Life Stages and Exercise: Postpartum

Women stopping being involved in sports and exercise postpartum may be the time that has the most serious consequence. Research has found women who have not returned to their pre-pregnancy weight six months postpartum are more likely to suffer from long term weight related health issues. It may also be one of the most challenging times to address lack of exercise.

Women identify weight control, improved mood, maintaining fitness, improved general mood and reduced stress as reasons to exercise postpartum.  Although women recognize the positive effects exercise will have for them, we also need to address the challenges to exercise. There are a number of barriers that stand in the way, these include: time constraints, physical limitations, fatigue, social isolation, and child care (especially when there are multiple children in the home/family).

The primary or most important factor for exercise to happen for postpartum women is social support from their partner, family and friends. Second, is building exercise into their daily routine and if possible finding a workout or walking partner.

The recommendation for early postpartum exercise is to start with gentle exercises such as walking, yoga, pilates, and water exercises post-bleeding. As strength and stamina increases more strenuous exercises can be added if so desired.  Starting small and building on one’s successes is key to building a daily exercise program. If five minutes sounds reasonable start there, even a two minute walk to the mailbox and back can be a great place to start for daily movement.

Sources:New Mothers’ Views of Weight and ExerciseSusan W. Groth, PHD, RN, WHNP-BC and Tamala David, MPA, MS, APRN, FPNThe American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, NOV 2008

Kim Fortin