Mamas-to-be take considerable care to prep their bodies for pregnancy. (Yes, we know cutting back on coffee seriously sucked.) And then they give their bodies as much TLC as possible during the pregnancy — even if they’re secretly a little stressed they’re gaining too much weight. But the biggest challenge for a mom’s body is undoubtedly the postpartum recoup, especially because there’s so much misinformation about postpartum fitness being spread. Leah Keller, founder of Every Mother and creator of the EMbody Program — a prenatal and postnatal fitness system, is here to set us all straight. Read as she debunks five commonly held misbeliefs.
1. Myth: Your body will never go back to “normal.”
Truth: Unless, of course, you mean potentially exceeding your old “normal,” then this assumption is untrue. “Your core and your body can be stronger and fitter than ever before,” Keller states, “and many women experience a new self-confidence and body love that surpasses anything they knew prior to becoming a mother.” She recommends deep core exercises, especially those that engage the transverse abdominis (i.e., the muscle directly below the “six-pack muscle,” or rectus abdominis), to restore core strength and muscle balance and function.
2. Myth: It’s not safe to work out the first three months after having a baby.
Truth: Although Keller doesn’t downplay the importance of rest and recovery, certain restorative movements can actually aid in weaning yourself back into full activity. “Follow your doctor’s advice, and listen to your body,” she says. In those first few months, a safe workout regimen can gently rebuild your core and prepare you to return to your full-blown, pre-baby workout.
3. Myth: Working out is impossible because you will be sleep deprived and too busy with your baby, work, etc.
Truth: As with any person, exercise will help new moms sleep, regulate their mood and energy, and increase productivity. “You can restore core strength and function in as little as 10 minutes a day, and total body fitness in 10- to 30-minute workouts a few times per week,” Keller comments. The most important thing: finding a fitness program that works with your schedule and meets your needs — on your timeline.
4. Myth: Crunches are great for getting your abs back.
Truth: “Crunches will actually widen your waistline and worsen any lingering pooch,” Keller explains. As your abs bulge forward with each jerky motion of a crunch, the intra-abdominal pressure heightens the risk of abdominal separation — a phenomenon that is known as diastasis recti. This is why she encourages exercises that engage the deep core, specifically.
5. Myth: “Bounce back from baby” workout programs are the best way to get back in shape.
Truth: Yes and no, Keller says. It really just depends on the person and the program. “Many programs that market themselves as such are neither reviewed nor endorsed by doctors,” Keller cautions. “And the majority do not have any published medical studies to back up their safety or efficacy.” Keller’s Every Mother program, on the other hand, does. In fact, it is the only method of its kind with published medical research that attests to its effectiveness in resolving common postpartum probs, such as diastasis recti, back pain, and urinary incontinence.
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