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Single Parents: You DO have time to exercise, here's how.

Exercise is not high on the to-do list for the more than 20 million single-parents in the United States. However, it is perhaps more important to this demographic than ever before for a number of reasons. Today’s fast-paced lifestyle often leaves us run down and stressed out and exercise is a great remedy. Furthermore, children tend to mimic their parents’ behavior. With childhood obesity ever on the rise, setting a positive example is paramount to the health and wellness of the next generation.

If you are struggling to find time to focus on yourself, read on for a few helpful hints on how to make physical fitness a priority.

Move when you can

It’s not hard to find opportunities to get moving, but you have to look. At the grocery store, park as far away as possible. Take walks with your children after school. Better yet, spend a few minutes each afternoon chasing them around the playground. Arrive for doctors’ appointments a few minutes early and take a brisk walk around the medical complex. Clean your home while you’re on the phone.

Turn TV time into exercise time

Sadly, couch surfing doesn’t count as exercise. But there are things you can do while catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones to keep your blood pumping while you pay attention to the drama unfolding on your screen. A weighted hula-hoop is an excellent investment and has the dual benefit of being a nearly silent activity that requires very little skill. Health Magazine reports that you can burn up to 500 calories in 60 minutes – that’s the equivalent of swimming for more than an hour.

Involve the family

Even if you have young children, you can get the entire family involved for a few minutes each day to get your blood pumping and your heart rate up. Schedule a dance party for Friday night with your kid’s three favorite songs. Play tag in the backyard. Add an extra block to your dog’s might walk. Babies can get in on the action, too. Check out Parenting’s list of 10 Fun Exercises to Do with Your Baby.

Bring the gym to you

You don’t have to have fancy (read: expensive) equipment to get a full body workout. Invest in a few key pieces for strength and cardiovascular training. Even if space is limited you can still do everything from yoga to pull-ups without worrying that the kids will find (and ultimately overtake) your workout area. A door frame pull-up bar, for example, is mounted well out of the way of curious little hands, but will offer you an excellent upper body workout.

Work out while you work

If your 9-to-5 grind finds you sitting at a desk for eight hours each day, you’re not alone. The New York Times recently reported that jobs requiring mild physical activity have declined by 30% since the 1960s. Today, only 20% of American workers burn enough calories to actually count in a typical workday. While you likely only have an hour for lunch, if you use that time wisely, you’ll get a respectable workout without interfering with family time. Bring a portable lunch and go for a walk. Even if you maintain a steady pace to avoid sweating, you can still burn up to 180 calories before break time is over.

Being a single parent can be exasperating. It’s often difficult to find the time or money to do things for yourself. However, just as your home needs maintenance to avoid falling in shambles, so does your body. Don’t let your children see you neglect your temple lest they do the same. Remember, you are the most influential person in their lives and they will do as you do, no matter how much it hurts in the long run.

Alexis Hall is a single mom to three kids. She created to provide support and advice for the many families out there with only one parent in the household. She works as an in-home health nurse. When she isn't working or spending time with her kids, she enjoys running and hiking and is currently training for a triathlon.

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