Exercise, we all know it’s good for us. The problem is many of us struggle to find the motivation or time to perform exercise regularly. This issue becomes heightened when we’ve just brought new life into the world. Juggling parenthood and exercise is difficult, but it is possible. Arguably, exercise should be prioritised by new mums as it provides a ton of benefits. In this article, we will be discussing the benefits of exercise for new mums, and how they can fit it into their chaotic lifestyle.
Benefits of Exercise for New Mums
During pregnancy and childbirth, your body is put under a lot of strain and pressure. Exercise can be used to help recondition your body after having a baby. There’s a whole heap of benefits from exercise. From improved strength and conditioning to improved mood and overall well-being. We’re all aware exercise is beneficial, but how does it specifically help new mums? Here are our top reasons why exercise is beneficial to new mums:
- Improves Mental Wellbeing: According to statistics, 1 in 10 new mums suffer from depression within a year of giving birth. Exercise has been shown to help relieve stress, improve energy levels, improve mood, and help reduce the effects of postpartum depression. That’s not to say exercising is going to relieve all the stress of being a new mum! Motherhood is hard and while exercise isn’t going to eliminate the stress, it will likely help reduce it.
- Improves Muscular and Joint Strength and Function: During pregnancy, the belly expands which causes the muscles over the belly (the abdominals) to stretch and the back muscles to shorten. Additionally, the connective tissue between the abdominals thins and separates. Due to the weight of the fetus, the ligaments and joints in the pelvis weaken and become unstable. All this might sound scary, but it’s very normal – it’s just the body adapting to carry a child. But, postpartum we want to restore the body as it no longer has to carry a baby. Exercise helps to build muscle, especially in the core area, and helps us return to full functionality.
- Aids Weight Loss: During pregnancy, most women gain between 10-15kg. A lot of this weight is your baby growing, but it’s likely your body will also be storing fat to produce breast milk for when your baby is born. While this extra weight is required to help the baby, chances are you’ll want to lose some weight after the birth. Exercise helps with weight loss alongside a good diet and lifestyle. Be cautious to not aim to lose too much too soon. Your body has gone under a lot of stress and changed significantly to bring life into this world. Opt for a slow and consistent approach to weight loss rather than suffering through a severe calorie deficit.
- Improves Cardiovascular Fitness: During pregnancy, the diaphragm changes to accommodate the fetus. Changes in the diaphragm influence breathing mechanics and result in short, shallow chest breaths. Exercise helps develop cardiovascular fitness and makes our heart and lungs that little bit better to deal with the demands of everyday life.
What Type of Exercise Should You Be Performing?
All pregnancies are different and some may take longer to return to exercise. Therefore, prior to any postnatal exercise please consult with your midwife or doctor to ensure you’re in a safe position to undergo physical exercise.
Before we talk about what type of exercise you should perform, let’s talk about when you should return to exercise. If your birth had few complications, it’s generally safe to perform light exercises such as walking, gentle exercises, and core strengthening exercises. If there were birth complications or you’re new to training, it’s best advised to check with your doctor or midwife before taking up more strenuous forms of exercise.
Here are some general exercise recommendations for new mums:
- Attend a Postnatal Class: Most postnatal classes will focus on strengthening the muscles and joints around your core, as this is the area most affected by pregnancy. Additionally, most postnatal classes will allow you to bring your baby to the class and incorporate them or the buggy into the exercise. Lastly, what we really like about postnatal classes is the opportunity to socialise with people also going through the experience of being a new mum.
- Incorporate Exercise Into Your Day: Let’s face it, parenthood is pretty much a 24/7 job. If you can’t get someone to watch your little one while you go to the gym, do exercise with them around. This might involve going on a brisk walk with the buggy, performing at-home exercises while they’re sleeping, or going for a walk rather than taking the car.
- Invest In a Good Bra: Don’t rely on your pre-birth bra for support. After childbirth our boobs are bigger to support breastfeeding. Increased weight in the upper torso puts additional strain on the core if not supported properly. Since the core is already weak postpartum it is highly recommended you invest in postpartum supportive sports bras. Additionally, it will make life a lot more confident and reduces the risk of being put off by exercise.
Exercise should be made a priority as it will benefit both you and your little one in the long run. With all that being said, babies are unpredictable and plans do change. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a session. When time presents itself, use that as an opportunity to exercise.
Pregnancy is common, most women will experience it in their life. Returning to exercise, looking after your mental wellbeing, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult. Exercise is used as a tool to help reduce the effects of these factors. Ultimately, our aim is to get everyone exercising, especially after birth as the body has gone through so much stress. That being said, everyone’s exercise journey’s postpartum is going to be difficult because their training history, capabilities, and births are so different. Work with your trainers, GP’s, midwives, and any other health professionals that can assist you on your exercise journey.