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Tag Archives: postpartum walking

  • Why the French Look so Fit so soon after Pregnancy

    Now we have new evidence not only why French Women don’t get fat but why they bounce back so quickly after having a baby compared to most of us in the United States and other countries.

    In most countries, the US included, women are often sent home ASAP after the baby, sometimes as soon as the next day following delivery. Once at  home women are left to fend for themselves for both caring for their baby, breastfeeding their newborn and recovering from birth both physically and mentally.

    In France, however, women see their gynecologist within the first month of birth for a full checkup and discussion session. They then routinely get twelve half hour sessions with a specialist in postnatal physiotherapy to rehabilitate their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. This specialist also checks the abdominal muscles for any damage or separation caused during pregnancy and French postpartum women are then given exercises to tone them up.

    Many of us develop “mommy tummy” following delivery that oftentimes never fully goes away. This is the horizontal roll of fat along your stomach that hangs down in two sections if you bend over. The technical name for this is abdominal diastasis and it is often an indication that the abdominal muscles have not fully closed back together again after childbirth. This separation is caused during pregnancy when the front abdominal muscle that wraps around the baby starts to pull apart. In France this abdominal area is checked before women even leave the hospital and they are then given a set of exercises to heal the damage. In most places in the US, women are overlooked in this department and sent home fully oblivious to any damage caused to their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor during pregnancy nor are they given any instructions on what to do about it.

    Oftentimes women unknowingly exercise these stomach muscles too vigorously too soon after birth, like doing sit-ups or running (particularly if they used to be super fit before they were pregnant and are eager to resume their fitness routines), which further contributes to increased separation and damage of this muscle. In France women are shown how to strengthen their pelvic-floor muscles to close the gap and then introduced to more advanced abdominal exercises.

    Knowing this, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to check your abdominal muscles before leaving the hospital to determine if you have any separation and, if so, to understand the degree of it. It is common to have more of a problem if you have had more than one baby or if you had a big baby.

    If you do have a gap ask your doctor to prescribe for you some basic stretching exercises to help to begin closing this gap. Ask your doctor to show you how to feel the gap when you lie on your back so you can also monitor the progress at home.

    Even if we don’t live in France we can at least reap some of these postnatal benefits by educating ourselves on what they are doing so well. We can also speak up to our doctors for the same rehabilitation advice so we can be healthy and happy postpartum and lose the "mommy tummy" for good!

  • Walking is as good as Running, maybe Better

    New research out by the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that walking is one of the best things you can do for your body, sometimes even better than running. This is good news for many expecting women and new mothers who are looking for a form of exercise that is safe and easy to do with their constantly changing bodies.

    The study showed that while walking can be less vigorous than running, if you expend the same energy walking as you did running (this means you would have to walk vigorously and for a longer period of time than you would run for the same effect), you could potentially affect even more positive health changes than running for reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, diabetes risk and cardiovascular heart disease. In fact, the more you walk, the greater the benefit.

    For many pregnant women, running is no longer a safe or comfortable exercise option as ligaments are loser during pregnancy along with increased weight and a shifting center of gravity which throws off balance. Running is also not doable for most women postpartum as your body is still healing and vigorous exercise in general is not recommended in the early weeks and even months following delivery. Running is particularly unadvisable for nursing moms who may suddenly have a heavy milk supply and a fuller chest. Tight sports bras are not a good choice as they can cause clogged ducts and mastitis. Walking, however, is an excellent way to ease back into exercise without hurting yourself while also allowing you some bonding time with your baby outdoors. Pushing a stroller while walking gives you the added strength and cardio workout that is even better exercise than walking alone.

    The study noted that to achieve the full benefits walking you need to clock in 10,000 steps a day. The good news is that these steps can be spread over the course of the day and you will probably find many of your day to day chores, errands and daily activities can expend up to half of that step requirement. However, if you are not used to walking this much, you should start slowly and gradually build up to this amount as you are safely able to do so. Also, make sure you invest in a good pair of walking or cross training shoes with adequate support for your joints to lessen the impact. Proper athletic shoes will help you avoid injury and comfortably walk further. (Please note that 10,000 steps of vigorous walking while pregnant should only be done with your doctor’s ok, and not for those who are early weeks postpartum.)

    Pregnancy is a great time to make positive changes in your health and fitness routines for life. You will need the stamina not only for labor when you deliver your baby in the coming months but also for caring for your newborn which can be a marathon in itself. So if you are not on bed rest and you are in good enough health to slip on your walking shoes, look into clocking a few more steps into your daily routine. Also don’t forget to hydrate frequently and avoid getting overheated by taking breaks as needed. Happy walking!

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