Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise

The Benefits of Strength Training for Postpartum Women

–Submitted by Kim Clark, Certified Fitness Instructor

Strength training not only tones and tightens your muscles, but it also helps to raise your metabolism, increase your muscular endurance, improve your posture, strengthen your bones, and reduce your chances of injury. Stronger muscles help to protect joints, ligaments, and bones. Stronger muscles help us pick up our children without compromising our back, which is often susceptible to injury. Remember, a newborn car seat is a lot heavier than you think when you put your baby in it!

If you dont want to exercise in a gym, or spend the money on a personal trainer and a babysitter, you can easily incorporate strength training into you day-to-day activities. Take advantage of the time you play with your baby on the living room rug or at the park to build strength. Start by lying on your back, bringing your legs up to a 90-degree angle, as though they are resting on a coffee table. Place your baby on your shins, chest down facing you. While holding onto your child?s hands, slowly extend your feet, keeping your calves parallel to the ground, while pressing your belly button firmly toward the floor. As soon as you feel your lower back coming off the ground, bring your knees back towards your chest. Repeat 8-10 times, keeping it slow and controlled.

Work to increase your upper body strength so you can carry your baby, the diaper bag, and the groceries. Start on hands and knees for push-ups. If your child will lie on his/her back, place them on their back, looking up at you. Slowly come down for 12 push-ups, kissing your child each time you come down. These are great deltoid strengtheners, bringing definition to your shoulders, and most children find it amusing.

Make an effort to carry your child in the other arm. If you are right hand dominant, and find yourself supporting your child on your left hip, your back and arms are being thrown out of alignment. Switch sides at least two times each day for 30 seconds. Building strength on the other side of your body will help to balance you out, and most importantly, protect and strengthen your back.

Be aware of your body mechanics. How do you move when you pick up your childs toys? Do you bend at the knees, or bend at your waist? Your legs are strong muscles for a reason, use them, and save your back. When a toy or pacifier falls to the ground, position your feet hip width apart and do a squat. Pick up the item, and do 10 more squats. Be careful to keep your knees from coming over your toes. It is like sitting into a chair, without the chair behind you.

A little exercise each day will make a difference in our strength and posture. When beginning a new exercise routine, always get clearance from your doctor or midwife.

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