Study: Chasing Kids As A Workout? Not so Much


stroller-exerciseI hate to bum everybody out on a Friday, but this MSNBC report has information we all should know: Despite the fact that a day running after your kids leaves you feeling like you’ve dashed through a challenging 10K, child care is not, in fact, the vigorous workout we all think.

Kelli O’Neil, a personal trainer and exercise science faculty member at Central College in Pella, Iowa, studied 58 women with children under 6 years old and found a consistent pattern of over-reporting how much activity they were getting. They wore devices that tracked their activity levels and also reported how much exercise they got. Most reported they were getting an hour or more of vigorous exercise daily, but actually only a third were even getting 30 minutes in on a given day.

Furthermore, those that did consistently get at least 30 minutes a day did so through sports or actual planned activities like going for a run or taking an exercise class. In other words, that “incidental” activity doesn’t add up to as much as we think it does — exercise has to fit into the to-do list.

Physical activity guidelines released by the federal government last year recommend at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity weekly, as well as strengthening activities for all major muscle groups at least two days a week.

The story recommends things like scheduling workouts early in the morning or in the evening when a spouse or partner is home, or investing in a membership at a gym with child care. I second that one — we have child care at our local Y and while it’s a stretch to pay for, I’d cut out every other nonessential item to continue that membership. Not only is it cheaper than therapy, the childcare workers are awesome, and it’s great for my kids to play with other kids and me to get in a workout, which then boosts my energy and replenishes my Nice for the rest of the day. Our Y even has a family fitness class on Saturdays that we can do with our kids.

Working out, though, can even be done on the cheap. A couple of moms in my neighborhood pop their babies in their strollers and go for a brisk walk after work every day, and workout videos are pretty inexpensive and effective if you stick with them. We even enjoy Dance Party Fridays during the summer, which are simply cranking the stereo and showing off our moves.

Yes, I know, one more thing to do, booooo. But I find exercise has so many benefits beyond not needing to buy my clothes at the tentmaker’s, like better mood, more stamina, and more desire to give my kids the physical play they need. Taking time for ourselves can feel so wrong when there are so many demands on our time, but exercise goes such a long way toward giving us the strength to get it all done.