Getting Back into Exercise

Whether you’re pregnant, post-natal or you’ve been away from exercise for a few months, one of the simplest ways of getting back into it is walking. You don’t need a high level of fitness or any equipment, you can do it at any time of the day and baby will enjoy it too. Walking is a gentle, effective exercise for everyone. 30 minutes per day can improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, and reduce your risk of sedentary related health issues, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Outside of the physical health benefits, walking (or any exercise) can have many mental health benefits – studies have shown that exercise can help prevent or as a management option for the symptoms of postnatal depression. When exercising, endorphins are released, bringing about a more positive mindset. This combined with being outdoors in the fresh air and with nature, and the social aspect if you’re walking with a friend, can give you a great sense of wellbeing. Before undertaking any exercise program, make sure you have clearance from your GP and as always, listen to your body and stop if something doesn’t feel right.

  1. Maintain good posture when walking. Straighten up your shoulders, by imagining that you’re bringing your shoulder blades back and then down. Imagine that there’s an invisible thread pulling you up from the crown of your head, to elongate your neck and spine. Make sure that your pelvis is as neutral as possible – your hip bones shouldn’t be tilted forward or back (bonus, just holding good posture will give your glutes, core and shoulders a workout!).
  2. Use your core. If you’ve ever been in one of my classes, you’ll often hear me say “use your core, imaging pulling your belly button towards your spine”. All body movement comes from your core, it’s your bodies powerhouse. You should be aware of using your core when walking, particularly uphill and downhill, to support your back and relieve/prevent back pain and keep you in good posture. So remember, bellybutton to spine, anytime you’re exercising, even for a walk.
  3. Preparation. Make sure you have all the gear you need when you’re heading out for a walk or run. Don’t leave packing until the last minute as we all know how hard it is just to get out of the door with a baby in tow (not to mention those last minute poo explosions that always seem to happen as you’re walking out the door). Make sure you put sunscreen on, bring a raincoat, have an appropriate cover for baby for rain, wind and UV protection, water and all the baby gear you might need. In the warmer weather it’s recommended that you drink at least 500ml of water per 30 mins of exercise. Check your trainers – they have a limited lifespan so if you’ve had them a while and your planning to get out exercising regularly, a new pair might be a worthwhile investment.
  4. Check the weather forecast. As we all know, it could be blissfully sunny and then suddenly out of nowhere, the rain comes or the temperature drops. Always check the forecast in advance. It’s not always 100% but it’ll give you a fair idea of what to expect. There’s nothing worse than trying to load and unload a baby and a buggy into the car in torrential rain or being halfway through your walk and getting soaked. On the flipside, you should also avoid exercising outdoors in the event of a yellow/red heat warning – on these days you should plan your walk for early in the morning or in the early evening, when the temperature is much lower, so both you and your baby will be comfortable.
  5. Choose the right buggy. It’s fine to use any buggy on a flat, smooth surface, so you don’t need to make any big buggy investments unless you need too, however if you enjoy longer walks, hiking trails or perhaps even running, the right buggy makes a big difference. Buggies designed for exercise have additional features to suit, like better tires and fixed wheels for stability and babies’ comfort, handlebar operated brakes for extra control, lightweight frames and puncture proof tyres.
  6. Bring a friend. Its much easier to get motivated to exercise when you have someone to do it with, to keep you accountable! It’s also a great way to bond and work together towards a common goal. Instead of meeting in a café, why not go for a walk together first and reward yourself with a coffee afterward.
  7. Choose the right route. Safety first – you want to make sure there is a safe footpath for the buggy and not too much traffic on the route. It’s good practise to put the break on the buggy every time you stop, and if you have a wrist strap, make sure you use it. Check the terrain/type of route and make sure it suits your buggy. If you’re early in your post-natal recovery or have any back or pelvic pain you may want to avoid hills or rough terrain, as this may be too strenuous and needs a bit more strength to manage – stick to smooth flat surfaces. There are plenty of beautiful, smooth flat walks in Cork, such as Carrigaline to Crosshaven, Blackrock to Rochestown and Hop Island to Passage West.

If you have any specific questions, or need advice or guidance, please feel free to get in touch with me. If you’re looking for an exercise class in a supportive and comfortable environment, take a look at my class timetable and see if there’s a suitable class near you.

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