Exercise important for moms

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

This week I took my youngest daughter, 11 months old, to a play date with several other moms, which was really an opportunity for me to enjoy some grownup company. As it often happens when women get together, our conversation eventually drifted toward issues of weight and looks, culminating with a general complaint about the fact that children, age and gravity take a toll on our bodies.

Yes, the conversation is a cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason – it’s on our minds.

And also on our minds is whether and what we can do about looking and feeling better. But when we started talking about exercise and diet plans, several of the moms said it was simply impossible for them to get exercise or eat well. The general consensus was that there isn’t time, and that after having kids, or after 30, the metabolism slows anyway. Besides, many women never liked lifting weights or going to the gym even before having a family, now it’s just that much harder.

While it turns out I was the only person in the group who consistently exercises, I share many of the difficulties my friends were expressing. It is tough to find time and energy to hit the gym or go for a run.

Believe me, I have my own foibles, but where my friends and I differed here was in our outlook on exercise and sports. I have to exercise. It doesn’t matter what shape or form it takes. It’s something that helps not only my body but also my mind and contributes to my general well-being.

When I’m sick and can’t do any physical activity, I’m down and lethargic, but as soon as I can go for a jog or even a brisk walk, my spirit lifts.

With my husband gone for most of the year, I have to work hard to find time but the rewards are worth the effort.

With five children, I can empathize with the difficulty in finding childcare. I have always tried either to join a gym with free day care, which is a wonderful service, or find a trustworthy teenage girl who lives in my neighborhood and can watch the kids while I run around the block.

I am sure that for some moms it’s virtually impossible to find childcare or leave the house – baby-sitters and gym memberships are often additional expenses we can’t afford. But spending money isn’t the only way to find time.

Try an exercise tape or some sit-ups, pushups and stretching. Even yard work or taking your dog for a walk counts. Thirty minutes of exercise five days a week is a recommended goal, and it’s not as hard as it seems.

Fortunately, my husband has always been supportive of my need to exercise, not only because he is the same way, but because there is nothing worse than an Italian woman with lots of pent-up energy to spare aimlessly walking around the house.

Yes, sometimes taking time to exercise means taking time from something else. But the biggest obstacle is commitment. Sometimes what we steal time from is less than essential (like my former “Nick at Nite” habit).

An active exercise regime won’t ever be everyone’s top priority. The important thing to realize is that your family isn’t what’s holding you back, it’s your priorities. Put exercise high on your list, and you’ll get it done.