Workouts that Work!

As a husband to a wonderful and extremely hard working young mother, I do not understand how my wife does it all. With five little boys under the age of seven, she accomplishes and sacrifices much more than I could possibly express in this article. Between running our home, caring for our boys, giving service at church, and everything in between, her plate is very full.

I respect mothers so much for all they do, which is why it pains me in my line of work when I see so many that feel unsatisfied with their bodies. In my experience, many mothers resign themselves to the belief that they need to sacrifice exercise time or eating healthy while they raise their young children.

My wife, having been pregnant five times in the last seven years, has faced various challenges that have made it difficult to find the time and energy to take care of herself the way she’d like to. Busy toddlers, energetic preschoolers, as well as demanding newborns have proved to make going to the gym, or waking up early an unappealing option to her. And I know that she is not the only one who feels like this.

Though it may be hard, it is entirely possible to fit exercise in with the demands of a young family, and it can even be FUN!

In fact, it should always be fun.

I am passionate about helping parents see that their physical health and their family time don’t have to be compartmentalized. Life is more fulfilling and easier when we combine these aspects of our lives. Instead of always trying to find time away from the kids to exercise, why not try exercising with the kids? This way everyone improves their physical fitness and time is spent together as well. How is that for balancing daily demands and multitasking?

My wife and I try to get our workouts in with the kids as often as we can. Throughout the years we have come up with family favorites and will share a few of them with you below.

The most crucial factor with kids and exercise is FUN! We’ve found our kids have little interest in push-ups, lunges, and squats. When coming up with family workouts, we make it into a game. Making exercise fun ensures that they will grow up with a love for physical activity and increases their likelihood of being active for the rest of their lives.

As kids grow and develop their physical capabilities, they need to spend time in six basic movements.

Six Basic Movements For Children’s Physical Development:
Jumping and Hopping
Technique Development

We create games that involve one or more of these movements, and then join our kids in the fun.  We also try to include our kids in the creation of the game.  It’s amazing what they can come up with!

Here are some of our favorite games:

How about a good old fashioned game of tag? A competitive game of tag will increase heart rate and burn just as many calories as any traditional workout on the treadmill would, and it is a whole lot more fun.

We’ve come up with many variations of the game to make it more fun and include more movement. For example, instead of playing freeze tag and having our kids stay still, we say that you have to hop up and down on one leg once you are tagged so that we continue to get in movement.

A version that we love in our family is “Clothespin Tag.” We each attach clothespins all over our clothes and then go at it. The goal is to pull everyone else’s clothes pins off, while protecting your own. We usually switch things up by making the person who just lost a clothespin do some type of movement like jumping jacks before they can get back into the game.

Another one of our favorites is to make up our own obstacle courses (aka spy/superhero training courses) and use a timer to see how fast everyone can get through it. We can play this one for hours. It is great because we can easily involve all six movements. It is fun to let the kids come up with ideas on the obstacles.

Be ready to feel uncoordinated and kind of dumb as you fumble through tight spaces that your kids can fly through. It always makes for a good laugh.

Speaking of a good laugh, put some long socks on daddy and/or mommy, with half hanging loose off the ends of your toes. Then crawl around on your hands and knees. The whole point of the game is for your kids to get the socks off your feet as quickly as possible. Set the timer and go crazy.

It’s been so fun for us to see all the different activities we can invent that involve these six movements.

The best part has been remembering what it was like to be a kid and play. Sometimes it’s hard to not be a spectator parent; but my wife and I have found it’s a lot more fun to join in, plus we get our workout in while showing our kids physical activity is fun.

We feel we are giving our children a priceless example of how important it is to take care of ourselves in a way that will bless their lives physically and emotionally, while at same time enjoying the benefits of burned calories and improved heart health.
We are all healthier and happier because of the time we’ve spent together.

When my wife and I are setting our priorities, we don’t want to forget about our needs for physical activity and rejuvenation. Moms need to remember to take care of themselves while taking care of everyone else.

Question: What do you find to be most challenging when looking for the balance between fitness and family?

Challenge: Make it a priority to exercise with your kids this week. Go for a bike ride, play tag at the park, set up your own superhero training facility, or have a hula-hoop contest.




  1. says

    What a great post! I am mom to 5 children, and this is one I definitely struggle with. My biggest challenge when it comes to balancing fitness and family is “time”. There just never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything done, so I tend to leave my needs and my me time on the “if I have time” category. I’ve been working hard the past few weeks to change that! Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas!

    • Seth Bigelow says

      Time is definitely the biggest obstacle. Being a parent is hard work and certainly demands a whole lot of time. Parents should be given a few extra hours to their day. The best thing you can do when you feel like time is your biggest foe when trying to get in some physical activity, is to start really small. Just set a goal to move and exercise for 5 minutes each day. Set your microwave timer and dance, do some pushups/squats/lunges/jumping jacks, or anything that will get your heart rate up. 5 minutes might seem like it wouldn’t do anything, but when you successfully do it for two weeks to a month, adding another two minutes won’t seem that hard. Then slowly add more time as you feel you can. Pretty soon you will be consistently getting a healthy 20-30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Start small and succeed.

  2. says

    I started reading this and thought “this sounds like Shine!” Such a great post, Seth, you two are awesome parents to those 5 darling boys! With 3 girls, we love to have dance parties. We groove to anything from Swan Lake, or to the music from Madagasgar. It is fun to get our hearts going. I’ll have to try some “secret agent” games! Thanks for the reminder of what it’s all about!

  3. aaririe says

    Thank you so much for this post, it came at the perfect time! I actually couldn’t sleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about my family and our overall health (I am sure it doesn’t help that I am expecting and tend to have a hard time getting my brain to shut off when I am pregnant). We have been trying over the summer to get a little bit of physical activity in every day, but I know I need to be better about doing it with them to get them more motivated and having fun doing so. My second child is going into Kindergarten this year, she already struggles with her self esteem and I worry about her entering the world of those peer influences and I want to make sure she is given the opportunity for a healthy lifestyle to help her feel better about herself (something that the whole family really needs!). We try to eat fairly healthy and have worked hard on and off to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives as a family but it always tends to be one of those things that gets pushed to the side when life gets busy. Love your tag ideas though…that is one of the favorites to play with the kids (it usually wipes me and my husband out really quick!) and freeze tag is one of our favorites so I love the jumping jack idea when we are frozen! Thanks again!

    • Seth Bigelow says

      It looks like you are definitely on the right track! You sound like a great mother that wants her family to experience the joys of health. The first step is to have the desire, which you have. The next is to start small and implement small healthy habits, which it also sounds like you are doing. It is really easy to think we aren’t doing enough and want to be the perfect healthy family, but that isn’t what is important and will just lead to feeling like we are falling short. You are on the right path. Just keep doing what you are doing. Try some new things when you feel like it and just have fun enjoying the experience of being a healthy family!

  4. Paula says

    Great ideas for active boys! I can see my youngest 2 loving this but my two teens have very little desire to get moving. When we have tried doing family workout times the oldest two get bored (ages 19 and 15) or the youngest two (ages 4 and 9) loose interest or say it is too hard. Many times someone ends up crying. We have tried family games like croquet and my husband is mean and ruins the game (he is banned from playing that game). It is a HUGE challenge. Does anyone have any ideas to help a family with my age range?

  5. Angie says

    We like to go on family hikes. When we get to the destination, I take a break and rest while my kids usually explore or build something…but they keep active. We also try to include our kids in our outdoor hobbies when we can. My husband enjoys fishing but it’s not just “Dad’s going fishing,” we go as a family. Sometimes we split up with Dad taking the two older boys on an activity and Mom doing an activity with the younger two. We often walk to the neighborhood park. The kids can ride their scooters or bikes or bring a ball to shoot or dribble. Swimming is another great family activity that works for different ages. Sometimes we’ll meet up with a few friends so the kids have fun with their peers. But since we’re doing the activity as a family, it still counts as family time.

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