Self-Care for Parents: Why Exercise Matters and How to Get More of It

By Daniel Sherwin at

At the end of a long day, you want to plop down on the sofa and relax, not rush out the door to the gym. However, fitness is a big part of what keeps you energized and uplifted from day to day. Without exercise to relieve stress, you’ll head into tomorrow feeling more drained than if you’d put on your gym shoes and worked up a sweat.

mother walking child in stroller

We don’t usually think of working out as a form of self-care, but exercise is vitally important to your physical and mental health. Not only does it keep your heart strong and help you sleep, but exercise also boosts your mood and sharpens your mind.

Unfortunately, even when we know the benefits of exercise, it’s hard to find the time, money, and motivation to work out. If you’re a single parent balancing a job and a family, working out can seem practically impossible. While they won’t fix the motivation problem, these tips will help you fit a little exercise into your busy life.

Temper Your Expectations

It takes incredible amounts of time and dedication to achieve a magazine-worthy physique. For most people, it’s simply not a practical goal. However, that doesn’t mean working out isn’t worthwhile. Your body and mind benefit from exercise even if your appearance stays the same. Instead of chasing aesthetic changes, focus on other benefits of exercise, such as sleeping better, feeling happier, and building a body that’s strong and capable.

Keep It Simple

You don’t need to follow a fancy workout plan developed by a celebrity trainer in order to improve your fitness. All you need to do is move your body a little bit every day. Instead of stressing out over doing the “right” exercise, make it your goal to get 30 to 45 minutes of exercise of any kind at least five days a week.

Keep It Affordable

Not everyone has the money for a gym membership or fitness classes, let alone the time to drive across town to work out. Instead of wasting money on a gym you never go to, spend that cash on a home gym you can actually use. If you want to go all-out with weight benches and cardio machines, you’ll want to set up your gym in a garage or basement and install special flooring and lighting. However, if you just need space for free weights, resistance bands, and an exercise mat, a corner of your living room or a spare bedroom will do.

Set a Schedule

Making time to workout is the hardest part, especially for single parents. However, it’s important to schedule your workouts at regular times in order to establish the habit. If you wait until you find the time, you’ll end up skipping workouts more often than not.

The best time to work out depends on your family’s schedule, but these are a few strategies that have worked for other parents:

  • Wake up early to exercise before the family wakes up. If you prep your breakfast the night before, you can throw a breakfast bake in the oven and work out while it cooks.
  • Exercise after the kids go to bed. This works best if exercise doesn’t leave you too stimulated to fall asleep after you’re done.
  • Work out on your lunch break. Outside Online explains how to do a midday workout.
  • Exercise as a family. A family yoga session or jumping rope with the kids might be less effective than a solo HIIT session, but it sets a great example for your children.

Staying active is hard when life is busy. However, when you’re stressed out and stretched to your limits is when you need exercise the most. As much as you don’t want another thing on your plate, practicing self-care through exercise makes daily life feel a little more manageable.

Image via Pexels

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