[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the start of a new year my contributions here at Afterthoughts is shifting for a time from incorporating physical education into the lives of our children, to emphasizing the importance of mothers training their own bodies. Just as we must serve as models to our children in other areas, such as being lifelong learners and immersing ourselves in the Word of the Lord, we must also set an example for them in the area of physical health. As with so much else in the lives of our children we have the capacity to set the stage for better or worse when it comes to embracing an active and healthy lifestyle. Are you rising to the challenge?
In Volume 3 Charlotte Mason writes,
But if children are brought up from the first with this magnet — ‘Ye are not your own’; the divine Author of your being has given you life, and a body finely adapted for His service; He gives you the work of preserving this body in health, nourishing it in strength, and training it in fitness for whatever special work He may give you to do in His world, — why, young people themselves would readily embrace a more Spartan regimen; they would desire to be available, and physical transgressions and excesses, however innocent they seem, would be self-condemned by the person who felt that he was trifling with a trust.
It would be good work to keep to the front this idea of living under authority, training under authority, serving under authority, a discipline of life readily self-embraced by children, in whom the heroic impulse is always strong. The sense that health is a duty, and that any trifling with health, whether vicious or careless, is really of the nature of suicide, springs from this view — that life is held in trust from a supreme Authority.
Do you acknowledge this responsibility for your own body, Mama? Or do you, like so many others, forego the call to maintain your own health in the pursuit of serving your family?
- “I don’t have time to exercise. How will the laundry get done?”
- “We have errands to run today, so there’s no time for me to exercise.”
- “The kids need me. I can’t leave them to go exercise!”
- “The baby is fussy and I’m the only one who can keep him content.”
…and the list goes on.
Are you familiar with any of these excuses? Could you add more to the list? I know I could. When I first became a mom my commitment to personal fitness was the first thing I dropped — even though it was such an important part of my pre-motherhood identity. I wanted to devote every ounce of myself to being a good wife and mother and often said that my body was a sacrifice to that purpose. I saw my desire to get exercise as a selfish and extravagant wish that served no one beyond myself.
Wow, was I ever wrong!
This mindset quickly took its toll on my body and mind and it has been an uphill struggle to return to my former level of physical health ever since.
We were designed to move. This is clear from the intricate design of our bodies on a micro and a macro level. Unfortunately our culture has shifted into more and more sedentary practices over time so that activities that were once rich in movement have now become virtually void of any movement.
While I am grateful for many advances that make my life easier today than it would have been two hundred years ago, it is important for us to be aware of the way that these developments have removed movement opportunities from our days. We don’t have to walk anywhere because we drive everywhere. We don’t have to take the stairs because we have escalators and elevators. We don’t wash our clothes in the creek because we (praise the Lord!) have washing machines. Even the act of going to the bathroom involves far less movement than it once did (i.e., we can sit rather than squat to accomplish it).
With this progressively sedentary nature of our society has come a host of diseases that could in large part be countered by regular activity — problems that our children can be even more prone to developing in time if we don’t instill solid habits in them while they are young.
But make no mistake: getting consistent exercise — i.e., moving more — isn’t just about our physical health. Sure, exercise has physical benefits such as stronger muscles and bones, lower cholesterol and enhanced immunity. In addition, exercise helps to minimize stress (which includes frustration, Mama!), promotes better sleep, improves memory and enhances creativity. Using our bodies as they were intended — i.e., for movement rather than for remaining stationary much of the day — is critical in order for us to obtain these benefits and more.
This isn’t just important because we are charged (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) to care for our physical bodies and for the benefits that brings. Our children imitate our actions, and they value what we value. If we don’t demonstrate a commitment to our own fitness then neither will they to theirs. We’ll be guilty of furthering a sedentary culture by sacrificing our own family to it.
That is not a legacy that I want to leave. What about you?
So, mamas, will you join me in a commitment to modeling better habits and practices for your children this year so that they can experience the life-giving effects of a movement-rich life that promotes wellness of body and soul? Their future health — and yours — depends upon it.
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Really good post, Dawn. I liked your comment on stationary vs moving – easy to go via the line of least resistance when you aren’t consciously thinking about it.
It absolutely is, Carol! I hope that by bringing it to the forefront of our minds we can change this trend towards a more and more sedentary culture and the myriad consequences that brings.
Thanks for the kudos:).
I’m looking forward to more posts and ideas. I am not in a good place physically, and that affects so much of how I feel about myself. Ugh. I did recently get a Fitbit, so that is making it kind of fun to incorporate a little more movement in my day. Tiger and I have been taking a walk around the block while she narrates in the morning. She is NOT enjoying mama’s attempts to get healthier. Apparently it’s much more fun to play Legos inside, where it’s warm
Ha! Legos in a warm and cozy spot compared with a brisk walk in the cold temps of your region? Yep. I can see her point. Brilliant strategy, though – I like it!
Our fitness absolutely impacts the way we feel about ourselves. I have struggled with being overweight since soon after my youngest was born and it has impacted me in many ways, including not feeling like I could talk about fitness and wellness – my passion – with others because they couldn’t possibly take me seriously as a result of me being overweight. I have recently decided, though, that I want to take the plunge anyway in hopes that the struggles of a mom in the trenches struggling with these very real issues can inspire others to move more, too.
I received the Garmin version of the FitBit for Christmas myself and it really has been fun gauging my activity level and seeing the trends that have developed over time. It is having the effect of serving as an accountability check and has definitely prevented me from skipping our morning walk because the day ahead looks too full. In fact, I’m ready to incorporate an afternoon walk as well once I kick this head cold.
Take a look at this article posted at the Desiring God blog today!
A brisk walk is fresh air IS such a balm for frustration.
in fresh air
I couldn’t agree more, Sarah. We try to take a morning walk at least three days a week and I attribute doing so to the smoothness of our mornings…and the maintenance of my sanity.
Very convicting and encouraging! Thank your for this motivation to set the example for my kids in physical health.
You’re welcome, Kirsten. I appreciate you making time to comment, as it encourages me that there is a desire for these types of posts here in future.
Oh, convicting! I’ve gotten the baby weight off, but I would like to get down to pre-first born weight (about 20 lbs down). And I want my children to be active, so yes, I need to model it. Thanks for the push/kick in the bum and I look forward to more posts!
Thanks, Rachael. Know that you are in good company. I hope we can all encourage and inspire each other to make these goals a reality in 2017.
LOVED your podcast on the Mason Jar! Very inspiring! I have four boys, ages 7/5/3/2, and a little girl 5mo…and a husband in the military also…so obviously, if you do the math, trying to get “back in shape after the baby” has been a little like trying to hang a purse from a moving ceiling fan. Especially now that we’ve officially outgrown the double jogging stroller I relied upon early-on. So I NEED a boost in this area.
Awww, thank you Amanda! I really appreciate your kind words. I am only a mom of two and this is a very real struggle for me. I can only imagine how challenging it is with more children who are so close in age. But I have to remind myself that my goal is to be fit and healthy – even if my body never reaches its pre-pregnancy state. You can do this, too!
Thank you! This does make me want to get moving. I definitely fell (even further) into the making-excuses-not-to-exercise category after having kids, and I am suffering for it. May I optimistically and presumptuously assume that some practical tips on “busy mom exercising” are on the way, in future posts? 🙂
You most certainly may, Kristi! My vision moving forward with this series is that each month’s post will have ideas and suggestions for us to squeeze more activity into our days.
Excellent! Thank you, Dawn!
I love this, Dawn! I’m so prone to these and many more excuses but you state this truth with so much ease, grace, and simplicity. My husband is my encouragement and exercise partner – we gave up ‘date night’ long ago for ‘morning run’ followed by a quiet coffee…and I’m the better for it. I miss you and our fellow readers at AO! I’m sure I’m missing lots but tis the season in my life and I wouldn’t miss this crazy busy for anything. Great to read this! Thanks, Brandy, for featuring Dawn!
Oh, Karen. We miss you so much – but I entirely understand about stages of life and that ebb and flow. My husband and I always bonded over exercise, too – we met in a spin class, actually:) and spent 2 hours in the gym on my oldest son’s due date – and we miss having that time together. I love the idea of using date time for activity together, though. Since I abhor running it would have to be hiking or riding, but it still works:). Thanks for the idea and for your sweet remarks!
I will join you!! Love, love, love this post Dawn! Verrrry inspiring!
Awww. Thanks, Katydid. I’m going to use these posts as a means of exploring how all of us – regardless of fitness level or proclivity for exercise – can find motivation to move more and be healthier. “For the children’s sake” as well as for our own:).