Post-birth exercise

Post-birth exercise

If you have recently given birth and you are anxious to return to exercise, you should do so at your own pace, writes Exercise, Health and Fitness Instructor Stephanie Sinnott.

The term ‘post-baby bodies’ has been used quite a lot in media as of late, with a lot of scrutiny on celebrities who are papped running errands weeks after giving birth. There appears to be immense pressure on new mums to get their pre-baby bodies back as soon as possible after giving birth.

It’s your own choice

While there does seem to be some pressure for new mums to get back into fitness with post-birth exercise, I personally feel it’s your own choice. If you want to get back into your non-maternity jeans or if you don’t even want to think about it for months (or years) after, what’s the problem?

Quite soon after my son was born, I felt I wanted to feel like myself again. I was sick of massive maternity jeans, enormous bras and swollen feet. I had little control over my body during those 40 weeks, so I wanted to regain control and feel like myself again.

It takes time

When my son Alex was two days old, I (very slowly) walked my daughter Aoibhe to school, and then (very, very slowly) I walked to the local breastfeeding support group.

Everyone appeared to be shocked that I was even dressed, let alone out, but I wanted to be wearing clothes and out and about in the fresh air. It definitely made me feel better, to be out of pyjamas and out in the real world.

post-birth exercise

Those first few outings, encouraged me to pick up pace. Gradually it became easier for me to get back to brisk(ish) walks. It didn’t take long before I braved jogging, which I did for 30 seconds at two to three minute intervals during my walks.

My public health nurse advised me to perform light core exercises, which really helped to get my core strength back.

Do it at your own pace

If you are thinking about returning to exercise, and would like to lose any unwanted baby weight, you should do it at your own pace. It is advisable that you wait until you are at least six weeks after a normal birth, or ten weeks after a section to return to more intense exercise.

Start off with gentle walks, gradually building it up. To get some strength into your arms and legs, do two to three sets of eight to ten repeats of squats, press ups, lunges (with each leg), tricep-dips off a bench. And don’t forget those pelvic floor exercises – you’ll thank me when you want to do a burst of sprinting or squat jumps!

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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.