New parents have to adjust to less sleep, less free time, and more responsibility as a result of having a child. The purpose of this study was to examine how having a child impacts the physical activity (PA) beliefs and behaviors of new parents over a 2- to 3-year time period.
Participants included 49 men and women (31% men, 96% white) who did not have a child at baseline (26.3 ± 1.1 years old) but did have a child at the time of follow-up (28.9 ± 1.7 years old). The child’s mean age at follow-up was 12 ± 7 months old. PA was measured via questionnaire at baseline and again at follow-up. Interviews regarding PA occurred at follow-up.
PA significantly decreased in parents across the time period (P < .001), and parents attributed this decrease to having a child and being pregnant. Parents mentioned they lack time, energy, and motivation for PA as a result of caring for a new child. Parents who maintained their activity level stated they prioritized PA and chose activities they enjoyed.
These results show that although activity levels decrease in individuals who have a child, PA in new parents may be a function of priority, intensity, and enjoyment.