​As a busy, working mum of three I understand why, for some, exercise is often left unchecked on the to-do list as tired parents collapse into bed at night.

Exercise can seem like an indulgence and other tasks repeatedly take priority. However, as a GP, I also know the problems that inactivity can bring, plus its importance for physical and mental wellbeing. Dr Zoe Williams, exercise enthusiast and GP on ITV's This Morning programme explains:

'Over a third of men, and nearly half of women are not active enough for good health. What really concerns me is that over a fifth of men, and a quarter of women are 'inactive', meaning they barely move and do less than 30 minutes of activity per week. This has huge consequences for health, with inactivity being responsible for one in six deaths.'

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150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week is what we're all aiming for but fitting it in when you have children is a real challenge. With years of trial and error I've found ways to achieve it and four marathons later I'm sharing my top tips to help you squeeze it in too:

1. Use Active Travel

Stop thinking about exercise as purely sport. A normal day provides plenty of opportunities. If you walk or cycle to work, school or the shops, you'll be well on your way towards that 150-minute target. Grab the scooters, stride out with the pram and put on a pedometer to see if you can get to the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

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2. Play Hard

Children don't have to be a barrier to exercise, they can be a key. Right through from babies to teens there are ways you can exercise together. Crawl about with little ones. Sign up for the climbing course with your teen. Involve the whole family (or village) in a football match. Make dens in the woods. Dig massive holes on a sandy beach or skim stones across a river. It's all exercise and it's fun!

3. Use Windows

If you look for them, you'll find small windows of time that you can grab. Try breaking that 150-minute weekly target down into ten minute blocks. If your partner is cooking dinner or doing bath time duties, just nip out for ten minutes. Got fifteen minutes before school pick up or half an hour waiting for Brownies to finish? Don't sit in the car texting, stick on your waterproof jacket and do a power walk. Being prepared helps. Have your exercise kit in the drawer ready to put on, or even better, wear it! Don't waste precious minutes searching through the laundry.

4. Work Smart

If you're a working parent, you might not see your work days as an opportunity for exercise but if you're clever, they can be. Re-claim your lunch break and get outside for a walk rather than eating at your desk. Consider walking meetings, too - there's increasing evidence that they're more productive than sedentary ones. 

5. Don't Go For Coffee

If you've finally found an hour to meet a friend then plan an activity rather than a sit down. You can always grab a quick cup of coffee afterwards. Strolls to the park with little ones provide exercise at the same time as a catch-up. Meeting with other families means a great chance to have a lot of fun with a rounders match or a big bike ride.

6. Ask for Help

Find friends and family who understand why exercising is important to you. They can motivate you but also help to make it possible. Trade child-minding duties with friends to free-up time and don't forget lots of gyms and sports centres have crèche facilities so your little ones can be looked after while you let out the stress of the day in an exercise class.

7. Set a Goal

It's easier to keep grabbing those windows of time and stay motivated if you have a target. If you're working towards a goal and know what you need to do each week to reach it, it will inspire you to be creative with your time management and make the most of every opportunity.

8. Change Your Priorities

You need to lose the guilt that taking time to exercise is depriving your kids of your attention. Far from it, it's time well spent making you a healthier, happier and calmer parent. Being a great role model is paving the way for an active, healthy life for your children too. Surely that's worth fitting into your day?


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