Barriers to exercise for parents

Barriers to exercise

I’ve been reflecting on barriers to exercise and fitness as a new(ish) parent.

This is a topic of importance to me personally. Well it is important to me now.

I was told in the early haze of (second time) parenthood I needed to exercise for ten minutes a day.  I knew then in my head it was important; My poor tummy muscles, objecting to even the teensiest bit of stress, knew it was important; but my heart, and hands, were too full of my brand new baby boy.

I was so lucky to have sufficient support from professionals, family and friends to achieve this tiny, but also challenging goal.

There are many potential barriers to exercise as a parent.

I am not advocating rushing back to the gym in the early days as a parent. Far from it. Conventional advice I received was to avoid high impact exercise such as running for at least 3 months after childbirth. Many women like myself with pelvic floor weakness may even be advised to take it easy for 6 months.

But what about those like me who need to do something early to re-establish core strength; Or those that enjoy the social, as well as the physical benefits, of exercise; what about later on… Being a parent lasts a long time.

These are some of the barriers to exercise I have encountered as a parent. Perhaps you have also experienced others?

1. Time: It can just be so busy. Juggling children, domestic duties, work and sleep. Exercise and fitness may not be a priority for precious adult time. Sometimes this is quite appropriate; time for emotional wellbeing is also vital.


2. Energy: It is tiring physically and sometimes emotionally exhausting as a parent, particularly if sleep is disrupted. Fortunately running after toddlers, lifting and carrying babies, walking with pushchairs and generally being physically active is in itself good for physical wellbeing. Personally I still feel a greater benefit from also having adult time to exercise. I also find I tend to gain energy from exercise in this way, even when my energy resources are low.


3. Motivation: I’ve been struggling to write about motivation for weeks now. Not because I lack motivation but because I know how hard it can be to find. I don’t want sound patronising or as if I have all the answers. I often rely on the inspiration of others to help motivate me.

4. Confidence: I think this particularly applies to women after having children. Our bodies undergo immense changes. They don’t necessarily look the same and they may not respond in the someway to physical stress. I can’t be the only one worrying about exercising whilst breastfeeding or about the consequences of pelvic floor weakness whilst running (that means potentially leaking a little wee).

5. Childcare: Definitely a practical issue for many parents. There are some classes to which you can bring children also some gyms with crèche facilities. Knowing what’s on where can be a challenge too.


6. Knowledge: Following on from the point above, I often rely on friends to recommend groups and classes.

7. Guilt: Although finding motivation and time for fitness is difficult, sometimes justifying adult time for our own priorities is almost as hard.


I felt a little deflated after writing this list. I don’t just want to write about the barriers to exercise as a parent without being able to offer some kind of solution.

I alone don’t have all the answers and nether does this blog. However, I believe that many of these barriers can be overcome by parents. Particularly when they are not trying to overcome these barriers in isolation.

So I’ve created a Facebook group for parents to share motivation and ideas. I hope Mums and Dads might use it to share their knowledge of local exercise classes suitable for kids and parents; to motivate each other; to help others improve confidence and to perhaps share and achieve goals together.


Here is a link to the group. I hope it might help a few of us over come some of these barriers to exercise.

Ten Minutes Spare – Families and Fitness

Please do come and join in if you think it may be useful to you. I’m sure that you will be able to inform, inspire or motivate someone else.

30 Second Summary: It can be tough to exercise or maintain fitness as a parent. I hope that this new group might help overcome a few of these barriers.

What have been the biggest challenges to looking after your physical health as a parent? Have you any tips for overcoming them?

I’m linking up with these great blogs:

Mami 2 Five
Fitness 4 Mamas

25 thoughts on “Barriers to exercise for parents

  1. babyfoote April 19, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    I’m full of resolution when it comes to exercising, and fail completely at following through. In my mind I will exercise when my older son has gone to bed, but in reality I snuggle in on the sofa with my baby and watch TV. We don’t get much one-on-one time, and I enjoy chatting with my partner, so it doesn’t totally make me feel guilty!
    I was prescribed Pilates (by a physio) after the birth of my second son and I’ve done precisely none in the past four months.


    • tenminutesspare April 19, 2015 / 8:30 pm

      I do know exactly how you feel. Of course time with your partner and baby are really important. I probably do less exercise the more I’m writing about it! I am also much more motivated to do the things I really want to do (running) and less motivated with others (pelvic floor exercises). Fortunately the fear of my prolapse falling out again is usually enough to encourage me to do them regardless.

      Do you think if you were to find a local mum who was also advised to do some Pilates and you could go together and have a giggle at a class occasionally you would be more keen on the idea? I guess that’s what I hope a little fb group might achieve, if it were to grow sufficiently. Someone could write w little message asking if there were any local classes and perhaps get a response from another parent and maybe an offer of company.

      Of course like many mums I still struggle to get out to fixed timed classes but I hope it will get a little easier with time.

      Anyway good luck with the Pilates of you do start and come join in the fb group if you think it would be of use!


  2. babyfoote April 19, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    Well, the problem comes with regular classes that I’m working around two children and a partner who works shifts. We need a gym with reasonably priced, good quality childcare. I’m looking at you local council gyms!
    I think your Facebook group idea is wonderful and I’m in!


    • tenminutesspare April 20, 2015 / 6:07 am

      Wonderful! So glad you’ve joined the group. I’ll see if there are other Mums in the group who love (or have been told to do!) Pilates. Maybe we can motivate each other? You’re welcome to borrow any of my DVDs or perhaps I’ll see if anyone else in the group is keen to do a 10 min workout at home one evening using a YouTube video- then we can celebrate via the group after! I’m also hoping maybe ultimately there might be a way of pooling childcare resources or if there are enough of us maybe even requesting better local facilities too.


  3. DrJuliet April 19, 2015 / 9:51 pm

    What a great idea! Motivation often comes through others and pooling resources and enthusiasm is a big help. Shared goals and shared child care. This is how I’ve managed. I hope it’s a success for you and helps lots of people to overcome some of the barriers, well done. Popping over to have a look now. J


    • tenminutesspare April 20, 2015 / 6:12 am

      Thank you so much. I am really enthusiastic about the idea, I think in part I was inspired by seeing how something like the UKrunchat community motivates and inspires. Of course I don’t yet know how this group will work in practice but I do hope that if it works in the way I’m imagining it might be of use!


  4. NorthEastFamilyFun (@NEFamilyFun) April 20, 2015 / 8:36 am

    What a fantastic post – I never find your posts patronising – in fact the opposite is true and you are an inspiring lady! There are many barriers to exercise but sometimes (in my case) they are just excuses. Off to join your group now xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare April 20, 2015 / 8:43 am

      Thank you so much, that’s so very kind. Your comment has made me a little emotional. I’ve never really done anything inspirational (unlike many of the proper fitness bloggers!) but I do hope that this group might share a bit of inspiration from others. Delighted to have you joining it! X


  5. Kirsten Toyne April 20, 2015 / 7:21 pm

    Thanks for this post. It is food for thought. I am struggling to get exercising as writing my book is coming first (well second as the kids are always first). I have posted this on my face book page for The Guilt Free Guide to Motherhood for my followers to see as they might like to join.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare April 20, 2015 / 7:33 pm

      Goodness no wonder you don’t have much time if you’re writing a book. I’m not sure there are many other book-writing parents finding writing is a barrier to exercise, but of course lack of time and the kids always being the number one priority certainly are for many. Thanks so much for sharing on facebook. I’m off to check out your page to find out more about your book.


  6. Katy (What Katy Said) April 20, 2015 / 8:53 pm

    You may have felt deflated after writing this but it actually made me feel better- it made me realise I am not the only one to dread exercise. I have to say though, motivation is the biggest one for me and knowing I am a bridesmaid in October is keeping me going for now! x

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare April 21, 2015 / 8:55 am

      That’s great to have something to work towards. I totally agree having a goal is really helpful. I’m sure your blog feature about weight loss must be motivation too, a great way to get a bit of support from others as well. X


  7. Eimear April 21, 2015 / 8:39 am

    I’m going to try and get a walk in during my lunch break at work, my time at home with my girls in the morning and evening is so short and so precious I dont want to eat into that time being gone on a run!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare April 21, 2015 / 8:50 am

      That’s a great idea! It’ll probably help combat that post-lunch energy slump too. I should make a list sometime of all the things other mums do to find a bit of time to be active. What works for me won’t work for others and vice versa… I’m on Mat leave so much as think it’s a brilliant idea my only child free time is after they’ve gone to bed so that’s when I try to do things. Xx


  8. crazymadmumof4 April 21, 2015 / 9:28 am

    Fantastic post. It really does sum up trying to exercise when you have kids.
    I took up running in January as I could never get to the gym or classes during opening hours (I have 4 children so the crèche fee is astronomical). I really enjoy it but do struggle to motivate myself to go out after a full day of Mummy duties. I signed up to a 5k race to try motivate me to go out running. I fully intend to be able to run the whole race in a few weeks time


    • tenminutesspare April 24, 2015 / 6:18 pm

      Good luck with your race. That’s fantastic motivation. It must be so complicated trying to find time with four little ones. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mini Travellers April 23, 2015 / 8:12 pm

    Getting out with kids to look after is hard. I try and run as they I can go without classes to work round. thanks for linking up #sundaystars


    • tenminutesspare April 29, 2015 / 6:18 am

      And thanks for hosting #sundaysstars. Always some lovely blogs. Congratulations too on making the BiBs shortlist!


  10. Honest Mum May 5, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    Love this, you are right it’s hard when we are juggling so much to be motivated and keep up with exercise but we feel so good when we do. It has a real domino effect #fitnesstuesday


    • tenminutesspare May 5, 2015 / 7:53 pm

      Thank you. And yes although there are challenges as a busy parent, I definitely find it worthwhile trying to overcome them.


  11. Christine Jaureguiberry May 5, 2015 / 8:48 pm

    Really lovely post and beautiful pictures! I absolutely agree with your list and especially point number 7! For some reason I always feel guilty when I do something for myself and I really shouldn’t! I need the balance, strength and energy to look after my children so it’s important to take some time out I think x

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 5, 2015 / 8:53 pm

      Thank you! Yes I think it is a really important challenge for parents to overcome that niggle of guilt doing anything for ourselves. Ultimately it is a little easier to justify something which actually is of benefit to our ability to parent.


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