By Simone O’Shea
In a contemporary society where even women without children will experience barriers to maintaining an active lifestyle, how do you keep a mother moving?
Research by Verhoef & Love (2009) concluded that young children are one of the greatest barriers to decrease the exercise adherence of woman aged between 20-49. Lewis & Ridge (2005) provide some evidence as to why these barriers may exist for mothers of young children. This included physical activity also being viewed as a perceived threat to social relationships; and that the stereo-types of being a ‘good’ mother means prioritising the care of children and domestic duties above their own physical activity needs.
What this means is that mothers not only have the time constraints of work commitments, social commitments, domestic duties, and caring for children; they also have to carry around a sack-load of guilt if they dare deviate from these commitments to spend time on their own health and well-being. Throw this in with the guilt they already lug around from leaving children in day-care for work, with family so they can have a date night or even with the TV so they can just get ‘anything’ done around the house; and you have one worn out woman who has already completely psyched herself out of making any time for herself, because she just simply does not have room in her life.
It seems evident that the barrier here is not the children, but the thought process that comes with your new born bundle of responsibility. When you tell enough people that you no longer have time to exercise because you have children, you will start to believe this is true, and this becomes a barrier for you. True, scheduled exercise sessions may be a thing of a pre child past for some women; this does not mean that they can not be ‘physically active’.
Until the contemporary stereo-type of what makes a ‘good’ mother includes prioritising ones own health; here are some barrier breaking strategies, that might prompt you to think of something that will work for you:
- Stop compartmentalising your life into weeks. Ever get to Sunday and tally up how many days you made it to the gym? Feels pretty crappy when it tallies up to zero right? – BOOM! MORE GUILT! While it is encouraged to have short term goals based around exercise adherence, keep in mind that those goals also need to be realistic. If you have to drop a planned session for a commitment to your child / children, make it up at the next available opportunity, its more important to keep moving throughout your whole life when you can, then to feel like you failed and do nothing.
- Don’t limit ‘exercise’ to gym sessions. PLAY, WALK, RUN! Physical activity can mean kicking & chasing a ball in the back yard, jumping on a trampoline, playing at the park, just enjoying a family stroll, or running with an appropriate pram or young children on bikes. No guilt here, you get the benefits of being physically active and playing with your children at the same time. Staying physically active will also afford you the opportunity to lay valuable foundations for your children to enjoy being physically active.
- Take every opportunity you can. Sun is shining, baby screaming, mummy feeling nuts – go for a walk… with your baby that is. If your lucky the little one will nod off, and you will enjoy the benefits of fresh air and cardiovascular exercise.
- Book it in. It’s far too easy to blow off a gym session because you have other domestic chores to complete first. If you have a personal trainer booked, this can re-direct your commitment. This time you would feel guilty if you didn’t show up, because now you have a whole new person to be accountable to. This one has been personally tried and tested to be effective. If it’s not in your budget to pay for a trainer, other options may be group training or finding a gym buddy.
- Home job: have a fitness professional show you how to do a few body weight resistance exercises that you can do at home. Other home options include setting up a home gym (consider space and affordability), work out DVD’s, yoga apps, or just switch on your favourite song and dance. You may even find the kids joining in.
Why is it important to keep a mother moving?
There a many benefits for a mother to exercise, these include:
- Physiological well-being
- Reduced fatigue and improved sleep
- Increased muscular strength and decrease incidence of back pain
- Improved posture and decreased risk of injury fulfilling house hold / occupational duties
- Improved heart and lung function – improved blood circulation
- Maintain healthy weight
- Prepare the body for future pregnancies
- Provides opportunities for social interactions
- Decreased risk of chronic health conditions
- Maintain healthy bones – decreased risk of osteoporosis with weight bearing exercise.
As always, for more information on any of the training advice above, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to organise your free 30min consultation at PPT.