Looking after kids is exhausting – you don’t need us to tell you that! What you might not realise though, is just how much energy you use just by looking after little ‘uns. We thought it would be nice to remind all the parents out there that looking after a child or two is a fair amount of exercise in its own. We’ve done the research to give you solid evidence that looking after one or more children is at least equal to a daily gym session – and much more prolonged!
Check out the table below to see how all the little things you do every day – from shopping and driving to picking up toys and cleaning – all adds up into a pretty active day.
A Parent’s Day in Calories
|Activity||Calories Used||Duration (mins)|
|Running up & down stairs 10 times for lost / misplaced items||50||5|
|Walking (with pram)||201||60|
|Walking (without pram)||172||60|
|Playing on the park||80-120||30|
(pushing trolley, packing, loading and unloading car, putting away)
|Play fighting / Wrestling||75||10|
(vacuuming, laundry, sweeping & mopping, wiping sticky handprints off surfaces and windows)
|Kids' bath & bedtime||90||40|
|Sleeping||23 (per hour)||420 (7 hours)|
|Total||1296 - 1365 calories|
On a day like this, you’ll have burned well over 1,000 calories without doing anything out of the ordinary. That doesn’t include all the other things like wrestling your toddler into their car seat or searching for lost shoes several times a day!
We asked Claire of Me My Blog & You to put our figures to the test. See how many calories she burnt in her average day >>
When you think about your day this way, squeezing in a bit of extra exercise doesn’t seem that daunting at all. Especially when you can integrate into the stuff you’re already doing!
We spoke to two personal trainers to get their tricks of the trade, but it also helps to know which activities are the most energy demanding so you can get the most bang for your buck, as they say.
And if you’re too tired to even think about getting more exercise, here’s why!
The Best Family Activities for Exercise
Kids are experts at exercising without realising it; they certainly run rings around us. So why not join in and get a workout at the same time? We’ve calculated the average calorie burn of common stuff families do together – and you might be surprised how intense they are!
So if you want to get a workout while playing with the kids, outdoor activities are the clear winner. Grab the skipping rope and teach your little ‘uns the old skipping songs or pretend to be Michael Jordan again on the basketball court.
It’s not just the fun stuff that racks up the exercise either – those endless household chores soon add up to a workout of their own as this infographic from AXA Health shows! Parents are certainly no strangers to cleaning but it’s worth remembering that housework isn’t all bad – in fact, we’ll even go so far as to say it’s good for you! (Maybe not the stress levels though…)
Ways to Be More Active With the Kids
Ask anyone why they don’t exercise and they’ll probably say it’s because they feel they don’t have the time. We all have busy lives, so any way we can multi-task and get two things done at once is always a bonus in our book.
Blogger Zoe Woodward of Aloha and Coffee shares her tips for getting your daily exercise:
“So my life is crazy busy but isn’t everyone’s? I’m a yoga teacher, business owner, wife and mom of 4. Although I teach yoga every week I also make sure I have time for my own activities and workouts and get them in wherever I can!
My top tips for staying active when you have kids and a busy life:
– Schedule your workouts like meetings. If you use a diary block out some time for a workout or a gym session and don’t cancel it!
– Set the alarm a little earlier. I love to workout first thing, it means I have the whole day to do whatever I need to do without the thought of a workout over my head. I set my alarm a little before I know the family will wake and either sneak out to the gym or do a quick home workout knowing I won’t be disturbed!
– Get the kids involved. In the summer this is easy because you can spend time outdoors. We set up assault courses in the garden where we can all get involved and all workout together without it feeling like a chore (think step ups on the garden wall, shuttle runs of the garden, relay races with the kids anything that gets you moving and gets you heart rate up! It’s a little less appealing in the cold and rain but there’s loads you can do whatever the season, from leaf kicking in autumn to snowball fights in the winter and don’t forget splashing in muddy puddles in the rain. The fresh air and exercise benefits everyone!
– Find a sport that the whole family can get involved in. We have a kung fu club locally where adults and kids can train together. All it takes is a quick google and I’m sure you will find something not too far away.
– If you have little babies use nap time as a time for exercise. Exercise and working out doesn’t need to be done for hours a day. A quick 20 minute workout is all it takes 3-4 times a week. Or utilise that sling, I used to pop my little one on my front and squat and lunge away and she loved the rocking sensation!
– Head to the park with a ball. We can spend hours in a field with a tennis ball throwing and catching, running and jumping, it doesn’t feel like exercise but it gets the heart rate up and is brilliant bonding time for the whole family.”
We also spoke to two personal trainers, confusingly both called Chris, to get their perspective on being more active with children.
Chris Lyons from Train London says it’s about sneaking in activity that isn’t necessarily exercise, into your daily routine. The technical term is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and includes things like walking, looking for lost teddies and constantly wiping noses. Some of the activities listed above are NEAT, like skipping or playing catch, while others like swimming could be classed as structured exercise.
“Basically, anything that increases your heart rate and gets you a little out of breath is a good thing. You need to be a little creative and whatever you do needs to be playful to keep children interested. It’s also a great way to teach kids good lifestyle habits, be present and spend time together,” Lyons explains.
Simple things like playing football and having a boogie are actually fantastic aerobic exercise, while going to the park is a perfect opportunity to use the equipment to build your strength. “You’ve got to enjoy going to the park and acting like a kid again!” Personal Trainer Chris Wilde of Skinny Guy’s Health points out. “Climbing, running and pushing are all standard at the park – that’s a full body workout and will work your muscles while raising your heart rate. You’ll be burning anywhere between 150 and 222 calories an hour while doing that and having fun, so it’s a massive bonus!”
You can still do structured exercise like workout routines with children about too. In fact, they’ll probably be intrigued by the weird exercises you’re doing, so it’s a great opportunity to get them involved with jumping exercises like burpees – just remember to give them plenty of praise! Before long, they could be the ones spurring you on…
Let’s be honest though, just keeping up with the kids can be hard enough. Start with simple nature walks which gives the little ones plenty of chance to run and explore, while building up your stamina.
“Look to kids to be your energetic little role models!” Wilde says. “Remember with all this, the more effort you put into every one of these exercises, the more you will get out of it! So next time you are playing in any way, push yourself that little bit harder than you did last time, for that little bit longer than last time, and you will start to feel the benefits in no time!”
Personal Trainers Reveal How They Integrate Exercise & Childcare
So how do personal trainers manage to work their job and training around family life?
“As a busy Personal Trainer and Dad of two young daughters (5 and 2 years old), I have had to adapt my training style over the last few years,” Chris Lyons explains. “My own free time seems to have almost disappeared and long gone are the days when I could train 4 times a week every week and rest at weekends. I now leave work early twice a week to pick my girls up from school, work late two days a week to make sure I can fit all my clients in and spend all weekend driving the girls to clubs and birthday parties. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it has meant I’ve had to change the way I train.
As I have less time for structured exercise I have now found that I need to sneak in a little more everyday day movement (N.E.A.T) into activities with the kids, like walking the school run instead of driving it, going swimming, and going for a run alone when my eldest is at a class or party.”
Wilde, who works at Pure Gym, agrees: “There’s no need to go to the gym to burn calories. Remember that whether you’re sleeping, eating, walking or even just lying on the sofa chilling, you are always burning calories. This is how your body keeps functional and allows you to operate even the smallest of tasks.”
“We can provide an estimate calorie burn of certain tasks or activities, but really it is about the intensity. You don’t need to be in the gym to push yourself and get your heart rate going. The higher your heart rate, the harder your whole body is working – which means you’re burning more calories and will continue to do so for hours afterwards too!”
Setting Yourself Up for Activity
Don’t let clothing or footwear be a barrier to exercise. Whether you’re going for a walk or a park trip / workout, you need the right gear. Thankfully, the activewear trend is still in full swing and we’ve got plenty of pieces that transverse that casual / fitness line nicely, plus all the workout trainers you could need. Don’t forget some clothes for the kids either…
Thanks to Jon Hawkins at Discount Supplements for help with calculating the calorie burn of everyday activities!