Fitness For Today's Mothers

Moms today have more responsibility than ever. Between their own busy schedules, plus their child's many activities, it's easy to see how exercise can fall out of the rotation. Let's look at some of the top excuses for missed workouts and see if they are familiar:

o I need to pick up the kids.

o I need to make dinner.

o I need to be at work early / late.

In some families, we promise we will exercise when we have more free time. The truth is not one of us really has "free time" anymore. The era of long, leisurely afternoons has gone the way of the rotary phone. The trick for today's busy mothers is to make exercise part of a list of must-do's. When it is scheduled into our list of mustdo's, exercise becomes its own appointment with good health.

Why should moms take the time to care for themselves? A recent article in the International Journal of Nursing Practice described a 12-week study that examined the effects of exercise and social support in women who had recently given birth. The study included a group of mothers who gathered together to push their babies in strollers, compared to a social support group that did not exercise together. The results showed that mothers who participated in a walking group improved fitness levels and reduced their feelings of depression, whereas the social group reported no such changes. Moms especially should work on improving cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. Some of the many benefits will be achieving and maintaining weight loss, reducing the risk of heart disease, boosting energy levels, and keeping up with the kids. Moms will also benefit from increased lean muscle mass, stronger bones, reduced tension and stress and improved self image. The right routine will prevent injury, maintain muscular balance and help mom perform normal daily tasks.

So now mom has decided that exercise must be a priority.

How does she make it part of her life? The following tips will help even the busiest moms make exercise a priority:

o Write exercise in your appointment book. Plan a week ahead, keeping your long-term goals in mind. If you miss your appointment to work out, re-schedule it for later in the week.

o Join in physical activities with your kids. You and your kids will benefit when you take the time to play a game of tag or catch, or when you all take the dog for a walk. Older kids might join you in training for a 5K or 10K.

o Change the way you think about exercise. See it as a reward and not a punishment. Exercise can be your new "me time." Once your family sees how happy and healthy exercise makes you, no one will try to interrupt that time.

o Get the right gear for your work-out so that you don't use weather as an excuse.

o If you're having a low-energy day, make a deal with yourself to work out for 10 minutes. Once you get going, you'll usually want to go longer.

o Plan your exercise so that it serves several purposes. Make it your "catching up" time on a walk with a friend. Bike to the grocery store. Work out at the park while your kids are at soccer practice.

Once moms see the benefits of exercise, there's no turning back. Physical activity will become part of your life plan, your priority. There are many important lessons we can pass on to our children by example: be kind to others, eat in moderation, don't smoke and maintain stress. When you take the time to schedule exercise into your day, you are sending your kids a clear message that physical activity has value.

Now, let's look at the revised list of mom's top excuses:

o I need to pick up the kids.

o I need to make dinner.

o I need to be at work early / late.

o I need to exercise!

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