We all know that regular exercise is good for the body, but is also reported to be great for the mind and can be one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. It can have a profoundly positive impact on depression and anxiety. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that even modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference so it’s worth considering incorporating some activity in to your weekly schedule, not just for the physical benefits but for the feelgood factor too.
We’ve talked to a range of experts to give you some tips to help motivate you to move more and feel good. Please remember that before embarking on any new fitness regime, it is important to check in with your GP, especially after having a baby, to make sure you are ready to get moving*.
Ann-Marie Trotman, Wellbeing Lead and Personal Trainer at Nuffield Health, Paddington says:
“Being a new parent is definitely not an easy feat! The adjustment especially to a life with a newborn and/or a young child or children can sometimes mean that exercise is the last thing on your mind. While it can be difficult, ensuring you get regular exercise can mean that you're better able to cope with the demands of being a parent as well as the long term impact on your physical and mental health.”
Nutritionist and Pilates teacher Ruth Tongue says “Don’t be too hard on yourself - it’ll take time to get back to the point where you’ll feel ready to exercise. But being outdoors and being active will be a great mood booster and can be the perfect way to meet other mums.”
A new London based initiative called Mummy Walk & Talk has recently launched. It is the brainchild of Ellie Brown, CEO of Greenwich Fitness & Pilates the organisation behind Buggy Runners in Greenwich Park.
The free postnatal social walks in Greenwich Park are aimed at women who have recently had babies and who are keen to meet other mums. Led by a qualified coach and personal trainer, the walks are designed to allow new mums to enjoy the benefits of gentle exercise in a social setting.
Founder Ellie has experienced postnatal depression in the past and recognises that exercising outdoors has been proven to help with wellbeing in both a physical and mental sense but she knows how hard it can be to motivate yourself. She wants to reach out to other women in her community and sees the walking group as a crucial first step toward ‘getting your body back’ after having a baby and a brilliant way to make new friends. The free walks start outside Greenwich Park’s Pavillion Café in Greenwich Park every Thursday at 11am and the first is taking place on 2nd June.
Even if there are no organised exercise groups for new mums in your area, consider arranging to meet up with other new mums to encourage you to get out and about with your baby. You may be part of an NCT group or you may find that you start to recognise some of the other mums in a local coffee shop or baby group who would be keen to join you. Why not suggest going for a walk instead of another coffee and cake session? Alternatively, check out local Facebook groups which can be a great way to connect with like-minded mums and if there aren’t any groups out there that do what you are keen to do then why not start your own and round up a few other local mums to make getting active a more fun and social activity rather than a chore.
Baby2Body founder and CEO Melinda Nicci “My top rules for getting your body back after birth are patience and perseverance. Your body has been through a lot so don’t expect too much too soon; instead, start slow and keep it consistent. Make fitness a part of your daily routine and the results will come.”
Why not think about walking to where you need to go instead of driving or taking the bus. Walking means that you can give your baby your full attention and it may give you a mood boost too but if you’re planning to get some shopping think about investing in a buggy buddy clip, perfect for hanging your bags on the pram.
Other simple motivation hacks from Melinda at Baby2Body include putting your exercise clothes next to your bed the night before so they're the first thing you see when you wake up; Or, booking a workout class with a friend. Melinda says “It will be more fun than a solo session and you’ll be less likely to cancel.”
There are never enough hours in the day and whether you’re a new mother or your children are older you will always have lots on you to do list. Mother of two and London master trainer Melissa Weldon says “Fact is, when you're a busy mother, there is never an ideal time to exercise. You'll have a billion things to do both for your child, home and/ or work and the gym will become a luxury that time can't afford. Question is, can YOU really afford NOT to exercise? All it takes is making time three times a week for 30-40 minutes. Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you cannot and be flexible with yourself. Exercising, in one way or another is essential, not only for your physical health but also your well-being.”
As a working mother who teaches classes for more than 50 hours a week, Melissa still finds time to train herself between teaching and attending meetings. “I've worked out how to make training as convenient as possible to suit my needs. Three to four times per week, short, intense sessions in between classes and meetings is manageable and it makes me feel good; some days when I don't feel it, I remind myself of how I'll feel after and just put my game face on!”
Planning is key. Start small and build up. Don’t do too much too soon but importantly find something that works for you and makes you feel good. It may feel like a struggle at first but seeing yourself improve is a huge motivation and will make you feel great!
And finally...what to wear. Treating yourself to some new activewear is always a good motivator to get moving! For exercising outdoors, merino wool is the perfect choice as it is breathable, comfortable to wear and looks great. If you are taking your baby out with you for a run in the park or buggy-fit class, why not dress them in merino too - our Scarlet Ribbon Merino baby knitwear makes the perfect outfit all year round - merino will keep them warm in winter and cool in summer whilst being super comfy with natural UV protection.