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How to Get Your Kid Some Exercise Without Ever Leaving the House

Photograph by Getty Images

Every time I leave my house, if only for a few moments, Em follows me to the front door in the hopes that she gets to go outside, too. "Bye-bye?" she asks.

I hear her start crying if I close the door behind me. And when I'm just running the garbage out, I return to the sight of her kneeling in the entryway, her hands splayed against the storm door as she gazes longingly outside. She looks like a kidnap victim, waiting for the day when she will finally be able to break free, her legs pumping as she runs across the lawn, her lungs taking in the sweetness of the fresh air.

Unfortunately, she was born to a pair of workaholics who work at home, one of whom (me) is a full-on recluse.

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Sometimes I feel guilty about this. After all, that's what motherhood is: feeling guilty about everything you might possibly be doing to damage your child. And research about the benefits of special exercise programs for preschoolers certainly doesn't help.

I mean, really. Shut up researchers.

But when I take the time to really think about it, I find I can rest easy in the knowledge that my daughter has her own exercise regimen she participates in at home. And it's just as beneficial, even if she never breathes fresh air or sees other children.

Evasive Maneuvering

Em's workout starts first thing in the morning as she runs and rolls about her crib, dodging my attempts to pick her up. When I finally succeed in grabbing her and then place her onto her changing pad, she does several rounds of scissor kicks and then attempts to roll herself right off the damn table.

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Core Strengthener

After her initial warm-up, I bring Em downstairs for breakfast. Once securely strapped into her high chair, she rocks back and forth, using her core strength to move the chair incrementally across the room.

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Quad and Glute Strengthener

Em's grandparents bought her a Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Bounce, Stride and Ride Elephant. Its intended use is as a vehicle, but Em prefers to use it as a leg strengthener, bouncing up and down for multiple reps that last about 15 minutes each (but which feel like an eternity), creating an unbearable squeaking sound.

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Lawnmower Extensions

After Em wears out her legs, she switches to her arms, doing multiple bicep extensions with her toy lawnmower.

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Rocking Out

Later on in the day, my husband hooks his iPhone up to his Bluetooth speaker and plays a mix of his favorite rock n' roll tunes. Em rocks the eff out, engaging in a set of dance moves that give her a full-body, cardio workout.

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Squat Jumps

At this point, Em gets a bit punch drunk. She begs me to pull her onto my lap, at which point she alternates between trying to mountain climb up my torso and jumping up and down on my lap.

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Trust Falls

When Em is done using my boobs as a foothold to reach higher ground, she likes to catch me unaware by trust-falling backward toward the hardwood floor. Repeatedly.

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Running Laps

Finally, after I determine that it is no longer safe for Em to be on my lap, I place her back down onto the floor, at which point she proceeds to run laps around the main floor of the house, from dining room to living room to kitchen to connecting hallway, over and over and over again.

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At this point, despite the fact that I have a strong yoga practice, I have to assume that Em is in better shape than I am.

So take that research-backed exercise regimens and fresh air.

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