By Jennifer Saranow Schultz, Contributor

As a parent, you can still get a workout without spending a lot of money.

ARE YOU A PARENT WITH little ones at home? If you answered yes, there’s a good chance losing weight is on your New Year’s resolution list, especially if you’re still rocking the pregnancy (or sympathy) pounds.

However, working out when you have young children can be a struggle, not to mention expensive. The challenge of finding enough time and energy to break a sweat coupled with discouraging babysitter bills, gyms fees and class costs can knock exercise off of many parents’ to-do lists.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that there are some simple and creative strategies you can employ to exercise for less with your children in tow. Here are six ideas:

Hit the playground. By far the easiest frugal work out is to strap your child into a jogging-friendly stroller and hit the streets during naptime. But you can also try a more creative time- and money-saving approach. As a parent of young kids, you’re very likely spending a lot of time at the local playground. So consider killing two birds with one stone by turning playground visits into sweat sessions.

You can get your workout in by jogging with your little one to the park, letting him or her play a bit and then jogging back home. You also can break a sweat at the playground while your child plays – playground steps and bars are perfect exercise equipment for many strength and cardio moves.

Go on a family jog. When you’re sick of the local playground, you can make working out the centerpiece of a family weekend activity. How? Simply put your children into their strollers and go on a jog with multiple kid-friendly stops.

Large parks with trails and various interesting destinations, such as zoos, museums and playgrounds, make perfect spots for this healthy family pastime. When my husband and I employ this approach, we each push one of our kids in a stroller and jog around local nature trails, complete with stops at nearby children’s museums and playgrounds.

Optimize screen time. You can turn your child’s television or tablet time into workout time for you. Do an exercise video, hit your home gym equipment or do your own cardio and strength moves while your little one is occupied with his or her favorite show or app. Need some examples of easy moves to do during your child’s screen session? If you don’t have exercise equipment or a video or workout to follow, running in place, doing jumping jacks or dancing can work just fine. Plus, some toddler television show episodes are aerobic classes of sorts with moves you can follow – for instance, check out the “Dance” episode from season one of Yo Gabba Gabba!

Make exercise into a bonding activity. In other words, have your young children watch you while you work out to an exercise video (YouTube is a great resource for free workout videos), do you own workout or use your home gym equipment. There’s a good chance your little ones will have a blast trying out the moves alongside you, and an added bonus to the calories you’re burning: You can make your workout educational. For example, try encouraging your kids to count along with you as you do various exercises.

Try out a free class. When you need to spice up your workout program, consider taking advantage of the free trial classes offered by parent-friendly exercise classes (such as Baby Boot Camp) to which you can bring young kids. Most gyms also offer free trials if you’re considering membership. Of course, you’ll want to focus on gyms with affordable babysitting options.

Don’t pay full price. If you want to sign up for a workout program or gym after your trial sessions, be sure to look for deals (check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for fitness vouchers and research new alternative membership options), and ask about any discounts available. Case in point: I received a discount for Baby Boot Camp classes because I’m a member of a certain local moms’ group.

To be sure, you’re likely to get a better sweat session if you hit the gym or home exercise equipment sans your kids. When your children are in tow, their demands can take precedence over, and interrupt, your workout. But when it comes to achieving that New Year’s resolution, any exercise is better than none, right?


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