Benefits for Baby

Benefits of Mom’s Exercise for Baby


You know that guilty feeling you get when you skip a workout? You’re about to experience a whole new kind of workout guilt. Thanks to all of the demands of motherhood, you will never have enough time to do everything you think you should be doing as a mother. You’ll never have all of the laundry folded, the whole house clean, the dishes done, wholesome from-scratch meals made, and Pinterest-worthy activities prepared before your little ones awaken… at least not at the same time for the next 5+ years.


Motherhood is so busy that it’s not really a matter of getting off of your duff or out of Facebook-land to start your workout. It’s a matter of giving up some other task to do your workout. Some other task that you feel like you should be doing as a mom. And when you do that, welcome to mommy guilt during your workout!

So I am going to share with you several huge reasons to play over again in your mind when the mommy guilt creeps in during your workout.

So I am going to share with you several huge reasons to play over again in your mind when the mommy guilt creeps in during your workout.

 Warning: If you’re struggling with guilt from not working out, this page will only add to that guilt, and I realize that guilt itself is a barrier to exercise, so bookmark this to read later, when you are working out regularly. Or if you really feel you need a kick in the pants to exercise regularly. And instead go work out. Now.

Here’s a big myth about exercise as a mom: The single best thing you can do to inspire a lifetime of movement in your little one is to set a positive example. Yep, you read that right, it’s a myth. It’s true that setting a positive example is very important, particularly during the first 3 years of your baby’s life, but there are other key things that you need to do in order to establish a healthy and active lifestyle for your little one as he or she grows.


When my son was born I took comfort from my mommy guilt in knowing that I was setting a positive example by exercising during his naps or before he woke in the morning. But a little part of me wondered exactly how that worked.


Would my 7 month old see me in exercise clothes and assume that I had been exercising as he slept? Would he hear me talking about it later? How could I possibly be making an impact? Once again, I hit the medical journals to find out. Here’s what you need to know:


To establish a lifelong love of movement in your little one, research shows you need to do 3 things:

1. Get in shape and keep it up
2. Be active with your child
3. Support your child’s athletic endeavors


All three of those things are important throughout your child’s life, but each one takes center stage at a different point. So you have to do all three, but with special emphasis on one or the other as the years go by. Let me break it down for you by age.

Get in shape and keep it up: Spotlight in the first 3 years


Research shows that your body mass index (BMI) during your child’s first 3 years of life is more predictive of their future risk for overweight and obesity than their own BMI during those first 3 years. A child under 3 with one obese parent is 3 times as likely to become obese as an adult compared to a child under 3 with neither parent obese.1,2

Your child’s activity level will mirror your activity level. For moms and their children, research shows that correlation is high, at 73%.3 If you take more steps during the day, so will your child. This is true regardless of your child’s gender, and the correlation grows stronger with age.4

When you exercise during those first 3 years of your child’s life, you’re establishing a culture of movement in your home and family that has a good chance of lasting a lifetime for your child.5 The first 5 years of life are the most important years for instilling that culture of movement, and you’ll first see the effects when your child is 4.4,5

By the time your child is between the ages of 4 and 7, children with active moms are twice as likely to be physically active as children with inactive moms.4 As time goes on, an active child will turn into an active teenager, and an active teenager will turn into an active adult. It’s especially important to reinforce a culture of movement and activity in your little one during points of transition in their lives, including transitioning from elementary to middle school and during puberty.6

You have to set that positive example and weave movement into your family’s life throughout your little one’s childhood, and the most important time to set that in motion and weave exercise into the fabric of your life is when your child is between 0 and 3.

Be Active With Your Child: Spotlight from age 4-10


Being active with your child means doing physical activities with them. Meaning they’re doing the activity, too.

When your little one is a baby, being active with your child means doing tummy time together. For a toddler that means dancing and jumping and playing together. For a child and teenager that means hiking or running together, playing sports together, riding bikes, or just taking a morning stroll together.

A great book for ideas is The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen. I’m too boring to think of these things myself, and I’m too old to remember how to roughhouse, so this book is a great asset, especially because I am a mom of a super energetic boy. I hide this book from my husband, though, because some of the ideas in this book are too much for me (the faint of heart), and my husband does not need any more ideas for “dangerous things to try at home with your child.” I am perfectly capable of censoring for safety, however, so this is a favorite book of mine that I keep handy.

Your child will mirror your activity level during the times you are together, so as your child starts school and you’re with your child less, it’s important to carve out time to be active together during the time you spend with your child. This is especially important for preschool aged children to children aged 9 or 10. Children with parents who spend time being active with them (instead of always watching from the sidelines) are more active themselves, and when both parents are active, this effect is amplified.7

Facilitate and Encourage Your Child’s Interests in Movement and Sports: Spotlight from age 10-18


The best way to facilitate and encourage your child’s interest in movement and sports is to start at an early age by being present. That means really, physically and mentally, present. Turn off the TV, put away the smartphone, shut the computer, and be present. For tummy time. At the park. And for a track meet, wearing team colors.

Worldwide research shows the more screen time (big and little screens) children are exposed to, the higher their BMI will be. Putting away the screens for everybody is a first (and very important) step in facilitating movement.8

Over time, facilitating and encouraging will look more like cheering your child on at events and providing logistical support for their athletic endeavors. There is actual research to show that teens with parents who provide more logistical support are more athletically active.9-11


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2. Østbye T, Krause KM, Stroo M, et al. Parent-focused change to prevent obesity in preschoolers: Results from the KAN-DO study. Preventive Medicine. 2012;55(3):188-195.
3. Craig CL, Cameron C, Tudor-Locke C. Relationship between parent and child pedometer-determined physical activity: a sub-study of the CANPLAY surveillance study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2013;10(8):1-8.
4. Jacobi D, Caille A, Borys J-M, et al. Parent-Offspring Correlations in Pedometer-Assessed Physical Activity. Moormann AM, ed. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(12):e29195.
5. Campbell KJ, Hesketh KD. Strategies which aim to positively impact on weight, physical activity, diet and sedentary behaviours in children from zero to five years. A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Reviews. 2007;8(4):327-338.
6. Malina RM. Tracking of physical activity and physical fitness across the lifespan. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 1996;67(S3):48-57.
7. Fuemmeler BF, Anderson CB, Mâsse LC. Parent-child relationship of directly measured physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8(1):17. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-17.
8. Braithwaite I, Stewart AW, Hancox RJ, Beasley R. The worldwide association between television viewing and obesity in children and adolescents: cross sectional study. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9).
9. Oliver M, Schofield GM, Schluter PJ. Parent influences on preschoolers’ objectively assessed physical activity. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2010;13:403-409.
10. Rosenkranz RR. Maternal physical-activity-related parenting behaviors may influence children’s physical activity levels and relative weight. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal. 2011;20(1):3-12.
11. Tucker P, van Zandvoort MM, Burke SM, Irwin JD. The influence of parents and the home environment on preschoolers” physical activity behaviours: A qualitative investigation of childcare providers” perspectives. BMC Public Health. 2011;11(1):168.