevate your heart rate a bit. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions, too. Part of this is biology—the body is regulating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts. Once you’re able to get moving on a regular basis, you might find that you’ve changed your life in a very positive way.