Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kids Are Bad for the Physique

Have you ever had anyone ask you why you sound out of breath when you answer the phone? That’s happened to me! Apparently, the exertion required just to run to a ringing phone overtaxes my body. And I’m not even overweight! But I am out of shape.

When my husband and I first met, we both had gym memberships. We worked out several times a week, and were in the best shape of our lives. And then the twins arrived.

I was recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. We were both averaging about two hours of sleep a night . . . if we were lucky! The cost of diapers, formula and a new minivan was seriously overtaxing our budget. Needless to say, the gym memberships had to be dropped.

So, here I am three and a half years later struggling to answer the phone. And my husband’s size small gym shorts are definitely a lot tighter! We feel terrible about this, of course, but we take small comfort in knowing that we’re not unique. A study released in May 2007 by the University of Pittsburgh found that parenthood greatly reduced the amount of physical activity that adults engaged in. For women who exercised about four hours a week before having children, they lost an hour and a half of that after becoming mothers. Men took an even bigger hit. If they used to engage in approximately eight hours of physical activity a week, they lost four and a half hours of that after becoming fathers. So, how many of you are using your treadmill or exercise bike as a clothes hanger?

Experts tell us that too many of us have acquired an “all-or-nothing mentality.” We figure if we no longer have the time to put in our usual two-hour workout that we might as well just give up exercising entirely. But that’s just not true. Even if we only have a half-hour to work out now, we should still do it! Instead of going to the gym, head out to the sidewalk with the stroller and take a long walk. At the very least, park at the back of the parking lot when you go to the store and take the stairs at the doctor’s office. It will make a difference in how you look and feel.

Another argument that parents use for giving up exercise is that they don’t want to spend any more time away from their children, especially if they work away from home. But if your health begins to suffer due to lack of physical activity, the quality time you spend with your kids is going to suffer, too.

Now that our twins are three-and-a-half, my husband and I have been talking more and more about getting back into shape. Mike may head back to the gym once he recovers from knee surgery, and I’m thinking about starting out with a yoga class at the Y. My goals are modest to start, but I hope to be able at least to answer the phone without panting!

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