This week I was sent an article headlining with the statistic that 61 percent of mums feel guilty about taking time to exercise. As a mum myself, this was certainly something that struck a chord.
The article, published by Sports England, goes on to suggest that around 30 percent of mums have less than an hour to themselves each day and that outside of work they were more likely to prioritise tasks revolving around their family such as housework and cooking, than to exercise.
Yet while only 17 percent of respondents saw working out as a priority, almost 70 percent said that they still felt it was important for their children to see them engaging in some form of exercise. And it is. As Lisa O’Keefe, director for insight at Sports England notes, ‘children with active parents – particularly active mothers – are more likely to be active themselves’. She goes on to observe that ‘children who have positive experiences of sport and physical activity early on are also more likely to prioritise being active in later life.’ Likewise, the psychologist Emma Kenny observes that ‘the best thing about being a healthy and active mum is how it translates to your children’.
In the same article, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies, is quoted as saying that this research ‘makes clear just how influential mums can be on their children’s physical activity levels, which is so important for mental wellbeing, educational outcomes and development of important life skills like teamwork and leadership’.
At a time when female athletes are taking such a prominent place in the media – with the #changethegame initiative from the BBC and the Telegraph Women in Sport features putting women front and centre – it seems a travesty that women still feel that there is a conflict between maintaining their own physical and mental health and looking after their children.
I was lucky to grow up in an active family with a mum who went running and swimming on a regular basis and who encouraged me to do the same. I don’t ever remember feeling anything but positivity about my mum’s decision to exercise, in fact I always felt proud of how strong and independent she was, especially when we got to see her in road races. As a mum now myself I am so lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband who sees how important exercise is in my life and who is more than happy to spend time with his daughter while I go for a run (or, as has been the case, train for a marathon!), but I know that not all women are in the same boat.
I have continued to make exercise a priority during my maternity leave, attending a buggy fitness class, going to mum and baby ballet and I have even set up a mum and baby netball team, where we bring our babies court-side to watch as we play. With the help of a Bubble babysitter to keep the babies entertained (and off the court!), our team is slowly growing in numbers and with coaching from enthusiastic England Netball coach, Yvonne, who has been instrumental in supporting the initiative and running the sessions.
Getting involved in sports is so important for our physical and mental health, and playing a team sport, such as netball, makes exercising so much more fun and social. According to a recent article in Forbes, playing as part of a team can also help boost self esteem and self image, improve your long term happiness levels and assist in your ability to multitask – all things which may also feedback into your mumming skills. Meanwhile, seeing your baby having fun with other children at the side of the court while you play also assuages any feelings of guilt that may come from taking time away from your mumming duties.
So next time you think about ducking out of a run/swim/yoga class because you feel guilty for taking the time out for yourself, remember all of the positive benefits that can come out of it. And if you are in London and fancy joining us to play on the court, while your baby plays off court, get in touch with me and join our mummy team!