The Busy Mom’s Plan for Making Time to Exercise

Learn how fitness experts—who are also moms—find time in their busy schedules for exercise.

Motherhood creates many challenges, and one of the biggest is finding time for self-care activities, like exercise. Many moms manage family schedules, meals, childcare, and, for some, a job outside the home.

So, it can take some innovative time management for them to add a workout into the mix. The tips provided in this article, as well as a mobile fitness application, like Aaptiv, can help busy moms find time for exercise.

Maura Shirey, RN, CPFE, a mother and owner of Bodies for Birth, shares that for many moms, fitting in small increments of exercise works better than trying to carve out a large block of time, especially when kids are small. Shirey says that it’s important that moms focus on including exercise that they enjoy and that is easily accessible. If the activity is something dreaded, it’ll be the first thing dropped.

She encourages women to place post-it notes throughout the house with specific exercises (i.e., do ten squats or doorway push-ups). She says that moms are often so busy that they forget to exercise, so these little reminders take almost no time and can add up to significant gains if done daily.

Below are six key points from experts on how busy moms can find time for exercise.

Coincide your workouts with “slow” parts of your day

Working moms often find that lunchtime can be a perfect break for exercise, even if there’s no gym or equipment within easy access.

Consider adding a short 20-minute walk or ten minutes of stair climbing into your day. Or, perhaps you can stash a resistance band in an office drawer so that you can do reps while on the phone or whenever you have a spare moment.

Asia Shaw, a veteran competitive marathon runner and mother of two (with a third on the way), has continued to fit in training runs with some creative focus on time management. She says that she does her workouts early in the morning. Although it’s tough to get out of bed, scheduling it for first thing in the morning gets it done before other issues may derail exercise time.

You can also time your workouts during nap time and after feeding. This way you’ll have some time before the baby needs to nurse or have a diaper change.

Create a home gym

Creating a home gym can be as simple as purchasing a few main items, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, and an exercise ball, or even stationary exercise machines if they’re in your budget, so that you can work out at home. This makes it easier to stay consistent with your workouts because you won’t have to deal with childcare worries.

However, if creating a home gym isn’t in your budget, you can also try joining a gym that offers childcare.

Lean on your support

Shaw stresses that it’s essential that your partner supports you taking time for exercise. She suggests communicating with your partner about how he or she can help with scheduling your fitness time.  It takes planning and determination to find time for exercise, but Shaw says that the payoff is worth it. She believes she’s a better mother and partner because of it, and her energy level is boosted after her workouts.

Finding a babysitter can also allow you to take some mom time. If you’re breastfeeding, consider pumping. This way, even if your workouts allow for your usual nursing routine, the bottle is available just in case.

Another way to hold yourself accountable is by joining an exercise group. It could be a boot camp, yoga class, or stroller running or walking group. Meeting a group or individual at a set time is a great way to make sure that you don’t skip exercise. Both Shirey and Shaw stress that creating a network of workout buddies has many benefits. These range from providing accountability to offering much-needed support and camaraderie.

Prioritize and make a workout schedule

Shaw has a paper running log, as well as one on her phone. Each Sunday she writes out her *tentative* workout plan for the week (knowing that there may be changes, as life happens). A log is a great motivator—each day has a set agenda for how you’ll fit in your exercise and meet your goals. Shaw suggests that you also include factors, such as sleep amount or illness/injury, in your log.

Exercise with your kids

Invest in a good quality stroller, Burley, or hiking pack to use once your baby is old enough to take along on your workout. Choose one that fits your workout needs and test drive it before buying.

Sara Johnson, ACSM exercise physiologist, mother, and Fit4Mom owner recommends exercising with your children. Kids of all ages love music and are master imitators. Dancing to fun music or doing an exercise video will make exercise feel like play. Family walks (use a baby backpack or stroller for smaller children) and bike riding with a Burley can remove the childcare issue and create more flexibility for exercise. You’ll make your workouts a positive family activity that’ll help promote healthy habits for a lifetime.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Johnson stresses that it’s essential for moms to feel that it’s ok to ask for help when scheduling workout time. Moms have a hard time asking for help, but it’s essential to realize that no one can do it all. Take time each Sunday night to figure out where you plan to fit in exercise for the week. Include strategies to help you keep it on the schedule.

The mantra that all moms who have made exercise fit into their busy days live by is “roll with the challenges.” Be flexible about what you can fit in each day. Additionally, keep in mind that the intensive time involved in mothering an infant or small child will lessen as they get older.

Check out Aaptiv for a wide range of fitness classes.



Welcome to the guidebook to your healthiest life. Aaptiv delivers the highest quality fitness and health information from personal trainers and industry experts. Subscribe now for a weekly dose of inspiration and education.

I would like to receive weekly fitness articles and inspiration from Aaptiv Magazine.

Please click the checkbox to subscribe.