By Gwyn Wright via SWNS
They struggle to do 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, which is the amount recommended by experts.
Women with school-aged children managed 26 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day or 182 minutes of it a week, but that is a mean average and most in fact managed much less.
Having more than one child led moms to only fit in 21 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, or 147 minutes per week.
Moms with children under four years old only did around 18 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day or 126 minutes of it a week.
However, those with several children under five did more light-intensity activity than those with school-aged kids.
Earlier research has found parents do less exercise than non-parents even though it can help with the daily challenges of being a parent and strengthen their relationships with their children.
Exercise also helps ward off a range of health conditions including diabetes and heart disease, as well as boosts our mental health and helps us stay a healthy weight.
They were recruited between 1998 and 2002, given accelerometers to measure how much exercise they did and followed up over subsequent years.
Less than 50 percent of them managed to do the recommended amount of exercise.
“When you have small children, your parental responsibilities can be all-consuming, and it’s often hard to find the time to be active outside of time spent caring for your children," said study author Dr. Kathryn Hesketh from the University of Cambridge.
“Exercise is often therefore one of the first things to fall by the wayside, and so most of the physical activity mums manage to do seems to be of a lower intensity.
“However, when children go to school, mums manage to do more physical activity.
“There are a number of possible reasons why this might be the case, including more opportunities to take part in higher intensity activities with their children; you may return to active commuting; or feel more comfortable using time to be active alone.”
The study’s corresponding author Rachel Simpson, who is a Cambridge PhD student added: “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.”
Study author Professor Keith Godfrey from the University of Southampton 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.”
The findings were published in the journal PLoS One.
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