We all know exercise makes us healthier. But a better mom? I never would’ve imagined. What all those health journals never told you was that exercise can actually make you a better parent. If I knew about the tremendous impact exercise could have on my ability to parent, I never would’ve waited to feel whole before starting an exercise routine. The truth is, the fastest way to improve your mood, gain energy and be more patient with your kids is through exercise. Here are 10 reasons how exercise made me a better parent.
- You’ll parent from a place of empowerment. There are two types of parents: those who parent from a place of empowerment, and those who parent out of overhwelm. Love but overhwhelm. And while love is the common denominator, kids respond better to empowerment than desperate plea bargaining. The decisive act to exercise and carve time out of your busy day has tremendous psychological benefits. It puts you at the helm of your life. You dictate your schedule, not the other way around. It shifts your mindset from a reactive to a proactive state. And when you’re in command of your own life, you’ll have better equilibrium and poise to parent from a place of calm.
- You’ll have more clarity. Exercise declutters your mind. Many of the world’s movers and shakers say they do their best thinking while exercising. Exercise has been proven to sharpen focus and enhance creativity. You’ll refresh your mind, gain perspective and fight that mommy brain. Those few hours you spend during the week exercising will more than be made up with roadrunner-like efficiency during your day.
- You’ll wake up less cranky. The number one complaint I hear from parents is that they’re tired. Lack of sleep, both in quality and quantity, is usually the main reason. But studies show that moderate-intensity aerobic exercises like walking can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and simultaneously increase the length of sleep. Exercise also has strong effects on reducing symptoms related to insomnia. I used to suffer from insomnia. I’d lie awake after a cycle of sleep, usually around 2am, and stare at the ceiling unable to go back to bed for hours. But since exercising, sleep has come much easier for me. Few things are more important on your quality of life than sleep. You can go days without food, but you can’t go days without sleep. I now wake up much more refreshed and rejuvenated, which makes me better equipped to handle my kids. So when my kids pounce on me or even if the first sound I hear is of them fighting, I have more ability to smile through it. How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. And you can bet your mood has a domino effect on the members of your family too.
- You’ll have more energy. And not just because of better sleep. Any activity that gets your heart rate up, blood flowing and endorphins going, will raise your energy level in the long run. And when you have more energy, you’ll be able to do more with your kids, which will make them happier and more satisfied. Through exercise, you’ll be more likely to play and do active thing with them. The big hurdle for exercise with me (I hated exercise for the first 35 years of my life], is that you will initially feel more tired. But if you exercise consistently, at least three times a week for three weeks, you’ll begin to feel like a whole new you. Without the consistency, you won’t reap the benefits.
- You’ll be more patient. More energy begets more patience, naturally. But when you take time out to do something for yourself and destress, you’ll feel more whole. And from this wholeness will flow a well of patience. Many moms feel guilty about taking their already strained time to do something for themselves. It’s time they could be spending time with their kids after all. But when you take the time to step away from your everyday, stressful surrounding and do something for yourself, you’ll naturally gain more tolerance for your kids. Not to mention that it will add years to your life. That’s more time with your kids too isn’t it?
- You’ll teach by doing. Ever parent knows that the most effective way to get your child to do something is by doing it yourself. Kids are more likely to exercise when their parents do. And the reasons why our sedentary generation of kids should exercise may outnumber our own. But you will be doing more than teaching them about healthy living. You’ll be teaching them what it means to live a life of discipline and how to build good habits.
- You’ll be healthier. Exercise reduces cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and the risk of some cancers. It strengthens your bones and muscles too. But the most surprising and immediate way exercise improved my health was by warding off the common cold and flu. I used to get sick so frequently, I thought my immune system was compromised by some disease. I seldom get sick anymore and I used to get sick at least once a month. Those flu commercials resonate all too well with us moms who seldom get the reprieve from our kids when we need it. There are no such things as sick days when you’re a mom.
- You’ll look better. Many parents who have a negative self-image unwittingly extend it to their children. It is not news that people who do not really like themselves are less capable of loving others. The best place to help your child gain a healthy body image is with you – by loving yourself, your outlook on life, your character, and your body too.
- You’ll eat better. If you care enough about yourself enough to invest in some sweat equity, it’s the natural flow of things to start caring about what you put into your own body and your family’s too. I used to be a fast-food fiend, admittedly. And like any good addict, I used to revisit my cravings despite the bad experience I may have had the day before. But since exercising, I no longer have these cravings, at least not on a daily basis. My fast food intake has diminished to once a week versus three or four times a week prior to exercising. I have yet to come across a study that shows how exercise changes the chemical makeup of your tastebuds. But the mental shift has seemingly affected a physiological change in me.
- You’ll be happier. Happy mom, happy life right? If all of these reasons above haven’t convinced you, consider the deluge of testimonies from former depressives who cite exercise as the starting point for recovering from depression.The paradox of exercise is that the less you feel like exercising, the more you probably need it.The science goes like this. Exercising releases beta-endorphin, a natural substance in the body that is said to be hundreds of times more potent than morphine, as well as serotonin, that feel-good chemical strongly linked to fighting depression. And being a mom in today’s demanding stressful setting, I wouldn’t be surprised if more moms suffer from a bout of depression than may realize. If you aren’t depressed, imagine how much more exercise can catapult your moods. You’ll feel a hell of a lot better than you do now. No matter where you are.
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