At the beginning of every flight, there is always a short video on what to do in the event of an emergency while the aircraft is in the air. One of the warnings is always to attend to yourself first before helping others. The logic behind that is obvious – if you’ve fainted because you failed to put on your oxygen mask, you won’t be able to help anyone. Likewise, as parents, we must also attend to our own health and well-being before we attend to our children’s, because if we are ill, how can we expect to take care of our children’s health and well-being?
Part of taking care of our health is to lead a balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise. The beneficial effects of regular exercise cannot be emphasised enough – it is medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:
- up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- a 30% lower risk of early death
- up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
Regular exercise can also help us beat depression, anxiety and stress.
Not only that – if we exercise regularly, it will also serve as a good example for our children since we know that children are notorious for doing what we do rather than what we say.
Despite all these wonderful benefits of regular exercise, I know mothers who would feel guilty stealing time away from the kids to get in a workout. I know… because I was like that. Although why we should feel so guilty for doing something that is so important to the care of our children seems ironic.
How much to exercise?
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms
What is moderate intensity aerobic activity?
It will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer – you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song. For example:
- walking fast
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
What are muscle-strengthening activities?
These activities build and maintain strong bones and are usually performed in sets and repetitions, e.g. 8 to 12 repetitions in 2 or 3 sets. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities:
- lifting weights
- working with resistance bands
- doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups and sit-ups
If you’re feeling guilty taking time off from the children, then go hiking with the family – it will knock out three birds with one stone. You get to spend time with your children whom you couldn’t bear to be away from anyway, inculcate healthy habits for the children, and workout all at the same time. Win, win, win. What could be better than that? Playing the Wii Fit Plus can also be another way to make it a family affair.
Staying on track
One of the toughest parts of starting back on a regular exercise regime is sticking to it so here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Variety is the spice of life – if you are finding it hard to stick to the workout you’ve set for yourself, find something new to try that will also get you moving.
- Even a 20 minute workout is better than no workout.
- If you can’t workout, find other ways to get your heart rate up – e.g. take the stairs at the office.
- The hardest part is the first month. If you can stick to the routine for at least that long, it will get easier because you won’t feel right without a workout after that.