Chasing Your Kid: Legit Workout Plan or Wishful Thinking?

Mildly Inappropriate Mommy presents a fitness experiment….

Indulge me for a minute as I brag about my personal trainer: He’s big on the cardio and has me running all the time. He’s no slouch when it comes to upper-body toning too, constantly forcing me to work my arms. And I’d be remiss if I neglected to stress the many squats that are involved in our training sessions; often, he’ll even throw things on the floor just so I can pick them up.

Did I mention he’s under three feet tall and thus far, can’t quite master the art of blowing his own nose?

The idea that my son was actually helping me stay in shape didn’t dawn on me until I recently attended a wedding with the little man in tow. I spent much of the celebration chasing my son around the reception venue, stealing longing glances at the open bar every now and again and imagining an alternate universe where my childless self was double-fisting something other than a sippy cup and a milk bottle. But when I did manage interactions with adults, a number of them shared remarks such as “With him running around, you don’t need a diet!” and “Boy, he’ll sure keep you skinny!”


A mother chases her son in this file photo. Is such exercise enough to keep her fit?

Suddenly, it didn’t seem so bad that I’d forsaken the gym for one too many trips to the local Gymboree. Who needs fancy work-out equipment when you’ve got your very own giggly, wiggly 24-pound dumbbell?

I wondered if others had had this experience — a survey of my Facebook friends proved inconclusive — so I decided to do some research.

It turns out that just this past spring, a team of academics led by Jerica Berge at the University of Minnesota Medical School published the results of a study comparing the health of parents of young children to non-parents. Their findings: Mothers, in particular, consumed more sugar-sweetened drinks and saturated fats and had higher body-mass indexes than non-moms. Both moms and dads had lower amounts of physical activity than childless folks.

So…that was depressing.

BUT Berge and company’s report also noted that researchers may not have been able to “adequately capture the types of activities in which parents engage.”

It went on to say that, “Rather than purposefully exercising during their leisure time, parents of young children may have many short bursts of physical activity when chasing or playing with their child, carrying their child, walking to the park with their child, or wrestling with their child.”

Bingo! This described me to a tee! Even the wrestling — if you count thumb wrestling, that is. (Don’t even think about challenging me to a thumb war. You’ll be sorry.)

I followed up with Dr. Berge on whether such physical activity was, in fact, beneficial to my well-being. She answered that — yay! — in fact it could be, provided that I was engaging in such activity for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Chasing him around a wedding during half of cocktail hour probably counts. Lifting him out of his playpen and handing him to his father — not so much.

There is another catch: For a kid-chasing workout plan to actually show results, my mommy friends and I need to cut down on our intake of high fat and high caloric foods while making sure to keep eating fruits, veggies and whole grains.

That, Dr. Berge said, “would balance out the equation.”

…And we’re back to depressing. If eating right was easy, we’d all do it.

Still, it’s nice to know that kid-related exercise can do a body good — not to mention the soul. Even in three-inch heels and a bridesmaid’s dress that was picking a fight with my ribs, tearing after my little one as he scampered across the grass was downright fun.

My alternate universe self — that lush — doesn’t know what she’s missing.


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