4 reasons mummas need to get out and get active today
We all know how it goes... your brain says "I really should exercise today" , and then finds a million excuses not to.
I remember spending so many days thinking these exact same thoughts- but the barriers were just too huge. I would need to get dressed. And find my shoes. The babies would need to be at just the right point in their eat-play-sleep cycle. A 20-minute walk was just too far out of reach on some days. But when I did it, I felt wonderful! All hyped up on endorphins, so proud of myself for leaving the house, and sometimes the babies fell asleep at just the right time so I got to sit down when I got home!!
So let's add some motivation and review the evidence around the benefits of physical activity for mums-
Here are your 4 reasons to be active today:
1) It will improve your mental health
Meta analyses of meta analyses (studies of studies- basically the highest level of science) confirm that exercise reduces depressive symptoms, even in non-clinical populations (Rebar et al., 2015). Studies of new mums found that walking with prams twice or 3 times a week reduced depressive symptoms after a 6-week intervention, and had a greater impact than a social support group (Armstrong & Edwards, 2004). There is so much evidence supporting physical activity as prevention and treatment for depression and postnatal depression- even if you don't have these things, you will feel more energised!
2) You will feel like you achieved something afterwards
If my anecdotal research in mothers groups has taught me anything, it's that new mums, particularly those that were professionals prior to becoming mothers, struggle in early parenting due to the lack of control, and inability to achieve anything. At least if you go for a walk, you can tick that off your to-do list!
3) You will feel better about your body
New evidence suggests that body dissatisfaction may contribute to postnatal depression (Clark et al., 2009; Downs et al., 2008; Siveira et al., 2015, ). Researchers suspect that this is due to the expectation of 'getting your body back after baby', and an increased tendency for women to compare their body with others after birth. Being active will not get your body back, but you will feel better about the functionality of your core, and your muscle tone.
4) Your baby / kids will benefit
Guess how kids learn physical activity behaviours? Yup, from their parents! Start young and early with the positive, fun movement and watch them shine.
1) Active transport to run errands
Do you need to post a letter? Collect a parcel? return a library book? pick up a script? No matter how small, ticking something off the to-do list at the same time as you are being active is a big win.
2) Head inside if the weather is bad
Shopping centres are a great place to exercise- they are warm, and well equipped with parenting facilities... Just commit to doing a full lap or walking for 20 minutes before you stop to buy something...
3) Find some friends
Text a few friends and see if they are up for a walk- meet somewhere nice/new, or just walk the streets of your neighbourhood. If none of them are free, sign up for MUSH mums and meet someone new!
4) Have an older child? go for a scoot
Your heart rate will either go up by trying to keep up with them, or freaking out that they won't stop at the road- either way, your physical activity goals have been met! I wish I had one of these bad boys...
5) YouTube it up
Don't want to get dressed and face the world? Stay home! there are so many free, gentle workouts on Youtube. You can create a playlist of your favourites, and they go for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Just make sure that you search for 'postnatal' if you are anywhere under 6 months our from giving birth. Try these.
6) Want bonus points? Go Green
Science says that 'green exercise', ie., exercising in natural environments, has even greater benefits (Lee & Maheswaran, 2011). In one study, participants experienced increased self esteem just by looking at images of nature while they were running on a treadmill (Pretty et al., 2006)!
So how can you get moving today?
Zali Yager is the co-founder of Body Confident Mums- a research collaboration led by body image experts. We are currently developing evidence-based resources and programs to build body confidence for you, and help you role model this to your children. Zali is also a Mum to 3 kids, a current researcher at VU, and director of Well Researched