Postnatal fitness for mature moms

Postnatal fitness
Image credit: phoredm, Flickr
Even if your baby is in college, you may still need to adapt your fitness program to your postpartum body. Carrying, giving birth to and raising a baby can cause muscle imbalances that can persist decades after baby is born, if not corrected. Here are some issues that may be linked to your baby rearing days and what you can do about it.
Continence

Several years ago I volunteered to work as an assistant to a physiotherapist who specialized in pelvic disorders. We taught a 4-week course for mature moms called ‘Reconnecting to the core’. It focused on educating moms (in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s) about muscle imbalances associated with pregnancy.

When asked how many of the moms in class suffered with continence troubles, approximately 90 percent of moms raised their hand. When those moms were asked if their problems began right after having their baby, 100 percent of women raised their hands. When we assessed the function of the transversus abdominis muscles (TVA), all of the women had non-functioning or very weak TVA’s. So what the heck is the Transversus abdominis and how do you get it working?

The transversus abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is often referred to as ‘mother nature’s girdle’ because when it contracts it causes a narrowing of the waist and flattening of the stomach. It also serves as an important protector of the spine and works closely with the pelvic floor to hold the abdominal organs (bladder, reproductive organs)

TVA can become lengthened or injured during pregnancy. The resulting dysfunction may include back pain, pelvic pain and or incontinence.

What should you do?

Learn to connect to your TVA and strengthen it. Pilates is an excellent way to learn to connect to your core, however I have found that my clients who had previously attended classes or learned from videos were still not able to isolate and create a correct TVA contraction. Be sure to get at least 1 private lesson with a knowledgable Pilates instructor or specialty trained fitness instructor who can assess your level of function and make sure you are doing it right.

Posture

Do you remember carrying baby on your hip? Chances are it was always the same hip and baby only got heavier. That asymmetrical workout happened daily and lasted a couple of years so you can imagine the muscle imbalance created.

What you ended up doing is overworking the muscles one side of the spine. Eventually they may have become tight and short. Even after baby became independent your muscles stayed tight. Now, you may notice subtle things like mystery back or pelvic pain, one shoulder may sit higher than the other, or you may have a leg length discrepancy.

What should you do?

An assessment of your alignment can be done by physiotherapist, chiropractor, or a specialty trained fitness specialist. They will prescribe a program that includes stretching the muscles that are overactive, and strengthening the ones that are weak and lengthened.

Belly fat

Estrogen is a women's frenemy. As women hit midlife (35-55) and estrogen levels decrease, their bodies store more fat. Why? Fat tissue produces estrogen. As the ovaries start shutting down, fat storing enzymes kick it up a notch, and fat releasing enzymes take a breather.

What should you do? To win the battle you must start paying more attention to the energy game: energy in/energy out. You may have to make significant adjustments to your lifestyle to prevent or lose the extra pounds. This means developing a sound understanding of what and how much you are eating, and expending more energy everyday. Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before but when done right it works! Get started on a daily physical activity regime and set up a balanced nutrition plan ‘cuz crunches won’t do a thing.

Muscles can be temperamental and belly fat can be relentless.   Once you know which muscles are overactive, and which are weak and lazy, it is surprisingly fast and simple to get them back into proper balance. Once you get the fat burning engines going, the fat will melt away. Happy Training, Shari! References Stress Urinary Incontinence & The Pelvis, Diane Lee PT & Linda-Joy LeePT Outsmarting the midlife fat cell.Winning Weight Control Strategies for Women Over 35 to Stay Fit Through Menopause, Dr. Debra Waterhouse Image credit: phoredm

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