As almost any parent will attest, life with kids is a lot more complicated than any of us expected it would be. It’s joyful but it’s also full of curve balls - and they’re generally thrown at us at the last minute!

Mornings usually start before sunrise and we learn of the emergencies (“Today I’m supposed to bring a brown bag lunch, Mom!”) about two minutes before it’s time to leave. Our evenings are full of piano recitals, volleyball practices and reams of homework.

One of the best ways to reduce your stress level is to increase your activity level. In this article, the Mayo Clinic explains the science of why this is true. But how is a parent supposed to find time to exercise when she’s managing a daily circus? The answer might surprise you.

Take it Slow - One Step at a Time

It’s almost never a good idea to start an exercise program with a bang. Pushing too hard, too fast is probably going to result in injuries and discouragement. The only way to make sure exercise is a regular part of your personal wellness program is to be intentional and realistic about your goals.

For example, if you aren’t doing any regular activities at all, commit to parking further from the door for a month when you run errands. After that, it is probably a habit, so you’re ready to add a new (small) goal to your plan. The Shape Up America website has some great tips about how to slowly and steadily increase the number of steps you take each day.

Find a (Positive) Community for Support

You significantly increase your chances of success if you find (or create!) a community of people who share your wellness goals. This could be as simple as finding a couple of other parents who want to take a neighborhood walk every other evening or it might be that you decide it’s time to sign up for a few strength-training classes. No matter which path you take, you must make sure that the community is positive and reflects your true values. A healthy community will find the perfect sweet spot - members hold each other accountable but also support each other and celebrate the little victories.

Unfortunately, some trainers believe exercise should push our bodies and minds to the breaking point. That approach is only successful for an extremely small percentage of elite athletes. The rest of us need a trainer who’s willing to work with us and push us to do our best. I believe that true wellness goes far beyond lifting weights or getting 10,000 steps in every day. It’s important to move but unless we also take care of our spirit and psyche by lowering our stress, we won’t truly be healthy.

Movement should be fun! Exercise is work but the best work is enjoyable and challenging in equal measure. I count myself lucky to have found clients who share my attitude towards a healthy lifestyle. If you’re interested in learning more about creating complete wellness in your life - let me know!