To mums out there who have seen Michelle Bridges recent post about the exercise she is doing at 3 weeks post natal, then you would be right in feeling confused by her recommendations.
It boasts about her 56 min interval work out, which is comprised of 32mins of jogging and 24 minutes of walking. She goes on to say “Remember! I’m a professional trainer & have been training for 30yrs. So! For you please dial this down to 15 – 20 mins of total work.”
Michelle recommends you reduce the length of her workout, however has failed to identify that the real issue is not the length rather the type of exercise: Jogging!
The reduced 20 minute workout would still include 12 minutes of jogging, which for a woman who has just had a vaginal birth or cesarean delivery is quite simply irresponsible, and would NOT be recommended by an experienced health professional.
If an individual decides to jog soon after giving birth, this is their choice. However as a public figure encouraging women who’s body types, birth and fitness histories are unknown, to start jogging is quite frankly concerning. It could potentially cause a woman more harm than good in these early stages, especially to the pelvic floor and the ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel
After seeing this post on Tuesday, and letting it sit with me for a few days, I have become increasingly frustrated by the incorrect message that are promoted by the fitness industry especially for women in their childbearing years. As a health professional working in Women’s Health for over a decade, there is a duty of care to provide women with the correct information on how to best look after their bodies. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard comments like “If only I knew about the damage returning to exercise too early could cause. I might not have ended up with these problems.”
As I’ve noted in the past, I’m a great supporter of Michelle and the work she does in building healthier communities throughout Australia. But now what I’d love to see is Michelle using this time as opportunity to promote a positive post-natal message to her audience. Like rebuilding of the pelvic floor, deep abdominals and postural muscles that are so dramatically weakened during pregnancy. Or instead of jogging, encouraging more appropriate low impact cardio options such as the stationary bike or cross trainer.
So what exactly is wrong with jogging at 3 weeks post-natal?
Jogging is an exercise that results in a high impact force called a ground reaction force that travels through the body when the foot strikes the ground. This impact requires strength and stability from the joints, ligaments and muscles in the body to maintain good control, preventing injury and tissue damage.
In the post-natal body the ligaments and muscles have a reduced ability to generate strength due to the physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy and birth. These changes coupled with the downward force of gravity with vertical exercise such as jogging or jumping means that if undertaking high impact exercise, then excessive strain is being placed on already weakened structures including the pelvic floor and pelvic girdle, potentially causing a new mum long term damage.
So what exercise can you do safely?
The most important thing to remember is that all women have different body types, have had different birth’s and have different levels of fitness leading into the pregnancy, so returning to exercise at the right intensity is individual. Start with low impact exercise such as pelvic floor exercises, pilates, yoga, stationary bike, cross trainer, and swimming (after your 6 week check) and build gradually from there.
If you are a runner or keen to return to more high impact exercise, then I highly recommend you see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist from 6 weeks who will assess your pelvic floor, postural alignment and abdominal muscles to ascertain the right exercise for you. Then to keep motivation up, find an experienced trainer or fitness group who specialises in the post-natal body who can guide you in your safe return to full fitness.
Ladies, remember you only get one body and one pelvic floor, which has been gifted to you to enable the growth of your special little human. So please, show it some respect and look after it.