As soon as you become a parent, exercise often goes out of the window. Whether it’s due to sleep deprivation or driving back and forth to all the weekend activities, our priorities change and we simply don’t have the time or energy.
However, finding time to move not only means that you’re looking after yourself, but also looking after your little ones by being able to keep up with them and be around for them when they’re older.
Here are some of the key reasons why it’s so important to exercise as a parent:
To deal with everything thrown at you
Throughout pregnancy it’s likely you’ll hear things like “don’t lift anything too heavy, you’re pregnant!” as you pick up a bag of sugar. However as soon as your little one is born, your body needs a lot more rest than before, plus you’re essentially lugging around a growing dumbbell, a cumbersome car seat, bags, maybe a toddler and the kitchen sink.
It goes without saying that you have to be damn strong to be a parent! Not only physically, but mentally too.
Exercise helps with both of these things.
As parents, we’re constantly squatting, hinging to pick things off the floor, lifting things over our heads, crawling, playing with our kids on the floor, running after them once they’re on the move, wrestling them into car seats, dragging them away from parties and the rest. It’s for these reasons alone that we should exercise as a parent, to ensure our body can cope with all the tasks.
Ironically, by exercising we actually gain more energy through boosting our heart health. By making the body stronger and fitter, those daily tasks become easier.
But that’s not all: moderate intensity exercise not only releases endorphins that make us feel good, it can also improve cognitive function (1). Overtraining however has the opposite effect, so always remember that rest is important.
To move your body and still your mind
Exercise is a form of self-care (as much as that word might make you cringe) as you’re doing something positive for yourself. This in itself will, more often than not, make you feel better. In fact, it’s been proven that exercise as a treatment may be as effective as antidepressant medications (2). That’s a pretty mind blowing fact.
Exercise is a chance to switch off. By focusing on the weights in your hand, you lose the weight on your mind. It gives you that chance to switch off from any stresses of home life, while you focus on what you’re doing at that moment in time..
Also, the part of your brain that controls anxiety is activated when walking, so you can’t walk and be anxious.
People who exercise regularly report a higher quality of life and improved health status – both physically and mentally. And as a parent, we often put ourselves to the bottom of our priorities, so by adding in even 20-30 minutes of movement into your day can make such a difference.
To find your tribe
Exercise can also be a great way to meet new people. Parenting can often feel quite lonely, so finding a group exercise class near you is a great way to get out of the house and interact with others.
Alternatively, if you can find a family group exercise class, it can be a great activity to do with the kids.
To be their role model
Last, but certainly not least, we all want to be a positive role model for our kids, to demonstrate healthy habits and show them that looking after ourselves is an important part of our lifestyle (also so we can get off the toilet seat aged 87!).
Netz Y. Is the Comparison between Exercise and Pharmacologic Treatment of Depression in the Clinical Practice Guideline of the American College of Physicians Evidence-Based. Front Pharmacol. 2017 May 15;8:257. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00257. eCollection 2017.