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Today's moms more sedentary than previous generations, study says

Modern moms are spending more time watching television and less time doing housework, a new study reveals.

The research, published in the December 2013 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked at mothers’ activity levels over the past 45 years. The data came from the American Heritage Time Use Study, which tracks how moms spend their time outside of paid work.

In 2010, moms of older kids between ages 5 and 18 spent 11 fewer hours engaging in physical activities, which include child care, laundry and exercise, than their counterparts did in 1965. Moms of kids younger than 5 spent 14 fewer hours doing physically strenuous tasks than their past peers.

Today's moms may be using that extra time to do more sedentary activities, according to the study. Moms of older children spent seven more hours doing less-taxing tasks like driving or watching TV than their 1965 counterparts. Those who were raising kids under 5 increased their sedentary activity time by six hours over moms.

Moms of kids 5 to 18 spent 14.2 more hours being active than sedentary in 1965. By 2010, they spent 3.8 more hours doing less-taxing tasks than engaging in physical activity.

Mothers of the younger kids went from spending 27 more hours a week doing physical activities than sedentary ones in 1965 to just doing 7 more hours a week engaging in active rather than passive tasks.

The authors pointed out that the decline in physical exertion may be contributing to the obesity epidemic. A previous study that also looked at the decline in housework levels among modern women also suggested that less physical activity may be a factor in increasing waistlines. That PLoS study that looked at time spent on domestic housework and calorie expenditure per week found rates dropped from 25.7 hours and 6,000 calories burned in 1965 to 13.3 hours and 4,600 calories a week in 2010.

Government estimates show that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese.

 “A mother’s physical activity and sedentary behaviors affect the environments to which her progeny are exposed, such as the intrauterine milieu and family social setting,” Edward Archer, a public health professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, said to the Los Angeles Times. “As a result, he added, the change in mothers' habits, in their weight status and in their propensity to diseases is likely being transmitted across generations.”

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