Julie Graham has been a practicing Midwife for over 20 years and has now brought her career into Vision Personal Training Engadine. Here are the thoughts of a Midwife and Personal Trainer.
There are two sides of the spectrum when it comes to postnatal exercise;
1. People who exercised prior to pregnancy and are adamant to return to the same intensity without delay
2. People who have never exercised before but would like to start
What is important is the timing of when to begin exercise according to the type of birth you have had. Some of the experts state mums can start or return to exercise as early as 6 weeks post birth, other experts suggest possibly leaving it a little longer or starting slow at 6 weeks & building up. All of the differing advice sometimes creates a conflict as to who is right or wrong.
So… who or what is right?
Everyone agrees with obtaining a medical clearance from your Doctor at 6 weeks and starting light with some walking, some even recommend only doing low impact exercise for the first 6months, others believe '9 months in equals 9 months out' in other words keep it light & low impact to allow your body the opportunity to return to a state of normal. Reasons for this are the changing hormonal levels that continue for up to 6months post birth that cause supporting ligaments in the body to soften & become lax. This constant change creates a physical environment where joints are not well supported & are prone to injury.
This all sounds great in theory but what about the real world that involves a family unit, a baby who has no idea on the difference between day & night, & a household to maintain. How does one find time to fit in exercise? You have to WANT it…..not because someone told you that you should, or 'it's the right thing to do' but because you can see the benefit for yourself & you deserve it.
Let's look at the facts on the benefits of postnatal exercise:
- helps get you back into shape after the birth
- builds strong healthy bones, muscles & joints
- assists with bladder control (and who doesn't need this)
- reduces the risk of developing diabetes & heart disease
- improves sleep quality & mental well-being
- increases energy levels, improves mood & relieves stress
- strengthens those all-important core muscles
Now who wouldn't put their hand up for those benefits?
Finding the time…..
Everything expected of you postnatal may seem insurmountable at first & finding the time to exercise may seem impossible. Take a step back & think outside the square. Nothing in your life needs to dramatically change to fit in exercise, just think smarter!! Ask partners, family or friends to exercise with you because motivation can be higher when you have a training buddy, ask them to care for baby for those periods of time you are exercising or, involve baby in your exercise regime. Think about spreading your activity out over the whole week.
There are many people out there who are more than happy to help you start or re-start with an exercise program, just ask. In the meantime the following are some tips to kick-start the new you.
- Establish a routine and stick to it
- Start slow and increase the length & intensity of workouts slowly
- Remember your joints are still unstable
- Avoid jumping exercises initially
- Warm up & cool down with light/low resistance exercises prior to any gym sessions
- Pushing baby in the pram is a great form of exercise
- Get outside with baby as this clears your mind & creates a restful mind for baby
- Drink plenty of water
- Restore and strengthen your core first
- Remember there is no exercise timeframe or routine as such - the timeframe is flexible, doing multiple 10min bouts of exercise builds up over a week.
- If unsure about what type of exercise, call on an expert.
Exercise is a key in helping new mums to get through the tough struggle of the initial 6-12 months. Use it as your stress relief, your husband, your mum, you sisters or your friends may not always be able to be around. EXERCISE WILL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU!Your ability to exercise will not only be a great benefit to your body but it will also be a great help in strengthening your mind! SO YOU CAN BE THE BEST MUM FOR YOUR BUB!
Julie Graham, Personal Trainer