Becoming a mum is one of the magical and treasured parts of any woman’s life. But when our little ones arrive it can be all too easy to forget ourselves and get lost in nappy changes and feeding routines. When we talk about fitness for new mums, it doesn’t just mean getting back in shape - it’s about gaining a healthy level of all round fitness.
The Change in Routine
Having a baby is almost as exciting as it is exhausting – the little-ones bring about an extreme change in everyone’s routine. If like many women you’ve returned to work then not only do you have the stress of the job - but bringing up your infant, arranging child-care and even trying to get back into your favourite clothes! That’s a lot for any woman.
If you’re finding this transition hard then there are many steps you can take to help reduce stress. Many new mums change their employment to part-time until their baby is a little older. If you are finding the return to work stressful, then why not have look at what services are available to you. This could be counselling or other options to give you a helping-hand with stress relief. benenden health provide a 24/7 stress counselling helpline for advice & help without having to leave the home.
Create Your Fitness Plan
Maintaining fitness is not just about the physical aspects, it is also about our all round mental health. Being mentally fit needs to be treated in exactly the same way – and they both come down to exercise. When creating a new fitness plan, try to incorporate some mental actives too - these can be anything from a Suduko puzzle, a cross-word through to a chat with a friend.
A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan found;
"A brief (10 minutes minimum) chat was just as effective as spending 10 minutes on a crossword puzzle. Both activities proved more effective at boosting brain power than watching television for 10 minutes"
One major change that comes with having a baby is that sleep patterns become disturbed. This is especially true when they are very young of as they require regular feeds throughout the night. However, being fit and active does depend on our bodies getting an adequate amount of rest - without this a mum’s mood will be affected and hormonal stress levels are increased.
With this in mind make sure you factor in periods of rest both for mind and body, both need to be working in harmony to keep our mental health in check.
The recommended guidelines advertised by the NHS for physical exercise are 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week – which certainly seems achievable. This should ideally be a mixture of aerobic activities (walking, swimming, cycling) and strength training (resistance training, weight lifting*). This can break down to the follow list of activities.
- Cardiovascular - running, jogging, swimming
- Strength - weight training, kettle balls, push ups
- Flexibility - yoga, pilates, ballet
A combination of these just once a week will help your overall fitness. Teamed with a mixture of mental exercises you could see reduced stress level, but make sure you show your plan to your GP before undertaking any exercise.
A recent article by the BBC created hype around outdoor activity due to the gravity of their statement: “... five minutes of exercise in a ‘green space’ such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim”. The conducted research specifically found that certain exercises in outdoor spaces helped us to find a ‘mentally ground state’ - more so at times of high-stress levels.*
One of the easiest exercises to undertake in the great outdoors is walking and light jogging, what’s great about this is that it can be done whilst socialising with friends. Robin Gargrave of YMCAFit agrees and suggests that we interlink both walking and jogging rather than breaking into a full sprint.
"When you can walk briskly for 20 minutes continuously, you can try to "walk-jog". Walk for a minute and then jog for a minute, alternating the speeds throughout your session. Run at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation, but which feels harder than walking"
Exercising outdoors comes with a massive social aspect, exercising with friends or family will also keep you mentally stimulated (and keeping the exercise interesting!). If you are jogging alone then why not look at changing your route every so often to keep your mind as active as the rest of your body.
Now sometimes we just don’t have the time to get outside and exercise. So what are the options for those of us that need to stay and look after the little-one? Last year the NHS launched a Get Fit For Free campaign. It brought forth the importance of mental and physical exercise (without damaging our bank balances) and highlighted the amount of activities we can do from the comfort of our own home.
One of the more interesting ideas was a downloadable podcast for strength, resistance and weight training. These are easily downloadable to your home computer and run on a ten minute cycle, being so short these are easier to fit in amongst your day. These are designed to build upon your flexibility and for all around healthy lifestyles should be mixed in with exercise. One of the most underrated pieces of equipment for keeping fit is the skipping rope; just 30 minutes of skipping a day can potentially burn 400 calories* - team this with Yoga or strength podcast and you will be able to cover your weekly activity from home.
Whatever you decide to do; remember that getting fit is just as much about the exercise as it about creating a safe routine that will help you to become both mental, and physically fit.
*Quotes from Robin Gargraves nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Getfitwithoutgym.