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Post pregnancy exercises for mental health

| APR 11, 2017

Melanie, our founder, met Dr. Joanna Helcké at a baby show last year where they were both giving talks and was really impressed with her knowledge and expertise in postnatal fitness. Joanna has kindly agreed to share her top tips during our postnatal depression campaign. Over to Joanna…

I’d like to share a little story about how and why I ended up with a career in pregnancy and postnatal fitness. Before ever falling pregnant, I had always lived an emotional roller coaster of a life, feeling incredibly positive at times, followed by periods of deep gloom at others. It wasn’t ideal but then again there didn’t seem to be much I could do about it.

I had the first two of my three sons rather close together and I have to confess that I didn’t find things easy to manage. There were quite a few lows along the way. One day, a leaflet announcing the opening of a new gym was pushed through my letterbox and I decided to take up the offer and join.

The effects on my mental well-being were genuinely mind blowing and this proved to be a pivotal moment in my life: carry on in my successful career as an academic or retrain as a specialist in pregnancy and postnatal exercise so that I could pass on the phenomenal benefits of exercise to other women?

I don’t need to tell you what route I chose!

The effects on my mental well-being were genuinely mind blowing and this proved to be a pivotal moment in my life.

All this to say that physical activity has been, and continues to be, a hugely valuable tool in my Mummy Survival Kit and in the survival kits of the many women with whom I work.

This leads to the obvious question of whether there are certain post-pregnancy exercises which are particularly helpful when it comes to mental well-being. I can give you all the dos and don’ts of keeping exercise physically safe for you when you have recently given birth but when it comes to exercise and emotional health, I would suggest following these 3 key ideas:

  1. Firstly, do the exercise that you love: what is the point in swimming just because it’s a good postnatal exercise (which it is) if you absolutely loathe being in a pool and swimming lengths? If you love to dance, then go for it! Just make sure you look into how to make postnatal exercise safe for your body and then adapt the moves accordingly.
  2. Secondly, take up exercise that is sociable and preferably with other new mums. In this way you’ll be building a crucial support network which will help carry you through the tough times. Use the Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors website to find local tailored classes designed specifically for postnatal women.  
  3. Last, but most certainly not least take your exercise outdoors. Preferably into beautiful surroundings such as a country park. It is well documented that physical activity in a pleasant, leafy environment has a greater positive effect on mental well-being than doing the same workout in a gym environment.

I find that combining these three key elements when it comes to postnatal fitness is incredibly powerful.

Dr. Joanna Helcke

Mother of 3 boys, Dr Joanna Helcké (PhD) is a leading UK expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness who has won numerous national awards for her work in this field, including the fitness industry’s highly prestigious FitPro Award of Excellence in Fitness in 2014 and the Hero Instructor award 2016. She is the founder and director of the multi-award winning FitBumpBox brand. Joanna is also a regular contributor of expert comment to national magazines such as Mother&Baby and newspapers including the Daily Mail.

For more top tips, check out our Omega 3 fish oil guide to pregnancy.

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