The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 71% of moms were employed in 2007. Some research has shown an association between mothers who work and children with higher BMIs. A recent study published in Child Development (2011; 82 [1], 66–81) suggests that the length of a mother’s employment may be more associated with her child’s BMI, as opposed to the fact of employment alone.

The researchers analyzed data of 990 children aged 8–12 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The subjects’ mothers were interviewed in their child’s third, fifth and sixth grades. The information included each child’s BMI and physical activity levels, along with maternal employment and work schedule. Also measured were home environment, maternal depression and other considerations. The researchers stated that “every period (averaging 5.3 months) a mother was employed was associated with an increase in her child’s BMI of 10% of a standard deviation.” They found that although this association exists, a cause and effect relationship could not be determined. The study authors pointed out that the role that fathers’ work plays in children’s physical health remains unexplored.

“As fitness professionals we notice the obvious symptoms from the article linking working moms to increased BMI among children,” states IDEA member and mother Erin Kreitz Shirey, owner of Power Fitness PDX in Portland, Oregon. Shirey offers the following suggestions for improving activity levels amid busy lifestyles:

Model. When kids see moms taking care of themselves, they will be encouraged to do the same.

Shake. Play music, and get everyone to dance for at least three songs.

Plan. Plan family activities three times per week. Complete a park circuit workout that includes running bases, doing lunges on the field and swinging on the monkey bars.

Chart. Create a family activity chart, and write all planned activities for the week. Whoever completes the most minutes by the end of the week gets to choose a weekend activity.

Delegate. Enroll kids in after-school sports or physical activity classes. Give kids the ownership over choosing the activity.