Maybe it’s part of my midlife crisis as I approach my 40th birthday. Maybe it’s just a desire to get properly fit after spending the last 11 years doing very little real exercise, other than running around after 4 children. Whatever the underlying reason, it was definitely prompted by the fact I met a running coach called Shona on a course I did (not sport related) who told me she got people like me, women who said
‘I can’t run’, to run. Not just that, but I really liked her. And so a few months after meeting her, and having heard brilliant things from a few friends who had also started running with her, I contacted her and signed up to her beginners running course.
I may run like a girl, but at least I’m running. Thank you Shona!
And today we are very fortunate to have a guest post from Shona who tells us just why running is so important, especially for mums!
Exercise can be a long way down the list of priorities when you’ve got small children, but it’s so important to make time to do things that make you feel good about yourself. And exercise not only gives you more energy for running around after your children, it’s a fantastic role model for them - fit, healthy adults tend to have fit, healthy children. So why running, in particular? Here are a couple of reasons (though there are so many more I could give!):
A recent Australian study found that one in three first-time mothers reported suffering depressive symptoms at least once between pregnancy and four years after birth.
Vigorous cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression, and can also be helpful for people with severe depression (this is not a call to throw away the antidepressants, though – in fact exercise and antidepressants can be a very effective combination). Outdoor exercise is particularly effective, and running outdoors in a group is a triple whammy of exercise, being outdoors, and being in good company to combat the isolating effect of depression. This is why I set up Up and Running (http://upandrunninginsevenoaks.org.uk ) with my psychologist colleague Harriet Heal, and we find a significant improvement in the mental wellbeing of many of the participants. Quite a few of the women who come to my other runs (http://www.shonasrunners.co.uk ) also tell me that they have experienced low mood or depression, and find running is really helpful.
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. People who take regular vigorous exercise can benefit from
· up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
· up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
· up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
· up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
· up to a 30% lower risk of early death
· up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
· up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
· up to a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
· up to a 30% lower risk of depression
· up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
It should also be fun! Lots of the women I coach start off by telling me how unfit they are and how they’ve never been any good at running (or sport in general). They are usually surprised that, if you follow a gentle and gradually progressive programme in the company of others who are in the same boat, it’s not only achievable, it’s enjoyable! If you try to do it on your own it’s so easy to go too fast, to feel self-conscious, and to give up. With other people who are in the same boat, you can have a chat and even a laugh on the way round, and that makes it seem so much easier.
Let me leave you with one final statistic – a recent study showed that lack of physical activity is now the most common cause of heart disease in women over the age of 30. If you want to be able to play with your grandchildren the way you play with your children, make the time now to keep yourself strong and healthy. As a former couch potato who avoided sport like the plague in my youth, I can honestly say running has changed my life. I feel stronger, more energetic and more comfortable in my body now (in my 50s) than I did when I was in my 30s but didn’t run. I’d love to see more women discovering that empowerment and sense of achievement for themselves in the process of improving their health and fitness. Let’s run – for fun, for fitness, for the future!