If you’re a parent, you know all too well how exercise can drop to the bottom of the priority list. We get it because we’ve been there. In fact, we’re still there. But instead of thinking about how much we’d love to sleep in past six in the morning on weekends, we’re choosing to focus on the positive.
If you think about it, children are like extremely short personal trainers who force you to constantly move about (even as they suck the life out of you). You don’t even realize how many calories you’re burning as you try to pick up after them and keep them out of harm’s way.
Through a little research – and of course, personal experience – we determined the number of calories we actually burn for common parenting exercises like “toddler squats” and changing diapers. So stop being so hard on yourself. After all, that’s your kid’s job, right?
1. Sidewalk Sprints
5 minutes of sidewalk sprints = 100 calories
Toddlers, like spooked horses, tend to bolt. Their responsiveness to voice commands is far worse than an untrained dog, so you have to sprint to get them out of harm’s way. Anytime you’re outside near cars, you’ll have an opportunity to practice sidewalk sprints. This exercise primarily works your fast-twitch muscles, allowing you to burn more energy in less time.
2. Speed Car-Seating
10 minutes speed car-seating = 60 calories
You’re standing outside your minivan in the middle of a torrential Northwest downpour trying to wrangle your spasm’ing children into their seats as quickly as possible. Sure you’re frustrated – but think about how many calories you just burned!
3. Race to the Staircase
1 race to the staircase = 40 calories
Nothing gets a parent’s adrenaline flowing like the horrible thumping sound of their child tumbling down the stairs. Launching yourself toward the staircase in a futile effort to save your flightless child typically burns 40 calories – five calories from the physical movement and 35 from the intensity of your parental guilt.
4. Toddler Squats
15 minutes of toddler squats = 230 calories
Count the number of times you squat every day to pick up your children. Squatting and hoisting a toddler up on your hip is great exercise, especially if you use proper form. Added points if you have a toddler on one hip and a preschooler on the other.
5. Pet Abuse Management
10 minutes of pet abuse management = 115 calories
Preventing your child from pulling tails, riding the dog, carrying the cat and cornering animals that are trying to bite them is part of your job description as a parent. (So is comforting them after they inevitably get scratched.) Managing pet abuse may require a combination of sidewalk sprints and toddler squats, so remember to cross-train.
6. Professional Child Removal
15 minutes of child removal = 110 calories
Removing a screaming, kicking, angry child from a store or movie theater builds both core and arm strength. Need we say more?
7. Upside Downs
30 minutes of upside downs = 280 calories
When children demand to be carried around the house upside down like a monkey, you must expend more calories than normal to keep them from slipping and falling onto their precious little pumpkin heads. Gripping one of your child’s ankles in each hand and walking through the house is also a great way to test your back strength.
8. Diaper Changes
10 minutes of diaper changes = 70 calories
Changing a diaper on a toddler is no easy feat. They scream, flail and try to hit you as they reach for their sippy cup. Every diaper change that results in near-perfect application without the child smacking you in the face or falling off the changing table is sheer victory. Add 25 more calories for diaper changes in a public restroom or on a plane.
9. Lovey Hunt
30-minute hunt (with stairs) = 220 calories
Losing your child’s favorite toy or blanket is a parenting crisis requiring immediate attention. Log thousands of steps running up and down the stairs, looking under beds, checking in kitchen drawers and searching the car for your child’s missing lovey. After hours of searching, you’ll usually find the item in the most perplexing spot, like in a bowl of salad.
10. Leaving the House
Leaving the house = ranges from 250 to infinite calories burned
Leaving the house used to be as simple as taking a step out the door, an activity that burns less than a single calorie. But when you have young children, leaving the house can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours as you race up and down stairs, hunt for matching shoes, throw together snacks, pack the diaper bag and search for the kids’ jackets. In extreme cases, toddlers won’t leave the house until they’re well into their 30s.
So the next time you wish you had more time to go to the gym, remember that the gym has now come to you, and won’t leave for several more years. Oh, and if you were able to read this article in peace because your children have been mysteriously quiet for the last few minutes, now is the time to go see what they’re up to, because that’s never a good sign.
Aaron Reid is a lifelong non-athlete, husband, and father of two. Aaron lives in Tukwila near a nice running trail with rabbits, most of whom have never seen him. He began running in 2012 and ran his first 5K that same year. However, his most impressive fitness accomplishment is that he has been sucking in his stomach from the age of 12 to the age of 38.
Dana Robertson Halter is a lifelong athlete and mother of Cassandra and McKenna. Dana started swimming competitively at six, began racing triathlons after college, switched to bike racing in 2004 because triathlons were too lonely, and then went back to racing solo (marathons) after having her first child in 2009.