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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Mummascribbles
Fitness 4 Mamas