Walking Gets Mama into Shape After Bed Rest

July 5th, 2010

I was really excited to see several new mamas out walking with their babies in the sunshine this morning. Walking is an excellent way for mama to lose the pre-pregnancy weight and spend time with her baby. Additionally it is an exceptional way for a former mama on bed rest to regain her lower body muscle strength,endurance and her pre-pregnancy physique.

After as little as two weeks of inactivity, a mama on bed rest can lose substantial muscle strength and endurance. Judith Maloni, Ph.d, notes in her publication, Astronauts and Pregnancy Bed Rest: What NASA is teaching us about inactivity,

 “Many mamas who deliver after being on prescribed bed rest report that they have difficulty standing up, get dizzy when they first stand up and they have hip and leg pain.”

Many Mamas are unable to support themselves while standing, let alone themselves and their babies immediately post partum! The longer that a mama had been on prescribed bed rest, the longer-and perhaps harder-it is for her to regain her pre-pregnancy strength, endurance and her pre-pregnancy physique.

Most obstetricians advise new mamas not to engage in vigorous physical activity before 6 weeks post partum. While this is sage advice as it applies to engaging is structured aerobic activity, heavy lifting or strenuous activity, it does not apply to walking. In fact, new mamas should take a short walks daily-beginning almost immediately. At first, this may simply be walking down to the nursery to see their newborns. Once they are home, it may be walking around the house, around the yard or around the block. The sooner mama can begin re-engaging her muscles and reactivating the dormant connections between her brain and her limbs, the sooner she can begin the reconditioning process.But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I want to keep this post purely on walking and the early post partum mama.
So there I was, walking my 9 laps around the park in my husband’s home town (a mile=3 loops around the park path and I walk 3 miles), watching the mamas walking with their baby strollers and several important tips came to mind that insprired this post.

  • Start with a good pair of athletic shoes. It is very likely that you will need to buy a new pair of athletic shoes after you have your baby. Your feet probably swelled or spread to accommodate the added weight of your pregnancy. For some women, myself included, their feet are now a full size larger (or more) as a result of their pregnancies. Even if you are able to wear the same gym shoes you wore while pregnant, you’ll probably notice that they have stretched and/or worn in such a way that they no longer provide adequate support to your feet now. For example, I “waddled” when I was pregnant and to be able to support my weight, I walked on the outside of my feet. Once I delivered and my weight shifted back to a more even, central distribution, my old shoes actually caused pain in my calves when I wore them to walk. If you can afford to do so, get new athletic shoes.
  • Wear a good supportive bra. It’s summertime and while tank tops are appealing, be sure to wear a good, supportive bra when you walk. “But walking is low impact,” you may be thinking. True enough, but if you are nursing, you may have noticed that your breasts are not only heavier but also more sensitive than normal. The mere feeling of cloth against your nipples or extra movement of the breast tissue may be very uncomfortable right now. Make sure to wear a bra that keeps you cool and “wicks” moisture away from your breast as well as one that helps minimize movement.
  • Wear an abdominal support if necessary.I had cesarean sections with each of my children and my belly was very tender post partum-especially after the birth of my son, my second c-section. I wore a support garment after both pregnancies to help relieve pressure on my belly. There are several good one on the market and Special Addition Maternity and Nursing Boutique has several great support garments-I bought mine there and you can order online and get sizing support during normal business hours. 
  • Get a good walking stroller. If you can, get a stroller that is designed for walking. These strollers will have larger wheels and the wheels often pivot so that they are easy to turn and maneuver. Today I saw a Graco stroller that had handles that were similar to those that competitive bikes have so that mama can either grip them with her hands or rest her forearms on them. Additionally, many strollers allow you to adjust the handles so that your arms rest comfortably at your sides, not too high and not too low. Very ergonomic!!InStep, BabyTrend and other jogging strollers are great brands to start with. Also, check sporting goods stores as they often stock jogging strollers.
  • Once you have the right equipment, you need to walk with the correct posture. Be sure to stand up straight behind the stroller, not hunched over the handles. New mamas often have rounded shoulders from the weight of their pregnancies, nursing and constantly bending forward to care for their babies. Likewise, mama should not be bent at the waist with arms extended in front of her pushing the stroller as if she is hoisting a huge bolder up a hill like Sisyphus. This stance will lead to arm, shoulder, neck and back pain. It’s important that new mamas stand up straight behind the strollers as they walk to minimize pain or injury. 

Once mama has these few essential pieces of equipment and posture pointers, she is ready to begin an initial walking program and the journey back to her “pre-pregnancy” self. Our next blog post will address some specific training techniques mamas can use to enhance their walking program.

Still on bed rest yet want to maintain muscle strength and tone? Order Bedrest Fitness, the first DVD fitness program modified specifically for mamas on bed rest.

Get a free Download of 10 Lwer Body Exercises, stretches and Kegel Instructions by signing up for our free e-newsletter.

4 responses to “Walking Gets Mama into Shape After Bed Rest”

  1. 3 months bed rest says:

    Dear all, is there a fitness DVD for mama’s after having been on complete bed rest? I was on complete bed rest (including going to the loo) for 3 months and have lost ALL my muscle. 2 months after the c-section and I am still having lots of trouble with lack of muscles. During my bed rest I also had 31 units of blood transfusions. Any advice? Thanks

  2. Darline says:

    Wow! First and foremost, Congratulations on your new baby and for making it through!! Your story is a very good example of how bed rest can really decondition a mama’s body.
    I would start with Bedrest Fitness. Although you are no longer on bed rest. Your body is deconditioned enough that it needs to begin slowly to build back muscle strength and tone. The exercises on the DVD are designed to be gentle and effective for just your type of situation. You can start slowly, doing only one set perhaps and build from there. Once you are able to do the entire DVD series without any difficulty or limitation, you’ll be ready to move back into more vigorous exercise activities. If you want more targeted instruction, We do offer individual and small group trainings. Send an e-mail to info@mamasonbedrest.com for more information. Good luck and we’re here if you have more questions or need assistance.

  3. sherry says:

    Though I haven’t given birth in 15 years I was hopeful this article could help me recover from 18 months of bedrest. I cannot find good advice on the recovery, just the effects of bedrest. Do you think I could do the same as outlined here for mom’s? Where does one go after the momma tape? I was on bedrest for 4 months with my first pregnancy and it was hard recovering but the excitement aided in my efforts. Now with the needed bedrest caused by a bad lupus flare I find even having energy to even get up to be a great chore. Dressing alone tires me out completely! However, I read elsewhere tbat bedrest not only lowers One’s immune system but can cause past viruses to reoccur- such as Epstein-Barr. If you or anyone has advice I would greatly appreciate any input! Many blessings to all the new mom’s out there!!

  4. Darline says:

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out the website. In answer to your question, yes, you may use the exercises outlined for mamas on Bedrest to aid in your own strengthening and toning. In your case, you will be able to slowly increase your workouts as your strength and endurance improve. You will be able to increase the resistance of the bands (i.e. use stiffer bands as you get stronger) and add more repetitions of the exercises.

    If you have not already, check the Mamas on Bedrest YouTube channel as there are examples of exercises there. Also, there is a clip from our signature product, Bedrest Fitness, which is available on our website.

    Good Luck and do let me know if I can be of further assistance!

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