When you become a mom, suddenly your time is no longer your own—and that includes taking time to go for a run. But many research studies show that running makes you a better mom.
Obviously, I believe this in my heart—otherwise, I would not have founded The Mother Runners.
Related: The Mother Runners coaching services
When I was pregnant with my first kid, people loved to tell me how I could kiss doing the things I loved to do good-bye, including running. “You won’t have the time,” they said. I remember trying to help co-workers with young kids carve out time in their busy schedules to hit the pavement or the gym. But it seemed close to impossible.
What about the parents who found time to exercise? Were they bad parents because they were taking time away from their kids to do something for themselves? Were they selfish?
Why moms don’t run
Sadly, when I had my first child, I thought this. I NEEDED running so badly: the time to myself feel like my old self again, to not be anxious about every baby sound or feeding her around-the-clock. But I felt so selfish leaving her (wailing) to do something for me.
Too many parents let the barriers of busy schedules, sleepless nights, and guilt stop them from running—or doing something for themselves.
The result is not good. You trade those few hours you take for yourself a week in for a parent who is unhealthy (potentially overweight), resentful, stressed, short-tempered, anxious, unhappy, and even depressed.
Related: How to get rid of mom guilt for good
Research shows that self-care is like emotional first aid: you take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others.
Most mother runners have encountered those underhanded comments from naysayers about how they wish they had enough time to run or that it’s “so nice” to take that time for yourself. These comments don’t come from a good place. We are all busy but if there is a will, there is a way.
And now, I am offering research-backed reasons for you to keep running and keep setting goals—because it makes you a better mom. So keep going, mother runners!
7 Reasons Running Makes You a Better Mom
Running helps you keep up with your kids.
First thing’s first, running gives you stamina. As Ironman finisher and mother runner Allison of Gig Harbor, WA puts it: Her running is “training to keep up with my toddler.”
Indeed, no one needs stamina more than a mom because let’s face it—kids are energy suckers. They have endless amounts of energy, so you need energy to keep up physically and mentally. No one wants to be the wet blanket mom sitting on the sidelines or turning down fun activities because you can’t keep up.
Research shows people who exercise regularly feel more energetic throughout the day. More than the physical benefits—there are lots of mental benefits. People who exercise regularly have an overall better sense of wellbeing.
People who exercise regularly, aka runners:
- sleep better at night (there is a powerful reason RIGHT there to run!),
- have lower blood pressure,
- are more productive,
- have better moods,
- have a healthier heart,
- eat less sugar,
- have sharper memories,
- have stronger immune systems,
- and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
Running makes you a happier mom.
When you feel bad about yourself, chances are you aren’t very nice to the people around you (including your kids). You are cranky and feel defeated.
Studies show running boosts your self-esteem. As Rachel F. of Knoxville, TN shares: “When I get time to run, I always feel happier and excited to be home!”
She’s not alone. Running makes you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel empowered, strong, and gives you a sense of achievement. And, research shows, it is a wonderful tool for common mental health challenges like depression and anxiety.
Running also gives you that so-called runner’s high—a dose of feel-good endorphins—that gives you a sense of euphoria and makes you feel less pain. The effects of running are so powerful, it can relieve depression symptoms. One study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by more than 25 percent. It also found that maintaining an exercise schedule reduced the chance of relapsing into depression.
Running makes you a more patient mom.
Ask pretty much any mother runner about a benefit of their running and they will say that it gives them more patience. Andi R. of Rockford, MI, sums up what a lot of mother runners feel when she says that “running helps me have more patience and get my antsy anxiety out.”
Research supports that: one study shows that exercise in particular helps you self-regulate, or control your emotions better, in difficult situations.
More studies show that exercise is a natural and effective way to reduce anxiety. It relieves stress, boosts energy, and gives you those feel-good endorphins.
The physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body, too. And because the mind and body are connected, when your body feels better, so does your mind.
Countless mother runners credit their runs with helping them relieve work stress before going back into mom mode or helping them hit re-set when they’re kids are stressing them out.
Your running shows your kids how to live healthy.
Our kids mirror what we do. And what better way to show them how to live healthy and take care of the only body we will ever have then to run, eat well, prioritize sleep, and overall make good health choices?
Running is a lifestyle. To reap the benefits, you have to treat your body well. By doing that, you are showing your kids what it means to be healthy. And what more do we want for our kids then for them to be healthy (& be better listeners…)?
There are loads of research that shows the benefits of exercise for kids. There are the obvious physical health benefits which are so needed as less than 20 percent of children meet the physical activity guidelines.
Then, there are a host of mental health benefits for kids from exercise: Some of the psychosocial health benefits of running in children include:
- perceived competence and confidence,
- stress relief,
- anxiety management,
- and development of key life skills like goal setting, teamwork, and cooperation.
Your running teaches your kids about goal-setting.
Your running also shows kids what it’s like to set a goal and work hard to reach it. Our little sponges are soaking up every early morning run, every ounce of grit used in a race, every rebound from tough workouts or bad races.
Similarly, for kids who start running with their parents, the sport provides a wonderful platform for them to set goals, achieve them over time, and grow confidence at an age when confidence starts to decline.
As Elizabeth M. from Knoxville, TN notes: “My running shows my kids that if they work hard, they can achieve their goals.”
Your running teaches kids how to not give-up.
Research shows that exercise builds resilience so that we can bounce back from life challenges in a healthy way. It gives us a “no quit” attitude that permeates through the rest of our life into our offspring.
I’ll never forget when I was having a down moment while riding the 1.5 yearlong injury cycle of my hamstring tear. My daughter heard me crying to my husband saying that “maybe I should just quit running.”
I had so many ups and downs that I was contemplating dropping my Olympic Trials qualifying dream. Eleanor, 6, interrupted. “No, Mom. You CAN’T! You were meant for running.” She absorbed by perseverance and gave it right back to me when I needed it.
Running helps you live in the moment.
Mindfulness, or living in the moment, is a key for happiness. A plethora of studies show how mindfulness reduces stress, improves outlook, and betters your overall health. Running conditions us to to be mindful by forcing us to pay attention to how we are feeling mentally and physically every step of the way. It forces us to connect our minds and bodies, and this connection can spill over into the rest of our lives—soaking in the little moments of the day that make life great.
Rebecca Weinand, a mother runner and health and wellness coach who studies mindfulness, says for her: “running re-energizes me physically but it is the time my mind and heart need to naturally declutter. This creates space so I can be present and more focused on my life outside of running.”
Running can empower us to shut out distractions and be present with our kids—an invaluable gift as we know time as a parent is fleeting.
You know that saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Well, it’s true. There is a reason why you put your oxygen mask on first in an airplane. You can’t help others if you’re running out of air.
Running gives you time for yourself, to do something for yourself. It allows you to fully embrace the time you have with your family by filling your cup, by giving you the air and the space to be the best mom you can be.
And, now you have research to prove it.