Postpartum mothers are often juggling intense schedules: infant feeding, mealtimes for other family members, work both in and outside of the home, and there is scarce time for self-care. Throw in the typical postpartum fatigue, potential for postpartum depression, adjustment to parenting or adding another child to a family, risk for weight retention, and the ability of a new mom to resume or begin exercises can be beyond daunting. An additional complication arises when a woman has been on bed rest, as she has lost muscle mass and cardiorespiratory function and endurance. How can we best set up a new mother for success?
Research published in the journal Clinical Sciences reports that regardless of exercise intensity, women receiving postpartum intervention experience health benefits. If a woman is unable to reduce the weight gain that occurs in pregnancy, by 6 months postpartum she will have increased risk factors for developing chronic disease, according to the authors. In the study, 20 women were instructed in nutrition advice and low intensity (30% heart rate reserve (HRR)) and another 20 women women were instructed in nutrition advice and moderate intensity(70% HRR) exercise. A group of controls (n = 20) was included and matched for BMI, age and parity.