20-Minute Fitness: How to Get a Family Workout on a Busy Schedule

In a busy household, it can seem like there’s never time to spare to run to the gym or even walk on the treadmill. Between caring for the needs of the children and maintaining your own commitments as a nanny or parent, finding 20 minutes a day to work on your fitness can be a challenge.

However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to ensuring you have the energy to keep up with energetic toddlers and crawling infants. Instead of giving up on a fitness boost, consider involving the family in your daily workouts with a commitment of only 20 minutes a day.

Making Fitness a Priority, Convenient

Taking 20 minutes for busy moms, dads and nannies can seem impossible, but you must write it into your daily calendar as an appointment, says Dee Whittington, personal trainer and owner of Dee Train In-Home Personal Training. “Realizing the importance of doing it to have more sustained energy to make it through your crazy, rearing days helps,” she says. “Getting up 20 minutes earlier is an option, or opt for lunch time, during nap time, or after you put the children to bed if you’re not a morning person. You can find the time if you really want to.”

If you prefer to exercise with a group, recruit your family and children to be your fitness buddies. Incorporate exercise into your daily chores and routines by multitasking. “You can burn an average of 200 calories per hour while doing general household cleaning,” says Whittington. “To enhance and get more out of doing household chores, do light cardio and strength training in between chores.”

For instance, after folding the clothes, you and the kids can do 20 pushups and one minute of jumping jacks. Then, after vacuuming the living room, jog in place and do a minute of abdominal bicycles. “This will give you more bang for your buck as far as calorie burn,” says Whittington. “Your kids will probably also enjoy watching you and want to join in on the fun.”

Create your own personalized exercises while completing household duties, too. Vacuuming can be especially good for burning calories if you focus on performing a lunge while you engage your core and arm muscles on every motion and switch arms and use large sweeping actions, says Fitness Trainer Jeff Archibald with BoldFitness.com. “The same is true for dusting, laundry and cooking,” he says. “All can be performed in a static and/or dynamic squat, dead lift or lunge position.”

If the house has a stairwell, take the stairs two at a time while carrying laundry or groceries, recommends Archibald. “Every little bit helps,” he says.

Conditioning for the Entire Family

Completing a 20 minute workout is really all you need for general conditioning if you have an integrated approach and are doing it with enough intensity, says Whittington. “Interval or circuit training and doing full body exercises would work the best,” she says.

An easy example would be four exercises repeated four times, doing as many reps as you can do in 60 seconds and resting 15 to 20 seconds in between. “It is very important to do at least a three to five minute warm-up, like light jogging in place and arm circles,” says Whittington. “This will get the muscles warm and ready for activity.”

For the next 20 minutes, Whittington recommends any of the following workouts:

  • Forward lunge with bicep curls into shoulder presses: Alternate legs for lunges and use dumbbells appropriate for your strength level. If you don’t have any weights at home, use soup cans or water bottles. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Pushups with knees to elbows: Pushup and then when in high plank, pull your right knee in to touch your left elbow, then move to the other side. Pull your knees in to your elbows between each rep. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Around the world squats: Position your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Touch your finger tips to the floor while keeping your weight shifted into your heels so your knees do not extend over your toes, then as you come back to standing shift your weight to balls of your feet and hop with arms extended over head. First hop laterally to the right, repeat the squat and hop back, repeat the squat and hop left, then repeat the squat and hop forward to finish, so you’re essentially making a box or going “around the world.” In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Russian twist: In a seated position with shoulders back and chin up, make a ball with your hands and lean back as far as you feel like you can while still feeling stable. Touch your balled hands down by each hip, then cross over hips to tap the floor on the other side, alternating back and forth. You can hold a weight to add intensity or lift your heels off the floor. If lifting your heels bothers your lower back, keep them on the floor. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.

Any workout you choose for 20 minutes is better than leading a sedentary life. “Great 20 minute workouts are best when you essentially work the entire body and all muscle groups,” says Whittington.

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