Kids a drag on parents' health

Kids a drag on parents' health

And among women, young moms tended to eat more calories, sugary drinks and saturated fat—the artery-clogging fat found in meat, butter and milk.

“The fact that young parents would exercise less than their childless peers is not too shocking,” said lead researcher Dr Jerica M Berge, of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

It is in line with the general idea that parents busy caring for a preschooler do not have a lot of time—or energy—to devote to themselves, she said.

If that is the reason for parents’ lower exercise levels, Berge said, then it might be helpful for them to change their ideas of what exercise means. “You may need to redefine how you think of exercise,” Berge said. “It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. You can find a way to fit it into family time. You could, as a family, go for walks together.”

Similarly, a lack of time and energy could make young parents’ diets less than ideal. “Quick-fix” meals, Berge noted, are more likely to be the types that are high in calories and fat—like macaroni and cheese, or chicken nuggets.

So she suggested that parents try to keep healthy snack foods, like fresh vegetables and fruit, on hand for those times they need a quick bite. And even if parents have to whip up a less-than-ideal meal, they can control their portion size.

The findings, which appear in the journal Pediatrics, come from a long-term study that has followed a group of young Minnesota adults since they were in middle school or high school.

The most recent survey covered 1,520 participants who were 25 years old, on average, at the time.  On average, parents got less exercise than young adults without kids. Mothers reported less than two and half hours of moderate-to-vigorous exercise—like brisk walking, jogging or swimming laps—each week; women without children averaged a little more than three hours per week.

Meanwhile, fathers got less than five and half hours each week, versus almost seven hours among men with no kids. When it came to diet, fathers did not differ from other men. But moms averaged close to 400 more daily calories than women without children; they also drank more sugary beverages and consumed slightly more saturated fat.

Women with children also tended to weigh a little more than those without kids. But, Berge said, since most mothers had babies younger than one year, some of that extra weight may have been pregnancy pounds that could still come off.

Still, Berge noted, the young mothers’ diet habits are a “concern” because if they are kept up, moms may find it hard to lose their pregnancy pounds, or may gain weight over time.

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