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Dad Bod Fitness (Healthy Living Tips for Busy Men)

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Original post: 6/12/22; Updated post: 4/19/23

Dad bods are no longer just a fad, they’re science.


Several recent studies have empirically proven that on average men gain weight after becoming a parent.


Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine studied over 10,000 American men for 20 years. They concluded:


“First-time resident dads (living with their children) experienced an average 2.6 percent increase in their BMIs over the study period. Non-resident dads experienced 2 percent increase. That translates to a 4.4 pound weight gain for a 6-foot-tall dad who lives with his child and a 3.3 pound weight gain for a non-resident dad. Meanwhile, a similar 6-foot-tall man who had no kids? He lost 1.4 pounds”

Now that may not sound like much in the grand scheme of things, and we don’t want to exaggerate or belabor the point. However, as scientists are realizing that “Weight gain in fathers-to-be and new fathers is a serious public health issue,” we want to acknowledge the reality and support the Modern Husbands community with resources to be healthy dads.


The fact is, we’re the best version of ourselves when we feel healthy and confident.


So without further adieu, here are some of the ways we as dads, and busy men in general, are rocking our dad bods - keeping just fit enough to not have to buy new pants.



#1 Sleep


Wait a second? I thought this article was about working out?


Well, that’s actually one of the first problems and barriers to entry of actually living a healthy lifestyle.


We’re not health scientists, nutritionists, or doctors, but we’ve noticed a recent separation between the perspective of “I have to hit the gym 5 times a week to be healthy” and the actual full picture of health.


And it all starts with sleep.


A 2018 study of over 3,000 American dads by Darby Saxbe, a clinical psychologist and professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California, found, “New fathers typically suffer sleep disruption and sleep problems are well-known to lead to weight gain, including through affecting the hormones that normally regulate appetite.”


Making sure you’re consistently getting more than 7 hours of sleep per night is the first step to avoiding weight gain, and conversely, sleep disorders are worsened by weight gain. As Sharon Goldman from the Comprehensive Sleep Care Center says, “It’s a vicious cycle. Poor sleep can cause weight gain, weight gain can cause your sleep quality to decrease even further.


Poor sleep can also increase your appetite, and good sleep can enhance your physical activity. So, doing everything you can to consistently get more than 7 hours of high quality sleep per night is the best way to set your waking self up for a healthy lifestyle.


#2 Walks

As the saying goes, “you have to crawl before you walk”


It’s not realistic for most busy men to hit 2 a days at the gym like the local high school football team.


Even getting to the gym 3-5 times a week is a big ask. And if you’re already out of the habit of a regular exercise routine, overcommitting is one of the surest ways to burn out and never go back.


So maybe instead, “you have to walk before you (insert unrealistic goal here)


My parents go on a walk every night. Many evenings, it’s just up and down the street.


I remember when they started, it was just a way to set aside time for themselves and get some fresh air after hectic days at work.


As time went on, it became a nightly ritual. The walks gradually got longer, and I began to notice a shift in their perspectives on the benefits of consistency and movement.


Soon, my mom started taking morning walks too, which turned into jogs, all the way up until last Christmas when my parents bought the whole family Apple Watches so we could all share our daily exercise accomplishments (and maybe a little healthy competition too).


Growing up, I didn’t see my parents consistently dedicate time out of their days to exercise or hit the gym routinely. But the small seed of a nightly walk up and down the road (not even originally intended for exercise), grew into a consistent habit and has inspired them with energy and confidence to build exercise habits.


The bottom line is: start with something, that may seem small, but that you know will make you feel better most days or every day. Maybe it’s not even about getting exercise, and there definitely shouldn’t be an overbearing fitness goal attached to it. After not too long, the momentum builds and your mind and body start positively reinforcing your healthy habit.


It doesn’t have to be walking, but it continues to work for my parents! I’ve been inspired to incorporate a short morning walk into my days because of them - not to burn calories or lose weight, but just to get outside, activate my body, and clear my mind before diving into the day.


#3 Working In


An essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle is - you probably could have guessed it - your life!


Most of us don’t like to have much time on our hands. As you know, one of the most common and logical excuses for not exercising is “I just don’t have time.”


So instead of taking time out of your day to work out. Try working in a new healthy habit to something you already do every day.


I worked in a standing desk. I figured, I already work at least 8 hours a day, why not try using some of my desk time to do more than just sit hunched over at my laptop.


This can be anything from taking walking meetings, calls, or even getting a treadmill desk!


Maybe it’s walking a few extra blocks to grab lunch, taking advantage of awkward gaps between calls to do some jumping jacks, pushups, or, if you’re brave, even burpees!


A lot of us are working from home now, which gives us new opportunities to customize our office space - maybe to keep a yoga mat or door-frame pull-up bar nearby.


There are tons of creative ways to integrate movement energizers into your workday, and as we talked about earlier, it’s all about subtle changes that start building momentum and snowball into a new appreciation for exercise!


#4 YouTube


YouTube is great for entertainment and how-tos, but it’s also an amazing resource for finding workouts!


Maybe you’ve worked in a 20 minute break between meetings to do a quick workout, but now the problem is “what do I do?”


Coming up with exercises, knowing how many sets and reps to do, and being creative enough to keep things interesting is undoubtedly a lot of work. And it makes exercise feel like a much bigger chore.


My number one solution to most things in life at this point is “just Google it.” So why should fitness be any different?


There are countless amazing personal trainers and hobbyist fitness junkies that make super high quality, guided workout videos on YouTube completely for free!


I’ve used YouTube to find HIIT workouts, Tabata, yoga, and more. It’s motivational and a huge relief to be able to pick the kind of workout that you want with someone on screen to guide you through it, and without having to come up with anything besides a few keystrokes on your own.


Final Thoughts


By no means is this a comprehensive guide to physical fitness, but we are excited to support Modern Husbands in their physical health journeys and hope these tips are practical and helpful along the way.


How do you incorporate physical fitness into your daily life as a husband, dad, or just overall busy man? Comment down below - we'd love to hear from you! And don't forget to go grab our very own Dad Bod Fitness merch - available now!

 

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Citations


Garfield CF, Duncan G, Gutina A, et al. Longitudinal Study of Body Mass Index in Young Males and the Transition to Fatherhood. American Journal of Men’s Health. 2016;10(6):NP158-NP167. doi:10.1177/1557988315596224


Simone Pettigrew, Michelle I. Jongenelis, Sophie Cronin, Liyuwork M. Dana, Desiree Silva, Susan L. Prescott, Bu B. Yeap, Health‐related behaviours and weight status of expectant fathers, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Volume 46, Issue 3, 2022, Pages 275-280, ISSN 1326-0200, https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.13216.

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