Exercise might be a key factor in maintaining working mothers’ quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic
Engaging in moderate intensity physical activities such as bicycling could help protect working mothers from the negative effects of parenting stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted working mothers. Many are experiencing high level of stress as a result of juggling full-time positions and caring for or schooling children from home during the pandemic,” said study author Christine Limbers, an associate professor at Baylor University.
“As a working mother myself and researcher on health behaviors, I was interested in how exercise could potentially mitigate some of the negative effects of stress caused by COVID-19.”
In the study, 200 working mothers from the United States, who had at least one child 5-years-old or younger, reported how often they engaged in walking, moderate intensity physical activity, and vigorous intensity physical activity. The mothers also completed assessments of quality of life and parenting stress.
The study was conducted between April 6 and April 13, 2020, during the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, and all of the participants had been forced to work from home full-time due to COVID-19.
The researchers found that greater levels of moderate intensity physical activity attenuated the link between parenting stress and social/environmental quality of life. In other words, greater levels of moderate intensity physical activity appeared to reduce the negative impact of parenting stress on satisfaction with one’s personal relationships, satisfaction with one’s sex life, and satisfaction with the conditions of one’s physical environment and living place.
Higher levels of vigorous and moderate intensity physical activity were also linked to better social quality of life.
“There is already extensive research documenting the benefits of exercise on physical and emotional health. Our study demonstrated that moderate intensity physical activity in working mothers may attenuate the negative impact of parenting stress on social relationships and satisfaction with one’s environment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Limbers told PsyPost.
“These data underscore the importance of working mothers incorporating moderate intensity physical activity into their daily routines during the pandemic as it has the potential to lessen the negative impact of parenting stress on maternal quality of life.”
The researchers controlled for socio-demographic variables such as marital status, annual income, and maternal highest level of education. But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.
“Limitations of our study included the cross-sectional study design and an overrepresentation of mothers from a high socioeconomic status. It will be valuable for our study to be replicated in a longitudinal study that includes a diverse sample of working mothers,” Limbers explained.
“I think it is important to normalize what a stressful time this is for many working mothers. Regular, moderate intensity physical activity appears to be one behavior that can help working mothers cope with the increased stress brought on by COVID-19,” she added.
The study, “Physical activity moderates the association between parenting stress and quality of life in working mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic“, was authored by Christine A. Limbers, Christina McCollum, and Emma Greenwood.
(Image by StockSnap from Pixabay)
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