By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
Mums need to be prioritising fitness to set better examples to their kids
Ouch! Yes, this is my tough love approach. And before you get on the bandwagon to ask me ‘what the hell do you know?’ I will tell you that I am a mum to three kids aged 10, 8 and 6 and during at least six years of this my husband worked 12-14 hours per day and was away quite a lot. Oh yes, and I worked from home. Sound like fun?
I’ve been a physiotherapist working in the fitness industry for over 20 years and so I
have been passionate about fitness for a long time but never as much as now that I am a mum to three active kids. Everyday I see mums putting their fitness down low on the priority list often not realising the repercussions on their health, not to mention the poor example being set to their children. You see, over the past few decades we have focused so much on weight loss and fat loss through extreme diets that we have often forgotten what is really important for longevity and good health – fitness. And I am not talking Olympic fit either. I am just talking about the ability to go for a 5km walk at a brisk pace, or go for a bike ride at a decent speed (not race-track speed).
Why are more mums not exercising?
Because ‘there’s no time’ or they ‘can’t be stuffed’ are really high on the answers list when I ask mums that question. While I completely ‘get’ that mums are time-poor I am going to go out on a limb here and say this is a pretty poor excuse for not taking care of your health. You find the time to brush your teeth because you know what happens if you don’t. Mums need to be applying the same habits to exercise.
We are not talking hours and hours. This could be a 30-minute walk or 2 x 15 minute exercise sessions at different times during the day. And yes, I know there are days where you planned to go to the gym but your 2 year old vomited on you as you were about to leave, or your 4 year old screamed at the crèche during your training session so you cut your session early. I get that! It’s not always going to be easy but even trying, or at least showing up, is a step in the right direction.
Taking small steps towards improving your fitness, no matter how challenging it can be some days, is better than taking no steps at all.
I can honestly say I understand the ‘I can’t be stuffed’ mentality. I mean, you have so much to do in a day, who wants to add in exercise to that? Plus, if you don’t exercise you don’t have to wash your hair, right? Bonus time gained! I found it harder and harder to exercise each time I had a baby. By the time I had a third child I found I had no energy left to exercise. But I showed up. I just walked at a pace that I could manage and did some light weights. I just told myself that one day the energy would return. Even as a fitness expert I was left wondering why it was taking my body so long. For me it was likely due to sleep deprivation because I was working too, plus I didn’t have a lot of help.
But I kept showing up.
Do you know how long it took me to really get my energy levels back? Three years! LOL. Yep, my youngest was about 3 years old when I really felt like myself again. It may take you less time. It may take you more. But what I can say is that during those three years I kept showing up and doing some light exercise to keep my heart pumping and doing the best that I could do. Some days I barely worked up a sweat. But I showed up. At least I can look back and say that I didn’t not try for three years. Remember that during this time I also had two older children to look after…they were watching me keep active by walking daily. I had to remind myself of that from time-to-time too.
Guilt is another massive issue for mums. Mums are often guilt-ridden when they prioritise time for themselves and exercise goes into that category. But there are really positive ways to look at exercise time.
- Exercising sets a great example to your children in regards to health and fitness. There is no better way to teach them by example.
- You can exercise outdoors while your child watches and plays in a pram. Yes, if they scream it gets a lot harder. Tip: Shorter, more frequent sessions during the day may be a lot less stressful in these circumstances. Or perhaps try to find a location where they can play safely outside of the pram but within your line of sight. I used to do 10 minutes of exercise tat the beginning of my baby’s day sleeps when they were really little. It was a good way to make sure I got 10 minutes in a few times per day. The housework came after that!
- There are some metabolic health benefits that can only be achieved through exercise. That’s right. No pill or potion can replace exercise.
- The fitter you are the more strength and stamina you will have to get through those tougher times in life, such as when your child is ill or you are juggling a lot in your life, such as when a partner travels away for work or if you are a single mum.
- Exercise has the potential to improve sleep and self esteem…all plusses if you ask me!
Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’.