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How Does Fatherhood Affect Fitness?

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Fatherhood can be absolutely lethal for your waistband. A lack of sleep prompts your metabolism to take a relaxing vacation, and that can mean you’ll pack on an extra stone or two… or three… without really noticing. When you’ve got an extra mouth to feed, the quality of your own diet understandably takes a back seat as the abundance of hassle-free ready meals and celebratory cakes baked by beaming relatives pour in from all angles. Not to mention that great excuse so many dads heroically throw around: “I got bigger to make my partner feel better about her weight gain”. But the final nail in the lid of your trouser size’s coffin is time – going to the gym is suddenly out of the question now there’s this manic midget version of you demanding to be kept alive every hour of the day (and night).

To assess just how widely experienced this infant-based weight gain is, we asked a few dads how fat they got.

Hamish, 41, two children

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“I decided to go on a bit of a health kick before becoming a dad, so while my wife was pregnant I took the opportunity to go vegan and it felt great – I was in the shape of my life! Then my first one was born, and suddenly all of my time was spent tending to the baby and helping my wife who had been through a caesarian – so all of the meticulous cooking, planning, measuring and weighing went right out of the window and I just ate whatever was convenient. I put on about a stone. It’s all worth it though… Kind of.”

Dan, 35, one child

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“I noticed that my clothes were becoming tighter and that any kind of movement or exercise was getting much harder, and I put it entirely down to eating at really weird times. When my son was newborn, I didn’t know what time of day it was most of the time, so I’d just find myself sticking my head in the fridge in the early hours, snacking constantly. I put on about two stone, but it’s a rite of passage – new dads put on weight, we should embrace it. I’ve started cycling everywhere now, and that seems to be working.”

Olly, 40, two children

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“I actually think that the stress of having to witness childbirth followed by the chronic lack of sleep makes you lose weight. But then it all goes back on when you have to start making stuff that you can eat with one hand while calming the baby with the other. I put on about half a stone thanks to old friends like lasagne and shepherd’s pie.”

Rob, 43, two children

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“It’s tempting not to bother cooking and just reach for a takeaway menu. You concentrate less on yourself and you stop exercising as much, because your kids’ needs supersede yours. Plus I’m basically a human dustbin, so I’d always finish off my daughter’s meals once she was on solids – this all probably explains why I’m a couple of stone heavier since becoming a dad. My trick now is to get off the tube one stop early and I avoid using lifts. I’m pretty sure it will pay off…”

Ken, 41, three children

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“I had my first two kids in my 20s, so I was kind of OK, but then about five years ago I started to develop a real dadbod – fat face, jowls were forming, I put on about three stone without really noticing. Being a ‘thirsty father’ drinking too many beers was destroying me. I think the key is to play sport with your kids, go running with them, go for family walks – basically encourage them to exercise and join in with them.”

Mark, 35, two children

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“Since my daughter was born four years ago I’d say I’ve put on about two stone. I just had too many sweet snacks and sugary drinks because I enjoy them and they’re easily accessible. I’ve had to concede and send some old clothes to charity shops knowing they will never fit me again.” 

Rory, 39, two children

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“I put weight on pretty much instantaneously – not loads but a noticeable amount. I could feel it gathering on my back, and some photos from a family holiday left me in no doubt. Before kids I’d been going to the gym every lunchtime, post-kids I was more interested in dozing at my desk. But who cares? You’re a new dad, you get fat for a bit, it’s no big deal and no time for being vain.”

Matt, 38, two children

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“I haven’t put on any weight, I just walk everywhere fast and aggressively and that pretty much keeps me in shape. I make sure I walk at least 2km a day – it’s working out for me.”

Nick, 38, two children

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“I haven’t been on the scales. What's the point? I measure my weight by seeing if my T-shirts fit me and if I can fit into my wedding suit which I dust down once a year. The truth is that currently, no, it doesn’t fit – the trousers don’t do up, so I untuck my shirt and hope no one notices.”

Exercises you can do using your baby

Just because you don't have time for the gym doesn't mean you don’t have access to a weight. Just make sure it's asleep before using. 

Complete three sets of 12-15 reps for each exercise with 30-60 seconds’ rest between sets.

1. Squat with chest press Standing with feet hip-width apart hold your baby to your chest, squat down, ensuring your heels remain grounded, as you lower extend your arms out fully in front of you, then drive up through your heels and thighs and return your baby to your chest and be rewarded with a smile (hopefully).

2. Shoulder press with twist Stand with feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees, holding your baby under its arms to your chest. Without arching your back lift the baby above your head and lower. Once back in the starting position, twist to your right at the waist 90° then return to your starting position and repeat, twisting to the opposite side on the next rep.

3. Baby car seat biceps curl As simple as it sounds. When your baby is asleep in its car seat, stand holding it in one hand, arm extended by your side. With knees slightly bent and core engaged, curl the seat up towards your body keeping your elbow still by your side, return slowly under full control and repeat before repeating with the other arm.

4. Russian twist Sit on the floor with your knees slightly bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold your baby in front of you and lean back at a 45° angle, curving your torso slightly. Keeping your hips still, rotate your torso to one side and touch your baby down on the ground, then lift and rotate to your other side and repeat. Complete in a smooth controlled motion.

Workout created by Jeremy Johnston domoremovement.co.uk (opens in new tab)

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.