It’s a common concern – as your body recovers from the birth of your baby, the dreaded mummy tummy remains. Whether your little one is months or years old, that little “pooch” can be immune to diet or exercise. How to correct it? Consider seeking advice from an Exercise Physiologist.
We spoke to Esme Soan from Pear Exercise Physiology to get the lowdown.
What is an exercise physiologist?
Exercise physiology is the study of the acute responses and chronic adaptations within the body in response to exercise. Accredited exercise physiologists study the effect of exercise on pathology and the mechanisms by which exercise can reduce or reverse disease progression and improve injuries (for example, how exercise can influence blood glucose without the need for insulin, and help Type II diabetics manage their disease). We essentially use exercise as medicine!
As a result, Exercise Physiologists have a great understanding of how physiological changes brought on by pregnancy and lactation can affect and alter exercise response, and how to tailor exercise programs to help support optimal health and wellness for both mother and baby.
How does this differ to a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor?
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is an allied health professional who specialises in using exercise as a treatment for a range of injuries, conditions and chronic diseases. We do not provide manual therapy for acute injuries like a physio, osteo or chiropractor, but active therapy! An AEP manages the sub-acute to more long-term functional management, providing exercises to facilitate a return to optimal fitness, health and wellness, strengthen what has been weakened, improve your posture and prevent re-injury or manage your condition.
What kind of concerns can an AEP help me with?
There are a lot of physiological changes to our bodies during and post-pregnancy. We use exercise as medicine to help with weight management, gestational diabetes mellitus & Type II diabetes mellitus management, lower back pain, shoulder and neck pain, active birth and labour preparation, diastasis recti (abdominal separation), fatigue, post-natal depression and anxiety, as well as improving your fertility if you suffer from conditions like PCOS and underactive thyroids.
I have a new baby – what can I do to protect my spine and ensure correct posture when carrying / breastfeeding etc?
Spending a lot of time in that feeding posture, with rounded shoulders and weak abdominal muscles can cause poor posture and lower back pain. Strengthening your upper back and shoulders, and opening up the tight muscles in your chest can improve your posture and protect your lower back.
Use imagery like keeping your eyeline high and your shoulders away from your ears, spreading your weight evenly between your feet, and gently drawing your belly button to spine (but not holding your breath) to activate your abdominal muscles. Stretching your triceps, chest and back after feeding can also provide relief from tight muscles.
Why can’t I get rid of my “mummy tummy” with exercise and diet alone?
A common issue post partum is diastasis recti (abdominal separation). Two out of three mums will have some level of abdominal separation. A weak core can cause lower back pain, a weak pelvic floor and a “mummy tummy” appearance. This separation is best fixed prior to beginning any high impact or high intensity exercise back at the gym, and can be made worse through the wrong exercises.
We can help, through exercise and nutritional advice, to reconnect with those core muscles! It is important to understand that your fitness and weight loss goals may not be possible while these abdominal, lower back and pelvic floor muscles are not functioning optimally.
Esme Soan marries a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology with a passion for preconception, pregnancy and postnatal health. Esme works as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) with the Mater Mothers Hospital and Mater Health and Wellness Clinic. She also works with White Cloud/ QUT Health Clinic for Expectant and New Mothers, focusing on providing early access and preventative health for pre- and post-natal depression and anxiety.
Pear Exercise Physiology: Pregnancy & Women’s Health supports expectant and new mums to maintain their fitness, health and wellness. And babies and kids are always welcome!