The majority of mothers feel guilty about taking time out to exercise instead of being with their family, new research suggests.

A survey of 1,006 mothers of children under the age of six has found that while more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of mothers say they want to do more exercise, 61 per cent admit they would feel bad about taking the time for themselves.

The poll, which was conducted by Sport England as part of its This Girl Can campaign, also found that lack of time was the top reason mothers gave for not doing exercise.

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Three in 10 of the women questioned said they had less than an hour of free time each day, and one in five said cost was the main thing preventing them from staying active.

Furthermore, fewer than one in five mothers (17 per cent) said they prioritise their own exercise.

Lisa O’Keefe, insight director at Sport England said: “Children with active parents – particularly mothers – are more likely to be active themselves. And children who have positive experiences of sport and physical activity early on are also more likely to prioritise being active in later life.

“All of us have a role to play in making mums feel okay about prioritising getting active as they would other things in their lives.”

Psychologist Emma Kenny said the research emphasises the importance of “self-care”.

“As a mum, you may believe that looking after everyone else’s needs is your main priority, but the truth is that you need to look after yourself first and foremost, because that ensures you have the energy to look after those you love,” Kenny said.

The findings follow a recent survey conducted by Well Pharmacy, which found that the majority of British mothers are putting their health at risk because they are “too busy” to see a doctor.

The poll revealed that 69 per cent of mothers find it hard to juggle the various aspects of their daily life, with 84 per cent admitting they continue with their usual routine even when they’re unwell because they “didn’t have time” to see their GP.

More than half of those surveyed also revealed they had been so ill they feared they needed medical attention, but still didn’t go to the doctor.

Tan Kaur, a digital pharmacist at Well Pharmacy, said: “I have often heard my customers say that even the simplest tasks can prove difficult when you have children, especially those with babies or toddlers, who can sometimes find hours mysteriously vanish when trying to do something like leave the house.

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“Of course, for all of us our family and children should come first when it comes to their wellbeing.

“But these little pieces of life admin – going to the doctor, collecting prescriptions, booking a smear test or paying bills – are just as important when it comes to our lives running smoothly.”

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