Less than half of mothers do enough exercise, study finds

Less than HALF of mothers get enough exercise – and those with the youngest children do the least, finds study

  • Experts said efforts should be made to help mothers do high-intensity activity 
  • Researchers at Cambridge and Southampton analysed data from 848 women
  • Women with school-aged children did around 26m of daily physical activity
  • While those with children aged four or under managed around 18m per day 

Fewer than half of mothers get enough exercise, research suggests.

And those with the youngest children do the least.  

Experts today said efforts should be made to help mothers take part in high-intensity physical activity.

Fewer than half of mothers get enough exercise, research suggests. And those with the youngest children do the least

Rachel Simpson, a PhD student at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There are clear benefits, both short term and long term, from doing more physical activity, particularly if it increases your heart rate.

‘But the demands of being a mother can make it hard to find the time.

‘We need to consider ways not only to encourage mums, but to make it as easy as possible for busy mums, especially those with younger children, to increase the amount of higher intensity physical activity they do.’

Physical activity is associated with a wide range of health benefits — from lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease to maintaining a healthy weight and better mental health.

A team of researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Southampton analysed data from 848 women, aged between 20 and 32, who were recruited between 1998 and 2002 and followed for several years.

They were given accelerometers to assess their levels of activity.

Women with school-aged children did around 26 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, while those with children aged four years or under managed around 18 minutes per day.

Meanwhile, mothers with more than one child managed only around 21 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

But by contrast, mothers with multiple children under five years of age were found to do more light-intensity activity than those with children of school age.

NHS advice states that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week.  

Professor Keith Godfrey, from the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said: ‘It is perhaps not unexpected that mothers who have young children or several children engage in less intense physical activity, but this is the first study that has quantified the significance of this reduction.

‘More needs to be done by local government planners and leisure facility providers to support mothers in engaging in physical activity.’

Results were published in the journal Plos One.  

HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS 

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