Dads Finding it Increasingly Hard to Exercise, Too
Many modern women feel intense pressure to have it all: family, career, health; balance. And they’re finding it increasingly difficult. Especially balance. Many women report feeling they have too little time to balance work, exercise, and the demands of raising a family. But mothers aren’t alone. Dads are feeling the pinch, too. That’s according to a new report in BMC Public Health.
Research has consistently shown that having children significantly limits adults’ engagement in physical activity. It’s not hard to guess why. Raising children takes massive amounts of energy and effort, and leaves little time for “extras,” like working out for one’s personal enjoyment or benefit. Men feel less inhibited about fitting in exercise than women, especially during work hours. Some women feel judged by co-workers if they workout in the middle of the day, for example, or find there’s too little time to workout and freshen up afterwards.
But even men struggle with work/life balance. “A decline or lack of exercise among working parents has mostly been recognized as a female issue,”said Kansas State University kinesiology researcher, Emily Mailey, in a press release.“The ethic of care theory — that females have been socialized to meet everyone else's needs before their own — explains why women feel guilty when they take time to exercise, though the same principle hasn't been studied for fathers.”
Mailey addressed that lack, and discovered that modern fathers struggle with similar issues. Lack of time and guilt came up frequently as barriers to regular exercise. “The guilt parents feel is because they think of exercise as a selfish behavior,” Mailey said. “Fathers reported guilt related to family and taking time for themselves, whereas mothers reported guilt related to family, taking time for themselves and work.”
Those who found time to make it work benefited from a change in their thinking. Exercise is not an indulgence. It’s a basic behavior that ensures longterm health and fitness. “Regardless of their activity levels, parents view their families as the top priority,” Mailey said. “Active parents were able to see exercise as something that contributed to the good of the family and that was not at odds with being good parents. As a result, they felt less guilty about taking time to exercise and were more apt to prioritize physical activity because they valued the benefits.”
Emily L Mailey, Jennifer Huberty, Danae Dinkel, Edward McAuley. Physical activity barriers and facilitators among working mothers and fathers. BMC Public Health, 2014; 14 (1): 657 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-657