Pregnant and postnatal women are now encouraged to exercise a little every day, with the same guidelines from the Government as the rest of the population. This is fantastic, however there are many rules, on when and how we should go about it.
Many Mums want to get out running within days or weeks of having a new baby. They want to get rid of ‘baby weight and excess fat gained in pregnancy’, or simply feel like they are getting fit again, and improving their stamina to be an active Mummy. In most cases this is a positive thought process, however the physiological changes to the women’s body during pregnancy and childbirth dictate that to ‘run too soon’ is unwise.
The Biomechanics of a postnatal body dictate that high impact exercise is not recommended until further into the postnatal stages. Internal aspects and changes to the body such as, a weakened pelvic floor due to carrying the weight of the baby on the pelvic floor during pregnancy must be strengthened before a postnatal Mum should run.
The abdominal muscles may not have completely returned to their pre pregnancy position, therefore the core may be weakened and not strong enough to commence a running programme which could lead to further damage and complications.
Then we have the hormone relaxin which allows the ligaments and tendons to slacken and the joints to become prone to injury (during high impact exercise) as they are not supported. Relaxin remains in the body for at least 3 months in a non breast feeding Mum and up to 3 months after a breast feeding Mum has stopped lactating.(feeding)
Don’t despair…..Walking and low impact exercise is highly recommended, from the early stages- Ideally under the eye of a postnatal fitness expert within a supportive class environment.
Walking can be progressed easily increasing speed & distance which in turn will improve fitness levels, increase stamina and massively improve our mood. Research into postnatal depression strongly confirms that exercise & outdoor environments massively reduce the risk of postnatal depression by raising the endorphin (happy hormone) surge you get from this type of exercise.
But so many Mums want to run…….
By 9 months most Mums are generally feeling fully recovered physically, with a routine starting to take shape. This is a great time to step up the physical activity level, especially if you have enjoyed fitness in your life pre pregnancy and have walked or exercised since the birth of your child.
As we all know- ‘Fit is the new confidence’, so there’s no surprise we have seen a steep rise in sales of fitness clothing, DVD’s, gym memberships and fitness gadgets.
And in our world of ‘Fit Mummies’ a running buggy is the ultimate accessory for any Mum who loves her fitness and wants to take it to the next level.
The benefits are abundant:
Firstly, walking and running are Free activities!!
It is easy to learn/get technique right
There are now free clubs to join.
There is Nothing to stop Dad, Grandma or The Nanny running with the buggy.
It is proven that we Benefit from increased Endorphins (happy hormones) which reach higher levels from exercising outdoors rather than indoors. These are further increased when with a group of like-minded people.
MIND, the mental health charity, list walking or running with your buggy as the 5th point in their ‘self help’ suggestions as to how to prevent or begin to overcome postnatal depression, which incidentally affects 2 in every10 new Mums in the UK.
Running and taking baby with you makes it Accessible for all the family at any time and almost anywhere.
It is a great Solo or group/ partner activity
…and of course a fantastic cardio vascular exercise to raise your heart rate and get your heart and lungs working and strengthening, resulting in fitter, stronger healthier YOU
So what does the buggy add…. What are the added benefits?
First and foremost- it allows you to keep baby with you so you can enjoy time together.
You can spend quality time with your child while exercising, & teaching them the values of exercise from an early age
Both Mum and baby benefits from fresh air
You can ‘Buggy-run’ alongside a toddler on a scooter whilst keeping the baby snug and safe.
The extra weight of buggy and baby creates resistance, so you get a tougher cardio vascular workout, and it will increase as baby grows and gets heavier
It works your hamstrings, quads and gluteus muscles harder, resulting in toned legs and butt. Plus the pushing and steering will challenge and tone your biceps and triceps in your arms too. Not forgetting your abdominals which will need to be engaged to run with good posture and again will be challenged while steering.
Handlebars themselves can aid posture (providing the buggy is set up to suit your height, so an adjustable handle is ideal.)
If the handles are at the correct height it will be easier to run with a natural stride and will mean the foot strike is still within your natural gait. This is crucial to avoid injury or muscle soreness, or worse long term repetitive strain injury. Some people prefer to run with one arm swinging, so the buggy must be easy to control with just one hand.
Aside from the obvious benefits that running brings, such as weight loss, improved moods and general good health, organisers of the Women’s Running 10k Race Series are keen to highlight the advantages of exercising with a buddy, or group, which means people maintain their fitness regime for longer..
The best bit is that studies show, walking or running with a buggy increases your calorie burn by approximately 20% what it would be without the buggy- depending on the weight of you, your child and the buggy.
So the bottom line is- as a Mum, you should never underestimate the benefits of taking your child for a brisk walk in the buggy; or, should you wish to increase your workload and fitness level by running when you feel ready, it will maximise all those benefits, providing you follows the basic rules on when the time is right physiologically.
“Don’t run before you can walk!”