For busy mums, it can be challenging to find time to be physically active. There are many barriers that prevent mums from being active. Some include the feeling of not having enough time in the day to exercise when juggling household chores, looking after the kids, managing family matters and having a paid job (1). Mums may experience fatigue from this constant ‘juggle of duties’ and don’t feel motivated to get moving. Mums may also feel a lack of support from family members (e.g., husband/partner, children, grandparents) for taking the time to exercise (2,3). However, including regular physical activity in daily life is essential for mental and physical health, especially for busy mums (4). Its inclusion in the daily routine has been shown to have many benefits. Regular physical activity raises energy levels, improves sleep quality, builds cardiovascular fitness, strengthens core and pelvic floor muscles, and also relieves stress (5).
The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 years engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week (6). Additionally, they should include some muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week (6).
Wondering how you can possibly find 150 minutes for physical activity every week in your already hectic schedule? There are many ways mums can be physically active to meet these guidelines. For example, instead of trying to find extra time for physical activity on your own, why not involve the kids?
Physical activity is healthy for the whole family. Involving your children in physical activities is a great way to stay active and model positive behaviour, while also spending time with your children. Plus, getting the kids moving with you will help them reach their own daily physical activity requirements. It’s a win-win!
Simple tips for mums to be physically active with your kids:
Schedule time for physical activity
Family-friendly physical activities like walking, bike riding, swimming, and yoga can be added to the weekly schedule in 30–60 minute sessions. You are more likely to stick to it if you treat it as an important appointment. Defend this time from being taken away by chores and other family schedules.
Choose activities you and the kids enjoy
To motivate you and the kids to be physically active, choose activities that you and the kids enjoy. Consider trying an active game in the backyard, an outdoor obstacle course, swimming, soccer, footy, basketball or a nature walk. When you enjoy an activity, it doesn’t feel like a chore, and you are more likely to do it again.
Make it a family outing
Plan some fun active family outings such as going for a beach walk, bike ride, or hiking in nature. Picnics in the park can include time for outdoor games such as throwing a frisbee, kicking a ball around or playing bocce or Finska. This not only helps you stay active but also provides an opportunity for family bonding. Plus it’s a great way to instill an active healthy lifestyle in your children from a young age.
Look for windows of opportunity
Often, small windows of time pop up throughout the day when you are ‘in between’ things. For example, when you’re waiting for the family to be ready to leave the house, or you’re waiting for the next load of washing, or the dinner is ready but the husband/partner is not yet home. Why not use this time to have an impromptu dance party with the kids or challenge them to a friendly pillow fight? Perhaps head outside to kick a ball or play tag in the backyard. Grab those little windows of opportunity and make them fun and active! It doesn’t need to take a long time, just 10-15 minutes are enough.
Count steps with the kids
Using an activity tracker (Garmin Fitbit, etc), you and the kids can count steps when being physically active together. This can include a simple run in the backyard to achieve 1000 more steps, a neighbourhood walk or a park play. You can also do daily steps challenges with the kids. When you all wear activity trackers, you can challenge each other to get the most steps in the day. You may be surprised to see how motivated kids suddenly are to get moving!
Convert the commute
Have you considered walking with your child to school, the local shops or a nearby park on days when time permits? If the commute is safe and not too far for little legs to handle, ditch the car on occasion! Exploring your community together on foot is a great way to increase daily steps. Discussing what you see along the way, looking out for known landmarks, and taking in the sights and sounds of the great outdoors can be turned into an adventure for the whole family. Parking a little further away from your destination and taking stairs instead of a lift when out and with the kids is another way to boost activity levels.
Get into gardening
Planting and caring for a backyard vegetable garden is a fantastic way to promote health and be physically active as a family. Tasks like digging, raking, sowing seeds, using a watering can, and weeding all involve dynamic body movements that help to build strength, mobility, and flexibility. In addition to the physical activity benefits, gardening is a lovely bonding experience for parents and children, an opportunity to learn about nutritious foods, and time to explore environmental sustainability.
When you can't get outdoors, be active indoors
If you are stuck inside for whatever reason, setting up a safe indoor obstacle course or circuit to do with your children can help keep everyone active. This could include things like crawling under or weaving through a row of chairs, or jumping in and out of a hula hoop. Perhaps try walking on a balance board or along a piece of masking tape stuck to the floor, or throwing beanbags or rolled-up pairs of socks into a laundry basket. Dancing games like Freeze and the Hokey Pokey are also lots of fun to do together. You could even try kid-friendly yoga as a family to help wind down after a busy day indoors.
As you can see, there are many practical and fun ways to stay physically active with the kids. Which of these tips will you try out today?
- Edie R, Lacewell A, Streisel C, Wheeler L, George E, Wrigley J, et al. Barriers to Exercise in Postpartum Women: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review. Journal of women’s health physical therapy. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, WK Health; 2021;45(2):83–92. https://doi.org/10.1097/JWH.0000000000000201
- Connolly CP, Feltz DL, Pivarnik JM. Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: The Potential Impact of Social Support. Kinesiology review (Champaign, Ill.). Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2014;3(2):135–48. https://doi,org/10.1123/kr.2013-0009
- Hamilton K, White KM. Parental physical activity: Exploring the role of social support. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2010 Sep 1;34(5):573-84. https://doi.org/10.5993/AJHB.34.5.7
- Bull FC, Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, Borodulin K, Buman MP, Cardon G, et al. World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British journal of sports medicine. England: BMJ Publishing Group LTD; 2020;54(24):1451–62.
- Limbers CA, McCollum C, Ylitalo KR, Hebl M. Physical activity in working mothers: Running low impacts quality of life. Women's Health. 2020 Jun;16:1745506520929165. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745506520929165
- Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care. Australian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults (18–64 years). 2021. Available online: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-adults-18-to-64-years (accessed on 13 April, 2023).
About the Authors
Stephanie Schoeppe is a a Research Fellow/Senior Lecturer within the Physical Activity Research Group at CQUniversity. She completed a Master of Social Sciences (2002) at Hanover University in Germany, and a PhD (2015) in Public Health at CQUniversity. Her research focuses on promoting an active healthy lifestyle in children, adults and families using technology (websites, apps, activity trackers). She has authored 67 peer-reviewed publications, produced 13 commissioned research reports (including 6 for the World Health Organization and 3 for the Australian Federal Government), and co-authored a WHO guideline ('Implementation of the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health - A guide for population-based approaches to increasing physical activity'). Dr Schoeppe has delivered 64 presentations and secured over $1,150,000 in research funds (e.g., NHMRC, NHF, ARC, QLD Government, WHO). She was awarded two early career research fellowships in 2016 (NHMRC & NHF) and has received multiple awards such as the VC/Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Early Career Researchers (2017) and Queensland Young Tall Poppy Award (2019). In 2022, she received the Mary McConnel Career Boost Grant for Women in Paediatric Research by the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Rebecca Williams is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science and working as a casual research assistant on a variety of projects at CQUniversity. These are linked to the 10,000 Steps program, as well as the public health and psychology disciplines. She has a background in the community services sector related to early childhood and has spent many years as a childcare centre educator and director. She lives in Central Queensland with her partner and has a strong interest in the advocacy and promotion of physical activity for children and families.
The Activate Your Everyday Series is proudly supported by the Queensland Government and Health and Wellbeing Queensland through ActiveKIT Round 2