Moms Spend More Time Watching TV, Less Time On Physical Activity
December 3, 2013

American Moms Less Active Today Than They Were 45 Years Ago

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

US mothers spend more time watching television and participating in other sedentary activities than they do cooking, cleaning and exercising combined, according to new research appearing in the December edition of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The study, led by University of South Carolina exercise scientist and epidemiologist Edward Archer, is a follow-up to a study published earlier this year which claimed that women spent 25 percent more time engaging in leisure-time computer activities and watching TV than they did completing household chores.

Archer’s latest paper “shows that mothers in the US are far less physically active than they were in previous decades,” the university said in a statement Monday. “Given the essential role that daily physical activity plays in the health and wellbeing of mothers and their children, this research provides important insights into the nation's pervasive health problems such as childhood obesity and diabetes.”

The investigators looked at 45-year trends in maternal activities in two separate groups: mothers of children under the age of five, and those which children between the ages of six and 18. Over the four-plus decade span of the research, mothers of younger children reported a decline in physical activity from 44 hours per week in 1965 to less than 30 hours per week by 2010. This roughly 14 hour decline in weekly activity levels resulted in a decrease in energy expenditure of over 1500 calories per week, the researchers explained.

“Mothers with older children experienced an average decline of more than 11 hours per week, decreasing from 32 hours per week in 1965 to less than 21 hours in 2010,” university officials said. “This led to a reduction in energy expenditure of 177 calories per day (1238 calories/week). This means mothers in 2010 would have to eat 175-225 less calories per day to maintain their weight than mothers in 1965.”

“These dramatic declines in physical activity and energy expenditure corresponded with large increases in sedentary behaviors such as watching TV,” they added. “Mothers with older children reported an average increase in sedentary behaviors of 7 hours per week, from 18 hours in 1965 to 25 hours in 2010; while mothers with young children increased sedentary behaviors by almost 6 hours a week, from 17 hours per week to nearly 23 hours per week.”

Furthermore, the research discovered that the amount of time spent participating in either physical activity or sedentary behavior was influenced by the mother’s employment status. Moms who did not have jobs had nearly twice the declines in physical activity and far larger increases in sedentary behaviors than their employed counterparts. For instance, unemployed mothers with younger children reported a decline in physical activity of 14 hour per week, versus a five-hour per week decline for employed mothers.

The stats from the study originated from the American Heritage Time Use Study database, which included over 50,000 diary days spanning the 45-year period from 1965 through 2010. For the purposes of the study, physical activity was defined as the amount of time engaged in general childcare, meal preparation and post-meal clean-up, household chores, sports and exercise, as well as other related tasks.

The researchers state that there is mounting evidence suggesting that energy metabolism and body composition are essentially “programmed” during pregnancy and early infancy. They speculate that “there exists the potential for the intergenerational transmission of pathophysiology and obesogenic lifestyle behaviors from mothers to children" because "a mother's physical activity and sedentary behaviors affect the environments to which her progeny are exposed, such as the intrauterine milieu and family social setting).”

“With each passing generation, mothers have become increasingly physically inactive, sedentary, and obese, thereby potentially predisposing children to an increased risk of inactivity, adiposity, and chronic non-communicable diseases,” Archer said. “Given that physical activity is an absolute prerequisite for health and wellness, it is not surprising that inactivity is now a leading cause of death and disease in developed nations…and may be the greatest public health crisis facing the world today.”