WORDS BY ERICA NEWTON, MYFIRSTGYM CO-FOUNDER
This Mothers’ Day I’ll be taking my kids for a jog. And no, not because I’m the co-founder of MyFirstGym or because I’m training for some ridiculously long Ironman (that’s Dan’s department! (here)).We’ll be working those leg muscles because I need to show them how to do it. I mean, yes, they can run. Gah! This isn’t going well. Let me start again…
Getting active with my children is intrinsically important to their development, and revolves around my most crucial responsibility as a mother. And yes, that’s in addition to being the taxi driver, cook, sock finder and bad-day-at-school counsellor.
Our most important role as parents.
As parents, we are our children’s first role model. They have learned everything from us. From how to eat, talk to and interact with others, to when it’s appropriate to be on our phones, whether honesty and integrity is something to be valued or whether a ‘me first’ attitude is appropriate… our children learn all of this and more from us. They are constantly watching, absorbing and then synthesising what we do, say and how we act into their own ways of being. DNA is never the whole story: they are the true mirror of ourselves because we taught them to be that way.
Parenting, huh? No pressure.
So, I’ll be taking my kids on a jog on Mothers’ Day. I want exercise to be an indelible part of their lives, something they have learnt to be a natural, obvious thing to do. And no, not just because of MyFirstGym and not because it looks good Instagram.
The future health of our children is frightening.
Despite the National Obesity Strategy implemented by our government, the rates of children in Australia who are overweight or obese is skyrocketing thanks to poor diet , increased screen time and lack of exercise. According to one study, only one in four children met the Australian guidelines for physical activity of at least 60 minutes per day. And that was pre-Covid! The statistics are incredibly dire: we are staring down the barrel of a burdened health system and a generation of children and parents who are sick beyond measure.
As a mother, my children’s health and wellbeing is paramount. I know feeding them nutritious meals and ensuring they get enough exercise, sleep and love is vital to that. But I also know that I must model those things too. I will always be their first lesson in how to be healthy. Don’t misunderstand me! There is DEFINITELY a place for a box of chocolates and perhaps a cheeky afternoon margarita come Mothers’ Day!! It’s MY day after all. But we’ll be going on that jog. We’ll probably be eating pancakes cooked into wonky shapes by the kids afterwards, but at least I’ll have gotten one lesson in before the Festival of Me begins!
None of us are perfect in this whole parenting thing, we can all improve. The good news is that being a better role model for your kids in regards to exercise is actually pretty easy. Here are some strategies to bring more exercise into your (and your children’s) daily life:
- Walk the dog as a family.
- Ride your bike (don’t drive) to the shops for bread and milk.
- Play tag in the backyard or the *something* is lava at the playground.
- Use the weekends to go for longer bushwalks, treasure hunts on foot or a bike ride.
- Try something new: yoga, pickleball, Parkrun- anything! And encourage your kids to try new things too: gymnastics, parkour or ninja warrior.
- Make time to exercise every day, and make it sacred (i.e., don’t skip it!)
- Join a gym or a club where you or your kids can exercise regularly.
Finally, parenting is tough! And I may be biased, but mothers are the toughest. Happy Mothers’ Day to every mum and all the women out there who love, care for and are doing their absolute best for our children. You’ve got this Mama!