Do SAHMs Need To Work Out? {7QT}

— 1 —

Other Type-A people out there might relate to the feeling I often have that there is always one more thing I should be doing.  Right now that list includes: writing handwritten letters, calling my Grandma more often, taking vitamins regularly, refinancing our mortgage, revamping my paper filing system, and always always getting more exercise.

In the back of my mind I always think about how they say I should get regular cardiovascular exercise.  They used to say 30 minutes three times a week.  Now they say 20 minutes every day.  “They” are never satisfied.

I’ve failed at every attempt at regular exercise I’ve made recently.  Jogging laps around our tiny yard got old fast, especially when the weather got warm.

Backyard route

I tried Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred but quit about halfway through when it caused sharp pain in my knees.

Most recently, I tried a 30 day yoga challenge.  The routines are only about 12 minutes and about 75% it consists of lying on the floor.  I even teamed up with my sister as long-distance accountability partner.  Still, I haven’t stuck with it (sorry, Martha).

— 2 —

Pat has outfitted his home office with a standing desk.  He has been convinced by the evidence (explained here and elsewhere), as have I, that sitting for hours a day is detrimental to one’s health.  We humans are meant for standing and walking.

As I finished cleaning the kitchen one recent night I looked at the clock.  It was 8:30.  I had been “on the job,” such as it is, for 14 hours.  And I had been on my feet for most of those hours.  (By the way, being on my feet is not nearly as uncomfortable as it used to be now that I wear my Birks.)

This got me thinking: do I really need additional exercise?  I have the equivalent of a standing desk–nay, a walking desk–all day every day.  Can I possibly get the guilt of not-working-out behind me for good?

— 3 —

I know there are lots of reasons for working out:

— 4 —

do need to do core-strengthening exercises to keep my back functional.  Something happened to it in the course of pregnancy and baby-wearing and my back will never be the same again.   But lately I can stay one step above decrepit with about five minutes per day of easy strengthening and stretching and occasional trips to a chiropractor.

— 5 —

The first reason that occurs to most of us is weight-loss or weight-maintenance.  I’m growing skeptical of the need here, though.  The last time I worked out regularly and was in good shape was in the five months or so before I got pregnant with Girl 2.

In those five months, I gained at least five pounds, and I don’t think it was all muscle.  My clothes got tighter too.  The few times I’ve successfully lost weight have been when I cut calories. Exercise doesn’t seem to help much.

— 6 —

Another reason people exercise is to reduce stress and get endorphins flowing.  Right now this reason is the most persuasive for me.  But I wonder, can’t some easy yoga achieve this result?  Do I really need to sweat?

Surely this:


Yoga (Photo credit: RelaxingMusic)

can improve my mood just as well as this?

Jillian Michaels, image via

— 7 —

The remaining reason I can think of to really work up a sweat is for cardiovascular health and for keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in check.  With my family’s health history, I don’t take all this lightly.

My impression, though, is that “exercise” is modern man’s recreation of the normal strenuous physical activity that people have had to do to survive in almost every time and place other than my own.  So shouldn’t my active lifestyle (the “brute physicality” of mothering littles, as Jenny puts it) be enough to keep my ticker ticking?

On the other hand, I’m not exactly drawing water from a well and washing clothes on a washboard.

What do you think?

Have a good weekend! Thank you, Jen at Conversion Diary, for hosting today’s link up!


29 thoughts on “Do SAHMs Need To Work Out? {7QT}

  1. I am always trying to fit it in here and there. This week I have tried getting up before my kids to get it in. Whew-it has been a tough week. We hike and walk a lot but I don’t feel like that is getting my body healthy. I still feel the need for a good 30 minute to an hour workout.

  2. As a word of encouragement, standing does burn more calories than sitting. According to the app I’ve been using to track my calories and exercise (if you can call it that 🙂 for my age, weight, and height, I burn 95 calories sitting for an hour as opposed to 135 calories while standing. Housework burns considerably more than that. That made me feel better to know every little thing adds up. Maybe you can try a pedometer or a free app that tracks your steps and you might be surprised at what you’re really accomplishing. (not to mention how many times a day you probably lift those little ones!)

  3. I think you should leave your guilt behind because in all of your attempts at working out that you say you have failed at, it’s time you have spent working out 🙂 Even if you haven’t kept at it for a long time, you have been working out.

  4. This is great. If you really work at keeping the house clean, it is a good moderate exercise. I’m agreeing with the thesis here.

    Paul Jaminet suggests that the primary benefit of exercising is that it gets you outside in the sun during the daylight; it helps regulate your circadian rhythm. I try to walk outside in the sunlight for 15 – 20 min a day and then I call it. I would like to add some light toning exercises and core exercises just because I’ve notice feel better about myself when I do them. I don’t know if I actually LOOK different, but feeling good is half the battle, IMO.

    I actually find that trying to do yoga stresses me out more. I sit there in the morning thinking of all the things i could otherwise be doing with that half hour or 15 minutes than yoga. Worst possible thing for my mental state right now. I used to be a regular practitioner of meditation and yoga, so I’m very comfortable with meditation per se and with the yoga exercises — it used to really work for my life and I got benefits from it — just my life now makes it feel like a waste of time. I’d rather pray a rosary for 15 minutes than yoga.

  5. I love yoga! That said, some of us just aren’t very zen, and we need to get frustration out some way that doesn’t involve screaming at the pedestrians that walk against the light. That’s where cardio comes in.

  6. Our obsession with health and “fitness” bugs me. I am about 50 pounds over weight but what I would have to do is change my lifestyle to lose it – – and my family would have to tag along if it were to be successful and not just a “stab at it”. That ain’t gonna happen. I’ve seen plenty of grandmas and grandpas pass away at ripe old ages of being in their lat 80’s to early 90’s that never obsessed about it all like we do these days. Vocation first (mothering) and God will take care of the rest, I say.
    Now, if I’m feeling crappy for some reason – I hone in on why and try to fix it. I eat the best I can and like you, I rarely sit down on normal days. I have my days, don’t get me wrong, when I sit on my ass like a fat sloth – but those aren’t the rule. And life goes on.
    You look absolutely beautiful, Laura. I mean that. You’re a beautiful young woman and I admire all you DO do while keeping your spirits high.
    Love ya!


  7. Oh I worked out so much more often when I was on maternity leave (which was around 5 months for me) than I do now that I’m working. I’m trying to convince my husband that America is trying to make all mothers pudgy which will make them not want to get pregnant again (because it will make the pudgier) and then they will keep working forever and ever and never have anymore babies. (Solid logic right?!?) Anyway, I digress. Use your sister (love her btws!)! My sister and I have been trying to keep each other on track and while sometimes I just sit there feeling guilty because she is doing so much more than me, it is actually motivating me too. Slowly but surely!

    Also, my husband hasn’t reworked our home office, but he often works in the garage standing up at the workbench instead of at his desk. He gets to stand but he also doesn’t have his computer tempting him either (as a student, he typically only needs books and notebooks to work).

  8. This is so honest, Laura, love it!

    I am an avid runner, running to me is just plain fun. I can’t help it. But doing strength training or any kind of pilates, yoga routine is horrid for me.

    Having said this, running, even massively, does not help me to lose weight, only food intake does. I have run two marathons, and both times did not lose a pound (although I was at a healthy weight, it is hard not to want to weigh what you did in high school.) But when I am exercising regularly, I am very much less likely to overeat. Cardiovascular exercise really reduces unwanted cravings, and even suppresses my appetite to a degree.

    I am a huge believer that you do indeed need to sweat, and as much as living a regular active lifestyle is a good, it is an additional good to really get that heart pumping. I would throw all suggestions out the window (20 minutes every day, 30 minutes three times a week) and say that whenever you are able to get in a heartpumping session of anything, you have contributed to your overall health and leave it at that.

    My sister in law is a yoga instructor and came to this path because she was seeking to ease an extremely painful back situation. I have a little bit of apprehension toward yoga from a theological standpoint, but I d know that her results are real. I wrote a quick snippet about it here:

    • I would love to enjoy running like you do rebekah! I do like a brisk walk and I’m trying to do that more, like you said, focusing just on doing it and not how long or how often … I’ll check out your post. I like “secular” yogA but don’t like classes with Statues of buddah or Hindu gods in the background!

  9. Preach it sister! I’ve never lost weight with exercise–I just get more tired–and my experience with weight loss is that cutting calories is the best thing for the waist line. I think mothers-of-small-children do enough heavy lifting during the day to count as exercise, really. I’ll worry about my heart when my kids are at school all day. 🙂

    Also, personally, I think all the pressure to “work out” is so modern and ridiculous. There are plenty of ways to stay physically active that don’t involve a gym or running shoes of any kind. I think it is healthier to be active than to “exercise”

  10. That first picture/quote had me seriously laughing! I’ve never been a runner, but I started doing a 10K app on my phone early on in the summer and I love it. I do it three times/week (what I have time for) and am up to about 4 miles now (which is more than I’ve ever ran before). It’s nice because it starts with a lot of running/walking intervals and then you work up to long periods of running. In the winter, I have an elliptical trainer that I bought off Craig’s List at the beginning of med school and I use it as an excuse to catch up on TV shows…

  11. Dearest sis. Well, I haven’t been “good” recently either, but since we both were on the walking bandwagon this morning with our wee ones, let’s say we’re back to being good. I admit, I don’t think exercise in the idea of Jillian Michael or crazy workouts is necessary. I do think keeping weight under control is important, and being able to be all day on your feet and run after kids … or run away from a purse snatcher, etc. without collapsing is important. Mom and I have had several conversations about this — “exercising vs. MOVING.” I think ultimately that is what it comes down to. It’s much easier to get myself out of the house to go on a walk with someone to enjoy it rather than go on a walk to get my heart rate pumping. I’m not the energetic want to gogogo all the time person; I sit very well, thank you. But I think if I can just get myself to MOVE. Get up. Stay active … not active as in gym membership, but active as in just using your body for what it was made to do — get you through the day. I mean, isn’t it amazing how much progress Grandma makes when the physical therapist makes her do the most basic “exercises”? That being said, no we don’t scrub our clothes on washboards; we’re not out hoeing the gardens for our sustenance, so we probably need to throw some more moving into the picture. But bootcamp? That’s not necessary, I don’t think.

    I talk a lot, but you already knew that. Sorry.

  12. I love this.

    I feel guilty all the time for not working out–especially living on a military base, EVERYONE is working out. Constantly. It’s kind of something you are just expected to do and to want to do, except, I have no inclination to take time out of my day to go “work out” somewhere let alone join in on all the super exciting races all the spouses are running–Tough Mudder? I think not.

    I did join a gym after my second was because my husband was gone and I didn’t have any friends yet in our new city. I found the only thing I liked to do was Pilates classes (and the free teaser personal Pilates sessions they gave out) which of course were only offered at certain times on certain days most of which I couldn’t get to because someone was napping or it was dinner, etc. The membership + child care got pricey fast and it was a lot of time spent driving there, checking the kids in, going to the class, checking the kids out, driving home. It didn’t work out. Then I tried Pilates at home. That didn’t work out either, partly because of all the “helpers” I have and partly because I’m lazy and need a real live person to tell me to do something so that my “need to please and be perfect” instincts activate and move me to action 🙂

    So I guess what I’m saying is, if I’m going to really “work out” I need a Pilates fairy to come and leave me money to pay for private Pilates instruction at one of those fancy Pilates studios and also pay for someone to watch my minions while I go to said fancy Pilates studio.

    Until then, I think I’ll just keep walking the dog and walking to the park and walking to mass and walking around the base in circles to nowhere in particular to burn off the children’s energy and just hope for the best fitness wise 🙂

  13. I don’t think that super intense exercise like Jillian Michaels or running is necessary, but I do think it is important to be active. Walking is great….as is biking or playing with your kids, etc. I think, really it just depends on how active you are throughout the day, if you can get enough exercise just as a SAHM. How big is your house? Do you walk places? (ie to the park, etc). Ask yourself, honestly if you really are on your feet all day or not (I’m a SAHM, but honestly I’m not on my feet all day. A good part of the day yes..but not ALL day…I do plenty of sitting). I think getting a pedomoter to track steps is a great idea.

    I am active every day…either walking or stepping (with baby on back) while watching a video. It’s not super intense, but it’s enough to make me sweat (if it’s hot) and I think it keeps me fairly fit. Not super fit enough..ya know.

  14. I know that taking care of littles is a lot of exercise, but for me personally, I feel SO MUCH BETTER after getting a good workout in. Sometimes 20 minutes would be ok, but I really really enjoy getting an hour in. The only realistic way for me to do that is go to a gym with childcare, which I know not everyone can afford, but to me it’s a small price to pay for my sanity. When I workout (I enjoy intense cardio classes, weight lifting/muscle classes, and overall conditioning classes), I have so much more patience with my kids, I have more energy, I don’t have cravings for junk food, and I think I eat less overall, or maybe just healthier calories. Really, since high school sports, I was not a “regular” exerciser, until having children. I always enjoyed walking the dog, but now even that can be a frustration between kids wanting in/out of the stroller, needing drinks/snacks/toys/kleenex, etc. Anyway, just sharing my own two cents. Honestly, I think the commenter above said it really well–to throw out all the ideas of how often you should exercise and just count any exercise as good for your overall health. If you are eating well and active through the day, I think you can count yourself as healthy. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing–I enjoyed this post!

  15. I do enjoy swimming and weight lifting, but they’re not cheap. You need a gym and a pool. I wished I enjoyed running but i hate it hate it hate it. I see so many people running on Saturday mornings and it makes me sick.

  16. agree with you on “working out” being a replacement for “sustenance activity” . . . but even being on a farm i am missing missing dance, so much. i think the key, for me, is having something that i am doing not in order to get exercise but because i love it. it makes me happy, feel better, and the stretching loosens up my oh-so-always-tense muscles. working out just to work out seems to me a waste of time. i think it should be something in which we find joy and beauty and fits in naturally with the rest of our life rhythm . . . if i can say that without being cheesey. ❤

  17. Pingback: Goal-Type Things for the New Year | This Felicitous Life

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