It’s a common reason for not exercising, “I just don’t have enough time!” In some instances this could be just a reason you use to justify not having the motivation or desire to exercise. But, in many cases, single moms have every single minute of every day scheduled or committed. The idea of spending 30 to 60 minutes on your own health is overwhelming. You’d like to have 30 minutes to spend with your children, read a book or have the time to spend with a friend of your own, without trying to ‘find’ 30 minutes every day to “get healthy.”
But, and this is a really big BUT, you already know that exercise has too many benefits to neglect it in your own life.
So, what in the world can you do about it?
Dr. Steven Bray, Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada, published research in the Journal of American College of Health which demonstrated that high school students who were active during their high school years were more likely to remain active in college than those who were not active in high school to become active in college. He hypothesized from his discussions with the 127 participants that the changing exercise patterns were related to both increasing demands on their time and changing social patterns. In other words, their work schedule got more hectic and their friends were not active.
The challenge of coping with more demands on their time not only reduced the student’s activity level, but it also reduced their motivation to start a program. If you consider the demands on your own time every day, you’ll discover that both your ability to exercise and your motivation may have been affected.
You can read 10, 20 or 30 different ways of incorporating exercise into your busy schedule without any effect, unless you also change your motivation TO change. Only through learning to adapt to your hectic schedule will you be able to adopt new habits that improve your health and ability to further adapt to your hectic schedule.
It might look like a vicious cycle, and most probably it is!
Every life transition holds the same challenge. When you have a new baby, become single, get a new job, or move to a new city . . . each of these challenges brings more into your life than you might imagine.
However, when you have the tools you need to adapt to change, you can continue to adopt your healthy lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of more energy, better emotional health and greater physical health.
Flexibility is the skill that strengthens your resolve to keep exercise a priority in your life. Unfortunately, it appears that for most, exercise is the first thing that goes when our lives get busy. Developing a flexible mindset about exercise creates the right environment to achieve your goals.
Psychologist from Berlin’s Freie Universitat, Jochen Ziegelmann, found participants in their studies who made goals that included implementation intentions were more likely to continue their program than those who set other types of goals. For instance, an implementation intention may sound like, “I will walk for 10 minutes after lunch and dinner every day.” You might recognize another type of goal that many people will set and verbalize as, “I will exercise three times a week.”
In the first goal the participant knows exactly what is expected and can judge if they are meeting or falling short of their goal. The second, more common type of goal is less objective and less functional.
The results of exercise will not only improve your physical health but also your emotional health and wellness. As a single mom you are facing daily challenges that most mothers face with the support of another parent. Situational sadness or depression is not unusual for the single mom. In a study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, researchers found that single mothers suffered more frequently from an episode of depression in the past 12 months than married mothers. These single moms reported lower levels of social support and infrequent contact with their friends and family. In this study of almost 3,000 women, life events were strongly related to depression.
The good news is that in other research of patients who were diagnosed with clinical depression, over 60 percent who exercised were no longer depressed at the end of the study. This percentage of improvement was very similar to that of patients who both exercised and were given medication. And, those who continued to exercise had a 50 percent less chance of depression six months after the study was completed.
What does this mean for you?
It’s time to develop some flexibility strategies in your daily life to enable you to include exercise.
The first flexibility strategy is in how you THINK about exercise. You aren’t training for the Olympics, running a marathon or competing in Miss Universe contest. Instead, your aim is to move. Exercise is . . .
playing tennis with the children
playing catch in the backyard
throwing the ball for your dog
taking a walk with the children after dinner
kicking a soccer ball or shooting basketball with your young athlete
taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator
going for a walk on your lunch at work
dancing with the children to your favorite music video
stretching while you’re on the phone or making dinner
Of course you can also start jogging, go to the gym or purchase an aerobic tape. But, that’s exactly how you think of exercise now. The biggest reason people stop working out is because they bite off more than they can reasonably accomplish. Their muscles are sore, they get discouraged and suddenly the exercise habit no longer exists.
Flexibility strategy two is to find time you are already spending doing something productive and incorporate even more into your committed time. One way of doing that is to use an inflatable exercise ball. Use the ball as your chair at your desk at home or at work. Sitting on the exercise ball forces you to use your core muscles to balance. It might look easy, but after 15 or 20 minutes you’ll begin to feel your muscles working! [Remember to start slow. Once you’re tired, move back to the office chair and extend the time tomorrow.]
Do you spend time with the kids watching a show in the evening? Sit on the floor with them and stretch or do a mild exercise band routine. Do you spend time on the phone in your home office? Get a stationary bike and use it – SLOWLY – while you’re talking.
Flexibility strategy three is to give yourself grace! There will be days when it all goes well and other days when it all falls apart. The objective is to stay focused on the future and make your changes a permanent habit. If you’re too tired to go for a walk today, no worries! Just don’t give up on it all together. Remember to pick up that habit again tomorrow.
Flexibility strategy four is to value yourself. As a single woman caring for children you focus on 14 other things before thinking of yourself. You might not like exercise, think it’s boring or tried it before and don’t want to try it again. Value the person you are. Your dreams, desires and wishes are tied to being healthy enough to enjoy them. We are given this one body to care for and keep healthy. Without health and wellness we can’t enjoy the little or big things in life.
Remember . . .
Exercise will improve your mood, emotional health and help prevent sadness and depression.
Exercise will improve your physical health, balance, coordination and muscle tone.
Exercise is as simple as starting with a walk for 10 minutes after lunch and dinner.
Exercise will help you adapt to daily stress and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
You are worth every minute that you spend on becoming the best person and mother you can be.
Your next step is to sit down for 10 minutes this evening and think about how you might be able to integrate a few minutes of exercise into your daily activities. Another 10 minutes may feel unmanageable, but remember the Flexibility Strategies.
Change what you think exercise is.
Incorporate those 10 minutes into something you are already doing.
Give yourself GRACE
Value yourself, your health and your time.
Time to grab your calendar, write down your ideas and start creating a healthier body and mind.
Journal of American College of Health: Transition to University and Vigorous Physical Exercise
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology: Stress, Social Support and Depression in Single and Married Mothers