Finding time to exercise as a new mum
After spending nine months sharing your body with your baby, the prospect of becoming more physically active might feel intimidating at first. By working at your own speed to develop and maintain a healthy state of mental and physical wellbeing, you will be in a better position to experience the challenges and joys of motherhood.
There are numerous benefits that come with exercising regularly as a new mum, including:
- Easing your post-birth physical recovery
- Restoring muscle strength and endurance
- Increasing your energy levels
- Relieving stress and anxiety
However, new mums are often limited in the amount of physical activity they are able to do. Sometimes the reason is physiological, making sure the body is comfortable and recovering smoothly before additional exercise is introduced. However, while this physical limitation is temporary, there are other, more permanent obstacles that a new mum may encounter when she begins to exercise after the birth of her little one:
- Asking someone to babysit on a regular basis is not always a viable option
- Caring for the needs of a newborn makes it difficult to establish a predictable routine
- Making exercise a top priority when pressed for time can create personal concerns and doubts
The level of daily support available to new mums is different for every household. You may have ready access to family members and friends who are willing to help you through the initial period of adjustment. You may have a partner who is able to evenly share the responsibilities of caring for a newborn baby. But when asking someone to babysit on a regular basis isn’t a viable option for you, it becomes more difficult to exercise consistently.
By connecting with new groups and services dedicated to helping mothers adjust to their new family routines, the number of options you have to choose from when planning a trip to the gym can increase significantly.
‘Mums and Bubs’ group fitness classes eliminate the need to find a babysitter before exercising. For a more private approach to physical activity, baby-sitting clubs organised between friends or within mothers’ groups can provide new mums with a consistent source of support by exchanging parenting duties with one another.
Technology is making it even easier for mums to connect with other women in their local area and work together to achieve their personal fitness goals. Sharing-based apps allow new mums to more effectively coordinate their schedules to help each other find more free time to exercise.
While connecting with new groups and services is a great option for mums, the best laid plans often go astray when an infant is involved. Caring for the needs of a fussy newborn makes it difficult for new mums to establish a predictable routine.
When the baby is at a particularly difficult age and stage, new mums can maintain their commitment to physical activity by adapting their routine to fit their little one’s moods:
- When the baby is sleeping, pelvic floor and abdominal exercises can be done quickly and quietly
- When the baby is in a playful mood, lifting him/her up in the air and squatting down can strength your arms, shoulders, and gluteal muscles
- When the baby is being fussy, gentle rocking over a long period of time can help to tone your biceps
To avoid repetition in the type of exercises you do while caring for your little one, it is possible to create flashcards that can be stored in the baby’s room or on your smartphone. When you find yourself with a spare minute, you can pick a card and complete the exercise. Although sporadic, this activity will help to keep your body guessing and create more flexibility in your fitness routine.
The final hurdle that new mums often have to overcome when making exercise a top priority is the emergence of personal doubts and concerns. While every mother deserves to spend “me time” on a personal activity, the decision to become more physically active can make you feel guilty that you’re putting your needs ahead of your role as a full-time mum.
This guilt can be aggravated by concerns that the exercise won’t “pay off”. However, it is important to remember that the advantages of working out are not limited to weight loss. Stress relief, muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance, and increased energy levels are all real benefits available to new mums.
To alleviate these concerns, you can share your fitness goals with your family, friends, and loved ones. With technology, the ability to share your motivation for exercising and your current progress has become quick and easy. With the validation of an online community of support, it is easier for new mums to overcome their personal concerns and feel confident about the choice to make exercise a top priority in their regular routines.
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.