Majority of mums say exercise makes them feel guilty

Sarah Knapton
The This Girl Can campaign will encourage more mothers to exercise 

The majority of mothers do not exercise because they feel too guilty about taking time away from their children, Sport England has found.

A survey of 1,000 mothers of youngsters aged from newborns to six years old, showed that most would prioritise family, cooking and housework over keeping fit, while 61 per cent said exercising made them worry they were neglecting their responsibilities.

However Sport England warned that mothers have a greater influence on their offspring’s activity levels than fathers and said it was important that children saw them exercising to normalise it as part of everyday life.

Many mothers said they did not have the time to exercise, with almost one third reporting they had less than 60 minutes of time to themselves each day.

Lisa O’Keefe, Insight Director, Sport England said: “Children with active parents – particularly mothers - are more likely to be active themselves. And children who have positive experiences of sport and physical activity early on are also more likely to prioritise being active in later life.

“We know with school runs, children’s parties and home life, time is short, and many women tell us they feel guilty spending it exercising.

“All of us have a role to play in making mums feel okay about prioritising getting active as they would other things in their lives. Whether that’s dads, partners, friends and family, with words of encouragement or a helping hand, we are all in this together.”

Previous Sport England research has shown that young people aged 11-15 with an active mother are more likely to be active, compared with young people with an inactive mother.

The campaign aims to encourage women to take part in exercise no matter what their age, ability or body shape

When asked to name their top priorities outside of work, mothers were most likely to prioritise tasks spending time with family, housework, with only one in five (17 per cent) mothers saying they prioritised exercise.

Whilst over three quarters of mums (77 per cent) want to do more exercise, lack of time was cited as the top reason why mothers are not more physically active, while a further fifth (21 per cet) said the cost of keeping fit was too high.

To help mothers fit exercise around family life, Sport England has released a series of tips, advice and home workout ideas as part of its This Girl Can campaign, which encourages women to stay active.  A new advert will also be broadcast.

Mims Davies, Minister for Sport and Civil Society said:  “This research makes clear just how influential mums can be on their children’s physical activity levels, which is so important for mental wellbeing, educational outcomes and development of important life skills like teamwork and leadership.

“We are determined to get half a million more people into sport and physical activity across England by 2020, with at least half of these being women.”

“We are making good progress. The This Girl Can campaign has inspired 3.9 million women and girls to participate in sport and physical activity.”

This Girl Can was launched in 2015 by Sport England to address the gender gap in sport and exercise after polling showed 75 per cent of women fear the judgement of others too much to keep fit.

Commenting on the new findings, psychologist, Emma Kenny said: “This research gives mums a really powerful message about the importance of self-care.

“As a mum, you may believe that looking after everyone else’s needs is your main priority, but the truth is that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost, because that ensures you have the energy to look after those you love.

“The best thing about being a healthy and active mum is how it translates to your children. Research shows that active mums have more active kids, and that makes for a healthier family, and a fitter future, something every parent wants for their children.”