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Post Natal Fitness Tips For New Mothers

As we know exercise offers many benefits for a new mother. Studies have shown that mothers who exercise after giving birth are able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight much faster, reduce stress, boost energy levels, and decrease the risk of post-partum depression.

Postpartum depression has become more and more prevalent over the last decade. There are several reasons for this in my opinion. For starters, there’s a tendency in our society to turn to medications and pills instead of healthy food, exercise, and proper rest.

Women who give birth often fall into the pitfall of thinking they have to take an extended period of time off for rest and recovery. While a certain amount of rest and recovery is certainly in order for a new mother, it’s quite common to see the “but I just had a baby” excuse used for several weeks even months post-pregnancy.

I’m certainly not trying to be insensitive and let’s be real…I’ve never given birth and I will never know what it’s like. But we both know there can be downsides of using pregnancy as an excuse to avoid exercise when you could otherwise do so.

Laying around and remaining inactive for a long period of time in the name of “recovery” only opens the door to things like post-partum depression.

The longer you wait to start exercising the harder it is to lose your pregnancy weight and the more likely it is you’ll succumb to depression. There are so many physiological and psychology reasons for this which are mostly common sense so I won’t get into a ton of details.

The fact is most mothers are able to safely start exercising shortly after giving birth. Now granted a lot of this will depend on the birthing process. Obviously procedures like a C-section will call for more recovery time before returning to or starting an exercise routine. Following your doctor’s recommendation is always the first rule of thumb.

The thing is you want to return to activity and exercise as soon as it’s safe to do so. This has obvious benefits for things like weight reduction, but equally important is the mental and emotional components like I just eluded to.

Specifically, exercise can significantly reduce the risk of post-partum depression by increasing levels of endorphins and neurotransmitters in the brain. Basically, it’s a hormone thing and exercise is the best way to naturally bring back up the levels. Remaining inactive and relying on medication to offset depression is a poor choice unless it’s the only option.

When you’ve been cleared for exercise it’s a good idea to start off slowly and then gradually build up the intensity and duration. A good postnatal exercise program includes activities that helps improve all of the major areas of fitness such as cardio-respiratory exercise, flexibility, muscular strength and core strength. Walking and light aerobic exercise should come first followed by resistance exercise.

Stretching exercises are also essential for postnatal exercise. It is very common for new mothers to experience muscle imbalances post-pregnancy. As a certified Charleston fitness trainer I always look to address muscle imbalances for women starting a postnatal exercise program. This will not only help them see results faster but it will also significantly reduce the risk of injury.

As you can imagine core strengthening will be one of the most important areas to focus on. Instead of doing the basic sit-up’s and crunches, a new mother will want to work on strengthening the deeper core muscles with exercises like planks, wood-chops, and rotations.

Exercise modalities like yoga and Pilates can be very beneficial when combined with aerobic and strength training exercises. The key thing is you need a balanced program that incorporates several exercise components.

A common mistake I see new mother’s making is picking just one type of exercise. An example of this would be focusing on flexibility and core strength only through something like yoga. While flexibility and core strength are certainly two pieces of the puzzle, you don’t want to leave out aerobic exercise and strength training.

By incorporating all the key components of fitness you’ll see better overall results with a change in your body composition. The important thing for a new mother to take into consideration is the changes pregnancy has made with her body.

Muscle imbalances are certain to develop during pregnancy due to the pelvic/lumbar demands of carrying the child. Getting all the muscles in the core, pelvic, and lumbar regions firing correctly and back in balance will require more than just some cardio or weight training.

Functional exercise and stretching protocols should always part of the overall equation. It’s always a good idea to consider hiring a personal trainer to assist you in developing a safe and effective postnatal exercise routine.

Women who hire a knowledgeable personal trainer trained in post-natal exercise can rest-assured they’re doing exercises the correct way and will be pushed with just the right intensity. Sometimes it’s also hard to find the motivation to exercise post-pregnancy and a personal trainer can give you the accountability and encouragement to stick with it.

The bottom line is you want to return to exercise as soon as you’ve been cleared to do so by your doctor then take a holistic approach to regaining your shape. It won’t take as long as you think to drop the baby weight and feel like yourself again if you incorporate a balanced approach with cardio, stretching, resistance training, and a healthy diet.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. As a specialist in burst training for body transformation and weight loss he provides nutrition and fitness coaching for new mothers that want to get their body back. He provides a free, no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training programs for women who’d like to learn more.

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Category: Fitness Training.