n International SportMed Journal - The effects of regular postpartum exercise on mother and child : review article




Regular postpartum exercise is likely to have many health benefits which may include promoting body fat / body weight loss; promoting aerobic fitness and strength, optimising bone health; improving mood and promoting regular lifelong exercise habits in the mother and her offspring. While research addressing the health benefits of postpartum exercise is not extensive, published studies conducted mostly in lactating women have suggested that moderate exercise improves aerobic fitness, HDL cholesterol level and insulin sensitivity, but does not necessarily promote greater loss of pregnancy-associated body weight / body fat. This may be because exercise while lactating may also stimulate energy intake and reduce non-exercise physical activity level (thus prohibiting negative energy balance). Well-controlled randomised trials are needed to determine whether postpartum exercise improves bone health, mental health or offspring's health, but cross-sectional and longitudinal studies support the contention that postpartum exercise may enhance maternal psychological well-being and promote physical activity habits in offspring. While little data is available from which to base postpartum exercise recommendations, published guidelines suggest that medical clearance be obtained before initiation and that exercise routines be resumed slowly and gradually progressed (based on the woman's physical capabilities) to pre-pregnant training level or goal of exercising aerobically for 25-60 min., 3-6 days / week. The postpartum exercise plan should also incorporate regular resistance-training exercises and, if desired, mother and baby exercise sessions. Studies have suggested that postpartum women will be most successful in getting regular exercise if they have a plan and are confident in their ability to carry it out.


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