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Practical Tips on How to Maintain Your Fitness when Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Returning to work is a huge balancing act and many mothers with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) report difficulty maintaining an exercise routine. This is understandable due to increasing expectations and juggling home life. However, with the right tools and some problem solving, adding in functional exercises throughout the work day (even just a few minutes at a time) can make all the difference. Exercising postpartum, especially with MS can help with improved body image, reduce stress and inflammation and build more confidence keeping up with your little one(s).

Always speak to your neurologist or neuro physical therapist before starting a new exercise or fitness routine while taking your work environment into consideration. Exercise and functional activities can always be adapted depending on your energy and functional levels.

Here are some things to think about when returning to work (whether at home or in an office):

1. Use a timer on your phone, tablet or computer as a reminder. More often than not, the work day can easily get away from us. Aim for a quick exercise or stretch break every 30-60 minutes, if possible. If you start experiencing more muscle tension, pain or tightness, that’s your body telling you to reposition yourself or get moving for a bit.

2. Breaking down the exercises throughout the day is usually more beneficial for individuals with MS. This is largely in part due to fatigue, weakness and rigidity related to MS, and adding motherhood into the mix, can make it more challenging to exercise for longer stretches of time. Try 3-5 minutes at a time throughout the day. Remember, quality over quantity!!! If you start feeling fatigued, stop and rest.

3. Be mindful of your movements, space and how you’re feeling. If you are feeling stressed, rushed or overwhelmed, it’s not the right time to exercise. In those moments, focus on deep breathing and gentle movements that do not impact your safety.

4. Focus on areas where you are experiencing tension or pain. Common areas include neck, low back and hips. Take deep breaths and hold for at least 15-20 seconds. Depending on your set up and safety, these can be done sitting or standing. Do not perform in a rolling chair or on unstable equipment or surface.

5. Set up your work space to reduce tension. If you use a computer, you should have a slight chin tuck and not strain your neck to look at the screen. For the keyboard, your wrists and elbows should be relaxed with a slight bend (no shoulder hunching!). Use chair supports such as lumbar cushions, an air disc to sit on for an additional core/pelvic floor challenge, or if you feel comfortable and able to, use a physioball for 5-10 minutes at a time.

6. Focus on functional exercises such as squats, pelvic floor activation in different positions, ankle rocking, lifting, standing up/sitting down in a chair (sit to stands), seated clamshells (with or without a theraband), lunges, etc. that relate to YOUR GOALS.

7. Use easy to store exercise equipment. Examples include a light or moderate resistance theraband, 1-2 lb. dumbbells or wrist/ankle weights, air disc (can be used for your core or leg exercises), massage balls for muscle tension release (especially your feet!) or hand griper or rubber bands. If this isn’t possible, doing exercises using your own body weight is beneficial too, such as squats, wall pushups or heel raises.

If you have questions or start a customized fitness program, reach out to Dr. Irina, who is available for work fitness consultations. Stay tuned for an e-book focusing on desk/work exercises coming out October 2023!!!!


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