You may well look forward to any hour spent looking after your grandchildren, but there are probably moments when the exhaustion hits and you think, ‘Am I just free childcare?’.
Well, you’ll be pleased to know that spending time with the grandkids can not only improve your health and fitness, it can also help your finances.
Pushing buggies and prams can act as a great all-over toner.
‘You’re having to exert your body against force to move, and engage both arm and leg muscles,’ says Linda. ‘Pushing a heavy pram, especially uphill, will require strength in the glutes and hamstrings. The pushing movement works the shoulders, back and arms, while combining the push with walking lunges also makes it a great lower body workout.’
Then address your abs when you head to the swings.
‘Pushing children on swings is similar to an upper-body plyometric push-up or ball-toss,’ Linda adds. ‘You’re using chest and triceps as you push. Focus on engaging your core muscles and you have a moderately intense chest workout. Stand in a staggered stance, with one leg in front of the other, to maintain balance, but remember to switch legs throughout the swing session – we all have a dominant leg.
‘Piggyback rides offer a similar calorie burn to backpacking, which burns around 251 calories per 30 minutes for a 150lb person,’ continues Linda. ‘Pushing a pram burns around 89 calories per 30 minutes, although this would vary depending on the terrain, the weight of the child and the speed you’re pushing. Playing with children at a light to moderate intensity burns between 100 to 180 calories every 30 minutes.’
LJ points out that the exercise is likely to be at a higher intensity.
‘Your grandchildren rarely stay still so neither will you! Being on your feet all day, catching them before they trip, stopping a drink from being spilt or chasing a runaway scooter will add up over the course of the day,’ she says. ‘NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is important – the calories you burn and steps you take over the course of a day have a significant impact.’
Fun and games
‘Games such as tag, football and ‘What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?’ are all fantastic for improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness, burning calories and keeping excess pounds at bay,’ says Hannah.
Jane Wake (@janewakeuk) a fitness expert specialising in family health, advises you to become their coach.
‘Grandparents are often key role models – you can teach your grandchildren patience, teamwork, goal setting and the importance of taking part,’ she says.
Jane will be live streaming her fitness classes from her studio, starting in September, so you can join in from anywhere in the world and maybe pass on that knowledge to the next generation.
Hannah suggests sticking to the great outdoors to maximise fitness opportunities.
‘Develop those young green fingers,’ she says. ‘Try and get children involved with gardening tasks such as potting plants, weeding and growing their own plants and vegetables. As well as providing an additional and enjoyable source of physical activity, grandchildren can learn new skills and perhaps a new passion.
‘Nature walks can also be a great family activity,’ she adds, ‘as they provide some fantastic cardiovascular benefits. Make a list of birds and animals to watch out for, then head outside and tick them off as you spot them.
When it comes to short-notice childcare, grandparents are often the first choice, with grandparents, on average, looking after their grandchildren for ten hours a week. Although most enjoy it, it can be exhausting and even costly.
But by caring for grandchildren under 12, working-age grandmothers and fathers could qualify for National Insurance credits, which top up their income in retirement, and supplement their pension.
Just make sure you don’t overextend yourself, as grandparents who provide longer hours are more likely to report a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. However, the benefits of spending some time with your grandchildren far outweigh the negatives – so take advantage of the exercise when you can.
 Laura F. DeFina, MD; Benjamin L. Willis, MD, MPH; Nina B. Radford, MD; Ang Gao, MS; David Leonard, PhD; William L. Haskell, PhD; Myron F. Weiner, MD; Jarett D. Berry, MD, MS, 2013. The Association Between Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness Levels and Later-Life Dementia: A Cohort Study, Annals of Internal Medicine. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1567851/association-between-midlife-cardiorespiratory-fitness-levels-later-life-dementia-cohort