Let's get new parents moving in the right direction

Parents need to become more physically active.

Nick Wilkie, NCT’s Chief Executive, talks about a partnership to encourage new parents to get physically active which could have benefits for the whole family.

I recently became NCT’s Chief Executive. NCT are the UK’s largest charity for parents, reaching and supporting over two million prospective and new parents annually. We believe that the first 1,000 Days – from conception through to a child’s second birthday – is crucial in shaping a child’s future. And that exercise has an important part to play. It’s often difficult for new parents to find the time and motivation to exercise when they’re flat out looking after their children and sleep deprived to boot.

Research has confirmed what all parents know, that levels of physical exercise decrease upon becoming a parent, with more responsibilities, lack of time, reduced sleep and changing priorities all contributing factors. I know from experience – I used to play a fair amount of sport and love hill-walking but now with three children under four there aren’t enough days in the week.

We’ve got together with UK Active, a non-profit activity-for-health organisation, to work on a pilot project called Let’s Get Moving which aims to supports new mums in Bedfordshire to be more physically active. Generously funded by Legal & General, this free service is designed to fit around ‘real life’ and bring benefit to the whole family.

The aim of the project is to develop a programme of specialised postnatal support which meets the needs of new parents, motivating and supporting them to build physical activity and other positive behaviours into their lives. The programme is part of NCT’s vibrant local parenting community, with weekly group get-togethers providing social support and the opportunity to share experiences.

It’s important because staying active has a range of benefits both physically and mentally, impacting on life-long health for the whole family. Exercise after the birth of a baby might be the last thing on mothers’ minds but it can help their bodies to recover, keeping them fit and also helping them to relax.

Exercise can also be an opportunity for dads to bond with their babies and toddlers. Going for a walk in the park with your baby in a sling, for example, can be a great way of getting some fresh air and a gentle workout.

We’re hoping this partnership will lead to more physically active families. I’m determined to get back into physical activity myself and am slowly coaxing small Wilkies into walking. As this photo shows, they’re just about moving in the right direction.