Parenthood Gets Heavy, Really Heavy

Having kids means gaining more weight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) At times, parenthood can be challenging, and other times it can be very rewarding. But, being a parent is so preoccupying, some mothers and fathers lose track of staying healthy.

Keeping up with the kids and working can be difficult – no one said it was easy. However, becoming overweight or obese is something to avoid and can have serious health consequences.

"Exercise daily for you and your kids health."

Debra Umberson, Ph.D., a professor of sociology and a faculty research associate at the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, found that parenthood speeds up weight gain over time.

The results suggested that parents on average reach an obese BMI (30 and over) by age 55 and peak at a BMI of 31 by their mid 60s, while adults without children barely reach the overweight zone (25-29.9) by 55 years of age.

Dr. Umberson and her team also found that parents who had their first child between 26 and 27 gained the least weight over time and any other age further than that had rapid weight gain.

Parents who give birth younger are more likely to be of low-socioeconomic status and those who have children later experience mid-life weight gain along with weight gain from parenthood, Umberson explains.

Men seemed to gain more weight than women because raising children affects their lifestyle. They have to give up drinking and smoking to be sober around their kids and they have less time to exercise, Umberson says.

While both parents are gaining weight over time, mothers gained more weight if they raised more than one child. Umberson believes it could be due to the pregnancy weight along with daily responsibilities and time constraints of parenting.

The researchers used data from the national longitudinal survey where they tracked body mass index (BMI) for 3,617 adults over a fifteen year period. BMI is a tool often used to measure body fat in terms of height and weight.

Even though the difference between parents and non-parents annual weight gain is not that noticeable in the short-run, these differences do add up in the long-run, Dr. Umberson says.

Jim Crowell, fitness expert says "The rigors of being a parent are never-ending. Your kids are your life for awhile and it is difficult to take the proper care of them let alone taking the proper care of yourself."

"What I tell my clients who are newer parents is that they have to hold themselves accountable for their own fitness while their kids grow up. That means that they need to schedule time during the week to workout."

"There are plenty of great workouts that you can do with your kids around. As long as you maintain a consistent and intense workout regiment (I like 3-4 days a week of real activity) you will see positive results. Some of the activities that I like for people I consult are:

  • Running with a running baby stroller/carriage
  • Doing bodyweight work such as pullups, situps, and pushups and you can put your child on your back once you are strong enough (that one is great for your kids)
  • Playing games such as capture the flag or kick the can with your kids

The key is to enjoy the time with your kids, have fun, help teach them positive habits, and get yourself that intense work that keeps you looking and feeling good. At the end of the day it's up to you to hold yourself accountable. You can do it!"

The study is published in Social Science and Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 30, 2011
Last Updated:
October 2, 2011