Your baby steps to exercise, post-baby

Want to stretch, drop the pounds, and ditch the excuses? Take a fitness class to boost your body and help you bond with junior, says pre/post-natal instructor Sarah Ivory.

You want to shed the baby weight, but is your body prepared for the challenge?

Although classes for new mums are often called mother and baby classes, you shouldn’t even think about losing the baby weight until your body is ready. “Mums can be tempted to get straight back into an exercise class, but if it is not done safely it can really hinder healing and recovery,” explains Justina Perry, founder of MamaBabyBliss (mamababybliss.com).

“Doing sit-ups too early, for example, can actually prevent the abdominal muscles fusing back together permanently. So it’s really essential you ensure the workout is tailored to your health and fitness level.”

Be sure to get the go-ahead to exercise from your midwife before taking part in post-partum workouts. Experts recommend avoiding exercise until six weeks after giving birth, and eight to ten weeks if you’ve had a C-section.

CHECK YOUR CREDENTIALS

So you’ve got the all-clear to exercise — great, but make sure your instructor is qualified to do the job. “Before joining a class, check the qualifications and training of your class instructor,” advises personal trainer Emma Redding.

“Make sure they have been pre- and post-natal trained, so they can offer a programme specific to your individual needs.”

Expect a competent class teacher to ask you to complete a health screening form with questions regarding the type of pregnancy and birth you had. The best mother and baby classes will be run by post-natal experts, who understand all of the physiological changes relating to pregnancy, not to mention the variety of childbirth and post-birth fitness obstacles.

SET SMALL GOALS

After having a baby, it can seem impossible to find time for yourself. So rather than committing to a mother and baby class four times a week, set yourself a more achievable goal of going at least once weekly. “We encourage each mum to work to her own ability, and attending even one class per week will guarantee an increase in strength and fitness,” says Redding.

“We help each mum set a goal to gain the required results for her. As she gets fitter, we help her to increase her workout to ensure the results keep coming.”

Only exercising once a week? Don’t be too tempted to crank up the intensity.

“New mums should always start with less intense exercise and build up the effort with a periodised programme,” says Matt Bolam, master trainer at Speedflex.

“Resistance work can be hugely beneficial for weight loss, but performing maximal lifts could cause hormonal issues that impact joint stability, leaving you more susceptible to injury.”

MAKE FRIENDS AND NETWORK

Craving adult conversation? The other key benefit you’ll get from post-natal classes is a support network of like-minded mums.

“Mums who participate in our Baby Barre and Barre Bump classes say they love the social aspect,” says Rachael Fraser, founder of Australia’s KX Baby Barre classes (kxpilates.com.au). “Participants make lots of new friends as well as increasing stamina, boosting energy levels and building confidence. Everyone is going through similar struggles and the class provides a really supportive environment.”

GET BABY INVOLVED

If you’re secretly hoping bubba will be the next Derval O’Rourke, it’s time to tie up your trainers. Researchers from Cambridge and Southampton universities recently discovered a direct link between a mother’s activity levels and that of her toddler. The more active the mum, the more active the child.

Amazingly, researchers concluded that for every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity a mother engages in, her child’s likelihood of doing the same activity increases by 10%. Not only will working out with your baby help ensure an active future for your child, but some exercise regimes are also beneficial to your bond.

Classes where mother and baby are in physical contact (think pilates or yoga) stimulate the production of ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, which helps the bonding process. Some classes even double-up as lessons for little ones who have come along with mum. “The older toddlers enjoy helping our trainers to count the exercises,” says
Redding.

“We encourage them to participate while remaining in their buggy, aiding their language and counting skills.”


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