No matter your fitness level, exercise classes are a great way to keep fit, stay motivated and boost positivity. And that certainly doesn’t have to change when you’re pregnant or a new mum. In fact, attending pre or postnatal gym classes is a great way to meet other new or expectant parents. There’s also no denying the benefits to your physical and mental health – both of which can be tested during pregnancy and motherhood.
Below, Hollie Grant, Founder of The Bump Plan, shares her top five benefits of expertise for new and expectant mums to mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond.
Traditionally pregnant women were told to relax, put their feet up, and were treated as if they were fragile. But we now know that pregnant women are not fragile, and they are already performing an endurance event – pregnancy!
We also have a huge generation of women who love exercise and use it as part of their mental health care, as well as for physical health benefits, so there is no reason we should be holding them back! The guidelines from the Department of Health are that pregnant women should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This means it should be that it’s getting us a little out of breath, but we would still be able to talk and have a conversation.
This advice, however, is wrong, is outdated, and has no research to back it up. The current guidelines are that there are gentle exercises (pelvic floor activation, breathwork and deep core engagement) that you can do as soon as you feel ready after birth. Even a day or 2 afterwards. It’s important to note however that someone recovering from a caesarean or complicated birth may take longer to feel ready than someone who gave birth vaginally. It’s important to listen to your body.
Whether you’re a certified gym bunny with a bump or new to the fitness scene, there’s a heap of pregnancy and postnatal exercise classes out there to try. So grab your finest maternity gym clothes and test out our pick of the best pregnancy and postnatal exercise classes.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that there just aren’t enough hours in the day when you’re a mum, and often it’s the exercise class you booked in the hope of finding some ‘me time’ that takes the hit when the kids come knocking. The leading interactive fitness app FIIT MUM is everything you need to kickstart your postnatal exercise journey at the touch of a button.
FIIT MUM has been designed by five postnatal fitness experts, and a pelvic health physiotherapist to help the one million new mums every year, restore their strength and confidence after having a baby.
The programme is broken down into six-week stages, which include each a series of 25-minute classes that mums can take at home, at a time which suits them, without the worry of arranging childcare.
The plan provides a safe and informative work-out schedule, beginning with pilates and yoga to work on the core and pelvic floor, slowly introducing resistance, through weight-training and low impact cardio classes, which help to build functional strength and increase energy levels.
We’ve all heard of the many benefits of pilates, both pre and postnatally, but if we’re being honest, knowing where to begin and signing up to a class can seem a little daunting. Enter Pilates Squared, where founder Caron Bosler offers one-to-one training for mums-to-be and new mums.
Situated in London’s Gloucester Road, the Pilates Squares studio is fully equipped with state of the art apparatus which Caron and her team of instructors incorporate into tailored workout focussing on your individual goals and fitness levels.
Mixing Pilates, dance, yoga, TRX and strength training to not only help you body adjust to pregnancy, but prepare for the changes of childbirth and parenthood too.
It’s no secret new parents are pushed for time. But if you’re wanting to get started on your fitness journey (after consulting your doctor and working at your own pace, of course) then streaming an at-home fitness class is definitely a great option for postnatal exercise.
P.volve is a unique fitness method that works to reduce bulk in the things, open up your hips and create a perky bum without a single squat, lunge or crunch in site. Created by celebrity trainer Stephen Pasterino and inspired by his background in physical therapy, the P.volve method can be followed through the an online streaming platform as well as an app in the UK (there are also a number of studio classes available in the USA).
With the help of Stephen’s specially designed equipment, including the P.ball and P.band, P.volve is designed to be a low-intensity, functional workout. It’s the opposite of a grueling, high-impact, painful workout and therefore safer for those returning to exercise.
Pre-natal Barre Class at Barrecore
Exercising during pregnancy is widely recognised as being beneficial to both mother and baby, and the low-impact Barrecore Method aims to improve posture and maintain strength during pregnancy. It’s a quite way to get your body ready for any pregnancy and postnatal exercise.
Barrecore’s experienced instructors are able to adapt movements to the individual client to match their trimester and personal needs, helping to reduce pregnancy aches and pains and prepare the body for birth. The class is specifically tailored to help prepare your body for labour and all exercises are safe for baby. It’s the perfect mix of strengthening and stretching, all with good music to keep you motivated throughout.
MumHood Classes at Move Your Frame
Frame founders Pip Black and Joan Murphy launched MumHood, their menu of tailored pre and postnatal exercises classes in a bid to help new and expectant mothers stay confident, strong and full of energy on their motherhood journey.
The Pre-Natal Reformer Pilates class helps retain muscle tone in your whole body and strengthen your pelvic floor. The control of Pilates and need to concentrate purely on your breathing and technique is also a great way to take time out during your pregnancy, all the while keeping your posture in check as your body starts to change.
As well as pre-natal, Frame also offers up a number of postnatal classes. Core Rehab is a class for those just getting back into exercise post birth.
It’s a great way to safely re-build your abdominal wall and focus on re-connecting the deeper core layers in a safe and comfortable environment. It conditions your body by lengthening and stretching the muscles that are over-worked during your day-to-day duties as a mum.
Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga at triyoga
Yoga is a great way for expectant mothers to prepare for the birth experience, focussing on calming breathing techniques and preparing your body for labour. The movements and exercises can also help mums-to-be alleviate discomfort and strengthen the muscles in the body in preparation for labour.
At triyoga, your yoga journey doesn’t have to end after birth. Postnatal yoga classes are a great way to heal, strengthen and nurture yourself without needing a babysitter. Plus, you can bring your little one along for some parent-baby bonding, too.
The Bump Plan Pre & Postnatal Online Pilates Classes
Pre and postnatal expert and Founder of The Bump Plan, Hollie Grant, launched The Bump Plan in December 2020, the first holistic pre-natal fitness plan of its kind that provides everything a woman needs to work out with confidence at each stage of pregnancy.
Mothers-to-be receive both physical guidance and mental support. Users move through each trimester with the highly qualified Pilates expert Hollie Grant by their side. Using pre-recorded videos from her own pregnancy, Hollie gives prenatal women the lowdown on how to keep fit, healthy and energised throughout pregnancy and beyond.
Workout-wise, the trimester-specific training methodology combines low impact cardio and Pilates, designed to prepare the body for labour, reduce pregnancy-related postural issues, and develop the muscles required when you have a newborn. All workouts and advice are industry accredited and physio approved.
Along with extensive educational resources and expert guidance in their dedicated Education Hub, The Bump Plan provides women with all the tools they need to prepare them both physically & mentally during pregnancy, labour and beyond. The Bump Plan has now expanded to support women who are trying to conceive, all the way through to the postnatal period. The Bump Plan is made for women who want the strength to take it all on, and it has now helped over 35,000 women around the world.
Additionally, Hollie has a 1:1 Pilates Studio in Fulham if you prefer in-person, one-to-one classes.
Mother Fit Pre & Postnatal Online Fitness Platform
Mother Fit is a unique digital platform that encourages and supports a holistic approach to motherhood.
The thoughtfully designed website looks after women’s mind, body, and soul, during pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond, thanks to its personalised subscription service offering access to fitness classes, expert content, antenatal care, hypnobirthing courses, daily engaging live activity, nutrition, a supportive online community, and so much more.
Mother Fit’s ethos is to support women at whatever stage of their journey, looking after their physical and mental wellbeing. For £9.99 per month or £7.50 per month (annually) including 14 days free (cancelled at any time), members gain access to the complete service, all of which is personalised to the user.
Top Tips for Pregnancy Exercise
Frame founders Pip Black and Joan Murphy share their expert opinion on exercising during pregnancy.
Always consult your midwife or GP before starting
If you are generally healthy and have, so far, had a healthy pregnancy, you should be fine to continue exercising, but always check with your doctor first. If in doubt, a good reference point is the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines.
Invest in a good quality sports bra
You don’t have to spend lots of money on a whole new sportswear wardrobe, but now is the time to invest in a good quality bra for working out.
Nike and Shock Absorber are our go-to brands for hold-them-in, high-impact activities. Be sure to get measured, too – try John Lewis or Marks & Spencer next time you pop in!
Don’t push yourself too hard in the first trimester
Your energy levels are likely to be low, so it’s important to bear this in mind. If you are feeling energetic, dancing, aerobics and body conditioning are all great classes to enjoy in the first part of your pregnancy.
This is also a good time to do exercises on your back (such as hip raises) which may become more uncomfortable later down the line.
Be careful when it comes to core work
Working your arms, legs, glutes and shoulders is absolutely fine – the area to be careful of is your abdominal muscles. Try to stay away from crunches, as you will be reducing the amount of space your baby has and increasing the chance of abdominal separation.
Working your obliques is fine, however, and will in fact help to support your growing baby and protect your lower back. Try to stick to a specialist pre-natal class as opposed to a standard Pilates class.
You can still run during your second trimester.
In fact, you’ll probably be feeling more energised than you did in your first trimester, but keep in mind that the hormone relaxin, which is present in your joints, will mean you are slightly less stable.
Think about reducing your exercise intensity at this stage and take care not to increase your body temperature too much. Doing a spin class? Keep the cadence lower and the hills less steep. Slight sweating is fine, but make sure you are taking in extra water, too.
Try non-weight-bearing exercises throughout your third trimester
You will now be feeling heavier and less agile, so try swimming, walking or specialist pregnancy yoga and conditioning – regular yoga will become tricky by this point and certain moves will need to be modified.
It is fine to continue to exercise using weights if you want to, but listen to your body – if it doesn’t feel right, then stop.
Top Tips for Postnatal Exercise
For advice on the best exercises to try out after giving birth, as well as postnatal fitness tips and tricks we consulted pre and postnatal fitness expert Shakira Akabusi. Here’s what the mum-of-two and founder of StrongLikeMum had to say.
Busting the breastfeeding myth
If you are a breastfeeding mother, take heart in knowing that to date there has been no evidence to suggest that exercise negatively affects breastmilk supply. Exercising to exhaustion may have a slight effect on the content of breast milk but this is short term and will be replenished within 90 minutes.
When to begin working out after having a baby
It’s advised to wait until your 6/8-week check to engage in intense exercise, however the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommends that “if pregnancy and delivery are uncomplicated, a mild exercise programme consisting of walking and pelvic floor exercises may begin immediately”.
Your pelvic floor muscles run from your coccyx (at the back) up to your pubic bone (at the front) and form the base of your pelvis. Supporting your bladder and urethra alongside your spine and helping to control bowel and bladder functions.
You may wish to begin working on your pelvic floor lying down and build up to a seated and finally standing position. Try to do this approximately 3-5 times a day for 5 minutes.
The importance of core rehabilitation
Contrary to popular belief, the abdominal muscles themselves do not stretch as the bump grows during pregnancy. They are separated via a midline called the Linea Alba. For some, this will close quickly during the initial postpartum period. However, for a few, the gap may remain too wide, causing issues throughout their core support, often resulting in lower back ache and pelvic instability.
A gap of more than two centimetres is considered excessive and may need further treatment. However, simple exercises such as pelvic floor work, and exercises that target the Tranverse Abdominis (deepest of your abdominal muscles), can help to repair this.
Postnatal exercises to try
During the initial postnatal period, traditional abdominal exercises such as crunches and sit-ups should be avoided. Instead try performing gentle moves such as beginners’ planks, functional pelvic floor exercises and the ‘Superman’ pose.
Alternatively, begin with gentle heel raises by lying on your back on a hard surface. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor. Inhale and, as you exhale, gently lift one heel off the floor, pushing your lower back down onto the surface, drawing your abdominals in. Hold for a few seconds then lower your leg back to the floor. Alternate between both legs and eventually progress to a double heel lift.
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