The Knackered Mum's Guide To Exercise

Woman and young girl with hula hoops outdoors smil
Woman and young girl with hula hoops outdoors smil

It only took a couple of weeks into the new year for me to fail miserably to keep up with the 30 Day Ab Challenge I over-enthusiastically signed up for.

I want to be able to wear a bikini on our summer hols this year, but after a winter over-indulgence - make that several years' over-indulgence - how can I tone up in time?

As a stay at home mum with a husband who works irregular hours – he's a farmer – I, like many other mums, just can't commit to joining a gym or regular class. Besides, I'm far too knackered at the end of the day, when the kids are finally tucked up in bed, to even think about leaving the house to go running around and getting all sweaty. All I seem capable of is crashing in front of the TV with a bag of Hula Hoops and a glass of vino.

But the time for action has come. I've decided to get fit on my own terms – in the back garden, with the kids and all their outdoor toys and equipment, just as spring arrives.


Like most families with children we are the proud owners of a giant trampoline, which takes up the majority of our back garden, but - providing your pelvic floor will allow – I'm discovering it's a great a way of working out.

Not only is Tigger-bouncing a huge amount of fun, a 10-minute session on the trampoline has been likened to running one mile and could burn up to 40 calories, depending on the intensity of your workout.

Research shows the benefits of bouncing include stimulating metabolism, improving circulation, firming and toning muscles, improving sense of balance and increasing energy. It can also help reduce cellulite – now if that doesn't put a spring in your step, I don't know what will.

I've been getting the kids to bounce with me and try out lots of different moves and then see who can jump the highest and the longest. I get a great workout – and the kids are guaranteed to sleep well afterwards. Everyone's a winner.


Chances are if you've got children, you'll to have dozens of skipping ropes dotted around the garden, previously only ever used for tripping people up and dragging little brothers around.

Not just a playground favourite, skipping is used by many top athletes – especially boxers who skip before a fight. Well, if it's good enough for Rocky.

Jumping rope provides an all over body workout and is great for trimming thighs, hips and backsides plus a 10-minute session can help burn between 70 to 110 calories (not bad when you think there are around 110 calories in two fingers of Kit Kat). It also helps improve heart-rate and blood pressure too.

I'm planning to mix it up a bit and try and master the cross over move, and once my little ones are older I'll be challenging them to some races, or perhaps get them to spin the rope for me - altogether now 'I like coffee, I like tea, I want Mummy to skip with me'.

Hula Hooping

This is one of my favourite childhood past-times which is enjoying a bit of resurgence at the moment with fitness classes devoted to hula workouts popping up all over the country.

Hooping is a really effective way of toning the abdominal muscles and can help burn up to seven calories a minute. You can get weighted versions too, which are easier to keep the momentum going and will also help increase muscle growth.

I'm teaching the kids how to do it this year, then we can have competitions to see who can keep going the longest!

Space Hopper

My best friend had one of these and I was always dead jealous – but now the giant bouncing balls have been reinvented as a staple piece of exercise kit. There are even fitness classes devoted to using them as they're great for toning legs, arms and abs and getting rid of unwanted fat.

Hoppers can be used in similar ways to Swiss balls as well, to help tone up with crunches, press ups and the plank.

My kids love theirs, so we've been using them for games like Duck, Duck Goose and racing up and down the garden.

Ball Games / Frisbee

We've got loads of these in the shed, so I've hauled them out and got everyone chasing about after the Frisbee as this is bound to burn plenty of calories. Throwing it also uses all-round body movements that help with toning and stretching too.

There are endless ball games we've been trying like catch, football, tennis and piggy in the middle to work up a sweat - and the great thing is everyone can play together, whatever their age.

So, there are no excuses now - getting fit this year really will be child's play! Well, that's the plan.