It 'takes three years' to get fitness levels back after giving birth – that's OK

pregnant woman running

For 75% of mums – even those who were very fit before getting pregnant – it takes three years to return to pre-pregnancy fitness levels, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by Martin Army Community Hospital in Georgia, found that of the 460 women they tested – all of whom were soldiers – only 30% had returned to pre-pregnancy fitness levels one year after giving birth.

All of the women in the study had a high level of fitness when they fell pregnant, and continued a moderated fitness regime during pregnancy.

The mums particularly struggled with sit-ups after giving birth – likely due to the fact that abdominal muscles are weaker following pregnancy.

There is a huge amount of societal pressure for mums to ‘snap back’ after pregnancy, to start exercising quickly, and return to their previous levels of fitness as soon as possible.

This kind of pressure is, in part, driven by celebrities who seem to be back to ‘normal’ incredibly quickly after having a baby, and how they are celebrated for this in the press and on social media.

But worrying about getting fit quickly after giving birth is the last thing a new mum needs.

Pre- and post-natal fitness expert Hollie Grant – creator of The Bump Plan – says it’s important to try to avoid comparison during this time.

‘People will often see in magazines, newspapers or films, women who have “snapped back” really quickly and it’s so tempting to compare yourself,’ Hollie tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Try not to compare, and bear in mind that these celebrities will have childcare, which not all of us have. They will also have personal trainers who are living with them or travel with them, who are able to train them everyday, which obviously help motivation. They might have cleaners who clean their house so they don’t have to or chefs.

‘Lots of these celebrities will have more support than most of the rest of us have. For many of them, their job is their body, so there’s a huge amount of pressure that comes with that, which luckily the rest of us don’t have to face.’

Hollie says it’s also important to realise that this isn’t a race.

‘You only really get one shot at post-natal recovery,’ she says. ‘What I tend to find is that women who have rushed back have actually set themselves back much more.

‘It’s important to take your time and put in the effort to do the pelvic floor work and make sure you’re breathing properly now that your uterus isn’t up by your diaphragm.

‘You need to be aware of what your core is meant to do, as there’s not only health risks to going back too quickly, but you also might set yourself back and it could be a longer road to recovery.

‘It has taken 10 months to create that baby so you can’t expect to be back to normal after 10 weeks.

So, what does this latest study mean for the average person after giving birth. Is achieving a good level of fitness after having a baby a pipe-dream, or completely unattainable?

Hollie doesn’t think so.

‘This study is extremely interesting,’ she says. She points to the fact that the soldiers resumed their regular training at 12 weeks post-natal, she says there should be a chance to build up to that.

‘While the guidelines about resuming fitness are really basic – six week post-vaginal birth and 12 weeks post-caesarian birth – that doesn’t mean just going back to what you did before,’ she says.

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