Question: I am a mother of two small children and am trying to get back in shape. I am not overweight, but I can't jog very far without becoming breathless, and I have the problem of having to take care of my children while I work out on most days. Can you give me some suggestions for getting back in shape?

Answer: Let me congratulate you on your desire to be physically active, despite having to take care of your little ones while you exercise. You will feel better and be healthier if you can exercise regularly. Let me give you a few suggestions:

1. Start out slowly and progress slowly. It sounds as if your fitness level allows you to walk but that jogging causes you to be a little breathless. This is normal for adults who have been inactive for awhile. Begin by walking at a moderate pace and jogging for short periods until you get breathless; then walk again. As you get more conditioned, you will be able to jog for a longer period before becoming breathless. Be sure that the jogging portion of the workout is slow and easy at first. Take fairly short steps and roll from one foot to the other. The total time of the first workouts should be fairly moderate, too. Consider going for only 10 to 15 minutes a time; then increase by 5 minutes or so.

2. Use a track or push your children in a stroller. There are two ways to exercise outdoors with children. First, you can go to a nearby school that has a track or to a park area and let them play on the grassy infield portion while you go around the outside. The other way is to buy a jogging stroller and push them ahead of you as you exercise on a quiet street near your neighborhood.

3. Involve your husband or a neighbor. My daughter's husband is sometimes able to go with her while she exercises. They have a bike for their older son and the younger one rides behind his dad. They all go to a jogging/biking trail up the canyon and Dad and the kids ride up the trail while my daughter jogs. Then, she takes the kids home while dad runs back down the canyon as he prepares for a marathon. This activity kills two birds with one stone - everyone gets fit and it becomes a nice activity.

You could also trade workout times with a neighbor; you tend her children while she works out and she tends yours while you go.

4. If all else fails, you can always work out indoors by buying a treadmill, indoor bike or some other good piece of equipment or use a workout tape. However, I hope that you can figure some way to exercise outdoors, because it is so much more fun, and can be a family activity as well.