Since 1965, women with children have logged increasingly more time watching television and driving, and increasingly less time playing with children, doing chores, and exercising, according to a new report published this week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
In 1965, mothers of children aged 5 to 18 spent 14.2 more hours a week being physically active than being sedentary. In 2010, they spent 3.8 more hours a week being sedentary than they did on physical activity.
Though unemployed mothers might be thought of as having more time for exercise, physical activity has decreased more among mothers who don’t work than among those who have full-time jobs. (Though moms who don’t work still spend more total time being physically active than those who do).
Of course, much of the decline has to do with housework. Dishwashers didn’t become a staple of middle-class homes until the 1970s, and clothes washers and dryers were out of reach for many until the 1980s. Few women today would likely say that their preferred form of exercise is scrubbing shirts on a washboard.
But the other side of the technological-advancement argument is the ubiquity of screen-based entertainment: Physical activity time reached a “nadir” in the 1990s, according to the report authors, just as the Internet became popular and TVs plummeted in price.
The article goes on to talk about the importance of mothers modeling active lifestyles for their children and wonders what the solution could be while throwing in a feminist opinion of history “There was very little good about the days when women were essentially housebound, unpaid manual laborers,” Yes, I’m rolling my eyes. “but ironically that lifestyle might have been better for their physical fitness.” Aha! Yes! This is what I have been wanting to talk about!
I want to get back to doing things all day. I use to do things all day and think “Boy, I need to slow down!” Guess what happened next?
I was raised by very lazy and obese people. They didn’t get up for much and physical play and activities just really didn’t happen. When I was very young my mother would walk everywhere as she had no car but she soon fell into the default of her own upbringing which was inactivity. My grandparents were obese in a time it wasn’t nearly as common as it is now. That tells you something. I was recently telling The Man that my own default is inactivity. When I was younger I fought hard against it as part of my rebellion. I sustained this for years though it always felt like an uphill battle. Thinking back I still could have been far more active but compared to my surroundings I was practically the Usain Bolt of the family. Between bed rest with 4 close pregnancies, PPD, and the influence of a bad friend I fell right back into the family trait I knew to be a bad bad thing.
Fast forward to now when I am trying to climb back up to better health. Activity level matters in this. A lot. But now that I am home educating kids a lot of time is spent sitting at a table with them. And once I sit I’m sat. It’s ridiculously easy to fall into “Kid1 can you grab me the phone?” “Kid2, hand me that notebook, will you?” etc. I don’t even realize I’m doing it when I do it but there you have it.
Working out everyday isn’t enough. At least not for me (coughperfectionistcough). I want to make a point to be active with my kids all day. I want to be up and cleaning and playing as much as I can (because when you are the mom of 5 kids and all 6 of you are home all day cleaning is something you very much need to do all day).
I decided on this after spending much more time with my husband’s family. His grandmother is some 20 years older than my own was when she died and the woman could run circles around me. His aunt, a grandmother herself, runs around the yard with the kids and jumps up out of her chair to dance with them. Here I am needing a damn good reason to peel my behind from my seat. (This is why you’re fat). I am in total awe of his family. I asked him once “are they really this active?” and he looked at me like I had 3 heads. Yes, they are really always that active. Always on their feet, always doing things. And that’s when I realized where my husband got it. My husband is this way and sometimes it drives me nuts because I feel like he is on fast forward and I am in slow motion. I just thought it was his own little quirk. Nope, it’s inherited. He was raised away from them for the most part with a horrible family life but his parents and the influence of his aunt and grandparents when he was around them during the summer greatly impacted him.
Oh crap! What am I doing to me children?!
That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. This isn’t just for me, I need to end the laziness cycle right here and now. Already my kids whine about being up and moving and want to go watch TV. Not okay. Nope. Not okay. I’ve made a terrible mistake and it’s not one that has just affected me and the size of my bum.
So I am reworking the schooling schedule and rethinking how I handle chores, cooking, and “down time”. I have decided to kick the kids’ PE time into full gear and join them in it (oh hello, Jumping Jacks, we meet again).
My goal is to be on my feet more. This means I will be breaking up “sit down schooling” so that we all aren’t sitting for more than an hour at a time. Hour block of schooling, get up and move (PE, chores, simple walk, play break, etc), hour block, get up and move, rinse repeat. I also set up a place to keep my laptop during the day where I need to stand to access it. I have done this before and found it kept me going.
Oh, and no TV during the day. This is going to be hard because it tends to be my saving grace with the twins but The Man and I have thought for some time that TV had become an overwhelming influence in this house and we do not like that at all. The idea is to set a time where we can watch TV after all is said and done but only if all is said and done- chores gotten to, activity level maintained throughout the day, behavior in line, etc.
I truly believe in our modern world it is hard to get up and move throughout the day (baring it being our job) as it’s just not what we do. It’s almost a foreign concept to us at this point. I’d love to hear more about how people stay active throughout the day especially if you find yourself sitting a lot on the job.