Parenting 101

10 ways having a 4-year-old is similar to a gym membership

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4-year-old’s are a lot of hard work. Ask any mom of a 4-year-old and she will tell you how exhausted she feels by the end of the day. It’s not just mental exhaustion but also physical tiredness that takes over a preschooler’s mom. The muscles ache in weird places and more often than not, there are “unaccounted for” bumps and bruises from trying to keep up with a 4-year-old’s ceaseless energy. No wonder, so many pain medication ads feature moms as the de-facto sufferers (Remember Moov and Zandu ads?).

So yeah, in case you haven’t guessed it yet, having a 4-year-old is very similar to having a gym membership. Don’t believe me? Well here are 10 reasons you should:

1. The treadmill effect aka “Catch me if you can!”

From the moment a 4-year-old gets up in the morning till bedtime at night, it’s a series of “catch me if you can!” sprints and jogs. Meal times, dress up, bath time, homework and so on and so forth – in essence, every single activity is preceded by a 2-3 minute chase after the kid. So forget the treadmill (which, by the way, is happily settled in the capacity of a towel rack) and run after your kid. You can very easily squeeze in 30 minutes of run time in your daily schedule, even if it’s in tiny short bursts of 2-3 minutes each.

2. The Zumba effect aka “Dance whatever the hell way you want!”

4-year-olds never walk from point A to point B in a straight line; they go zigzag, they hippity-hop, they jump, they skip, they make loops and they do a jig before getting anywhere near point B. And they love music.

But do you know the best part of all (or worst, depending on your point of view)? They also love an engaged audience and an ardent fan or two. And they will insist that you follow their every move step-by-step.

So, in the afternoons, post-school hours and after lunch when they refuse to take a nap, what else can you do? You put on the radio and let your 4-year-old lead you to an impromptu Zumba session (or whatever the hell you want to call this mad dance routine!).

3. Weight training aka “My legs are hurting me!”

This can happen anywhere and anytime but it will most certainly happen on the walk back home when you are carrying groceries or a heavy school bag or both. Suddenly, the 4-year-old will temporarily lose his ability to walk and just plonk himself in the middle of the road declaring “My legs are hurting me! I cannot walk anymore.” After you are done begging or trying to drag your 4-year-old off the concrete, you are left with no other option but to transfer all your groceries and the school bag to one arm and counterbalance it by carrying your child in the other arm.

By the time you reach your front door, your biceps, your triceps and every other “cep” muscle in your arms would have gotten a thorough workout without you ever lifting a single dumbbell.

4. Flexibility training aka “My life depends on that out-of-reach toy under the bed/toy chest”

This comes into play when you decide to clean up the house (eventually!). In an attempt to grab those out-of-reach toys lodged at various inaccessible nooks and crannies of the house, you end up spending way more time lying down on the floor, bent and twisted in unnatural positions, then tidying up. Those are the times when you wish you were Elasti-Girl or Mr. Fantastic.

And to top it all, these toy quests become more urgent when your 4-year-old decides to throw new toys down during your cleaning exercise just so he can test (and perhaps improve) your flexibility.


5. Balance training aka “I want to be carried/sit on your lap while you try to get ‘x’ activity done”

You want to work on your laptop for 10 minutes, right? Well, that is the exact moment when the kid will need a hug and want to sit on your lap. So you do the next most logical thing possible. You balance the kid on one knee, keeping his activities in check with your left hand while you work on the laptop with your right. Same goes with cooking dinner or getting other chores done because more often than not, you are balancing a not-so-small-anymore kid in your arms while trying to get the job done. So you need focus and yes, an impeccable balancing act.

Not to mention the squats you have to do every few minutes to talk to your child because you are supposed to look him in the eyes, right? Yeah, it is all about balance through and through. Need I go on?

6. Yoga aka “You will need to count to ten or you will lose it”

If you happen to say “Just breathe” or “Let me count to ten” to yourself every couple of hours thanks to your 4-year-olds’ shenanigans, well, you guessed it right – It’s just yoga that you are doing. Be it flour/milk/juice spills in the kitchen, painting sprees on bedroom walls or body lotion/powder/oil spills at the dressing table, if you have cultivated the fine art of calming your mind and exercising restraint and patience before anger takes over, it is nothing but a form of yoga. Enough said!

7. Core muscle-building aka “Go horsey, go!”

4-year-olds love their rides, especially the four-legged kind. So once a while, you will be forced to get down on all fours and give him a ride throughout the house while he will yell “Go horsey go, go horsey go” at the top of his voice and yield a pretend whip in the air. After a while, the only feelings left in your body will be that of your abs, arms and calf muscles begging you to stop this grueling regime!

8. Resistance training aka “You cannot make me do it!”

Have you ever tried making a 4-year-old do something against his/her will? Try it and you will discover that 4-year-olds can display strength and resistance equivalent to that of very strong adults. They will kick, scream, thrash around and hang around your neck or hold on to your arms or legs, making it impossible for you to move or maneuver them in your desired direction. Do I need to say more?

9. HIIT training aka “I am going to cause a major disaster in the next 2 seconds if not stopped”

Every thing’s all hunky-dory and suddenly your 4-year-old will do something that will get your heart racing and adrenalin pumping. Be it getting close to an electric socket or making a sudden sprint on the road without checking for vehicles, they will do something so scary that you will find yourself running faster than you have ever run in your life before and catch him in the next 2 seconds before a disaster can strike. HIIT cannot be more intense than that!

10. Cycle race aka “You must never win…ever”

Cycle races are fun, but when you have to squeeze yourself into a kiddie cycle, race inside the house and have a ground rule that you will always have to come second, it becomes a stringent exercise in self-control rather than just a race. First, you have to exert force to start the tiny cycle (Believe me, it’s very hard!), then when inertia and momentum take over, you have to exert force in the opposite direction to ensure you are never ever ahead of the 4-year old, even when going round and round in a circle. Try figuring that one out!

There you have it – how having a 4-year-old is equivalent to a gym membership.

So, are you convinced yet? If not, then check this interesting ad from new balance: Baby Vs Dale Steyn (South Africa’s Fastest Bowler).

The child in this video has barely started walking. Imagine a 4-year-old in it, who’s been practicing walking and running for more than three years and has much less need for sleep than a baby! And you get a vivid picture of the level of exhaustion, don’t you?

But then you may ask – if it were indeed so intense physically to keep up with a 4-year-old, how come most moms complain of extra pounds and an expanding midriff? Well, just like anyone having a gym membership will tell you, a membership only gets you through the door, it does not automatically guarantee you that elusive size zero figure 😉 You will still need to put in the blood and sweat, leave aside the housework (or office work or your social media presence) and play – I mean really, really play with your kid for that!


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