Why Walking is the Best Postpartum Exercise

iStock_000016288424SmallWhen did walking get such a bad rap? I have clients tell me all the time that they need to "exercise" but can't due to whatever the issue is that brought them into my office. Then they sneer and say, "I can only manage to go on [deep depressed sigh] walks." We've been sold such a story that we need to only bow down to the holy grail of sweaty, heart-thumping, intense cardiovascular exercise in order to have any health benefits. When in truth, regular, non-sped up, walking is a primary ingredient of what our species needs to thrive. It's not that getting sweaty doesn't have it's place of course, but we can drop the sneer about walking being so sub-par... It's actually what should be prioritized for our best health, especially in a world where we walk less and less. All that said, this post could easily be titled Why Walking is the Best Exercise. Period. But Wendy Powell of MuTu Mamas happens to be an expert in postpartum health, so this is written through that (very needed) lens. MuTu System programs are clear about the walking part. It’s not negotiable. Right from Day 1, you go for a daily walk, and that remains a constant throughout the program and beyond. But whether you are a mama or not, this is a great read. Read it, and then go take a walk! Daily walks are for everyone!

Enter Wendy: 

Whether you are 1-week postpartum or 5 years, walking is an essential part of your recovery and healthy lifestyle.

Short bursts of sweaty, intensive exercise a few times a week are great for fat burning, raising the heart rate, improving endurance and making you feel great.

But a ‘workout’ isn’t a substitute for walking.

If a session of frantic exercise is the only movement you get in a day, it’s not going to get your body or your health where you want it. Walking should always come first – every day – wherever you can manage it. Just 20-30 minutes is enough… (but more is awesome).

Walking is a Health-Saver. Period.

Walking in optimal, whole-body alignment benefits your joints, muscles and connective tissues, encouraging them to do their job: muscles stretching, lengthening and contracting like well-oiled machinery.

Walking is a must for Moms.

For moms, there’s another USP of walking. Childbirth compromises your core and pelvic floor -- and standing, walking and squatting in correct alignment is super effective at restoring function to these muscles.

Your core muscles are responsible for stabilising your pelvis as you walk, so walking in good form conditions your mid-section with every step you take.

As well as helping you to work and tone your core muscles naturally, walking in proper alignment helps to reduce pressure in the abdominal cavity. This has four brilliant side effects for Moms:

1) It Helps Close The Gap in Your Core

Diastasis recti –abdominal separation –is characterised by a weakness of the midline of the rectus abdominis muscle. The muscle has a stretched weakened area of connective tissue at the centre (the line alba), causing instability, possibly back pain, and a pooched ‘mummy tummy’appearance.

Diastasis recti is caused by excessive intra-abdominal pressure exerting an outward force. Your core can begin to firm up only when intra abdominal pressure is reduced. Correcting your alignment and walking will help with this!

2) It Helps You Get a Flatter Tummy

No amount of abdominal exercise will help a tummy lie flat if you have significant diastasis recti. By helping mums to narrow their diastasis and firm up their midline, walking with proper alignment helps to build the foundations for a flatter tummy.

3) It Helps Restore Pelvic Floor ‘Bounce’

Intra abdominal pressure exerts outwards and downwards, also weakening the pelvic floor muscle.

Pelvic floor weakness is a problem for many moms and can result in incontinence, pelvic pain and even pelvic organ prolapse.

Walking and moving naturally reduces the pressure, enabling you to regain pelvic floor strength. Walking, twisting, squatting and lunging are also really important to get the pelvic floor muscle to do its job effectively –lengthening, contracting and relaxing with ease –supporting the internal organs, preventing leakage and enabling more sexual pleasure. Whats not to like?

4) It Helps You Kiss Goodbye to Aches + Pains

Core instability arises from any one part of the core not working properly. So, if you have diastasis recti, core weakness or pelvic floor dysfunction (leakage, pain or prolapse), you have an unstable core. The effect of the instability can ricochet throughout your body, causing backache and other muscular aches and pains.

Walking and moving in a natural way helps you to build a strong, well-functioning core –and so helps you to reduce pain and injury.

How To Walk!

It might sound crazy to think about how you walk, but bodies that spend too much time slumped in seats, cocooned in squishy beds, or tottering in high heels have long forgotten how to walk as we were built to do.

How you walk directly affects the benefits you experience from it – walk right and you will tone your butt, leg and pelvic floor muscles, get it wrong and you will do little for your body except knackering your joints!

Your whole body participates in walking, from head to toe, in perfect mechanical alignment, so it’s important to give some thought to how you hold yourself and how your feet interact with the ground.

7 golden rules of ‘natural’ walking:

  1. Your feet should point straight ahead as you walk
  2. Your torso should be straight, don’t lean forward, look straight ahead
  3. Ditch heeled shoes which disrupt your alignment - choose minimalist or barefoot shoes where possible
  4. Don’t thrust your chest out or tuck your butt under
  5. Keep your legs straight. Rather than bending your knee out in front to gain ground, push away from the ground with the toes and ball of your back foot with straight legs to move your body forward.
  6. Stretch your hamstrings and calves daily. These muscles are very often tight, causing your butt to tuck underneath and preventing correct walking alignment
  7. Check your feet: Correct walking gait moves your foot through four phases: heel strike, foot flat, heel off, toes off.

If that’s all too much to think about at first (I mean, how hard should walking be?), just get out and take a walk. Hold your head up, stride purposefully and swing your arms. Try to relax and enjoy walking as a sanctuary of calm in your hectic world.

Little by little, one change at a time, begin to check the way you’re walking and establish better alignment habits. Your shoes are the best place to start. Walking regularly will have a bigger impact on your postpartum recovery and whole body health than any workout - so make a daily walk your daily activity priority!


About the Author

Wendy Powell

Mom of 2 Wendy Powell is founder of the internationally recognized and sought after MuTu® System program. She has over 12 years experience, proven record and study in the pre and postpartum fitness industry.

MuTu System includes online coaching, DVD’s, online support and community, fully endorsed by Specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapists and Industry Experts worldwide. It is fresh, personal, progressive and motivational, and it gives Moms the answers, guidance and support they need to restore body confidence inside and out. Wendy has an established international social media following and industry reputation.

MuTu System covers fitness, fat loss, nutrition, hormone balancing and motivational strategies for busy Mums.

Wendy’s specialist area of expertise is pelvic and abdominal reconnection and restoration after childbirth: functional core strength, diastasis recti, pelvic floor and related alignment issues.

Wendy writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared in numerous magazine features, including Red magazine, Health and Fitness and Zest. Health and Fitness magazine UK also commissioned Wendy to write their Get Your Body Back book, published September 2013.


Jonathan FitzGordon Interview


Jonathan FitzGordonI interview Jonathan FitzGordon, creator of the Core Walking Program and my first yoga teacher from way back in the day. Jonathan works with people who are dealing with chronic pain by teaching them how to walk properly, and has amazing results with impacting pain patterns by addressing walking. He is also the author of Psoas Release Party, and Sciatica/Piriformis Syndrome. We get into all kinds of good stuff about pain, alignment, movement, the mysterious psoas, the importance of being your own healer, and much more. Check out the transcript below if you want to either skim or to get a more thorough outline of our chat.

1:35 Jonathan and I talk about how I was one of the very first people to go through the Core Walking program back in the day when we were both in Brooklyn and he was first developing it. Jonathan discusses his learning curve on how he needed to approach everyone completely differently.

3:18 I ask Jonathan about some of the hallmarks of his teaching like, “stick your butt out” and “go ape”. I talk about how he is talking to people in a very different way than most of us approach our bodies these days, which frequently looks like battling our bodies into submission and taking on a military or ballet dancer style posture (or aiming for that as the ideal).

4:00 [Jonathan’s voice from here on except where noted] I find a lot of body and movement work to be very smart but very subtle. So when I started the walking program I wondered how do I make this as simple as possible? Stick your butt out is a very basic instruction, and I get a lot of grief for that. In truth I don’t give very specific instructions. But I do think everyone tucks their pelvis.

5:12 Sometimes a bodyworker will come in for a session. Last week a Rolfer came in, and I thought, “Oh this person is going to show up and have perfect posture” and yet they come in and are tucked under like everyone else.

5:50 One of my favorite phrases is “go ape”. Very often I don’t tell people to go ape. I make them stand in a certain way and I wait for them to say, “I feel like an ape” and when they say that I know they’ve found it.

6:17 My main take is we’re all tucked under in the pelvis, hyperextended in the knees, leaning back in the upper body which crunches the quadratus and psoas and everything. Let’s say I’m teaching yoga and I put everyone in tadasana and I say “stand up straight” and I go around to everyone and stop them from leaning backwards with a tucked under pelvis. In truth you have to figure out what the perception issue is. You are perceiving standing up straight when you are actually leaning backwards. You have to change your perception of yourself in order to change your physical self.

7:42 Essentially I feel like I can’t fix anybody. I don’t think anyone can fix anybody. You know I’m a big fan of Rolfing, and I don’t think Rolfers can fix anybody. I think Rolfers facilitate people fixing themselves.

8:03 I love my chiropractor. And yet I tell people, when you go to the chiropractor and then you leave, you have to figure out how to keep the adjustment. If not, you’re addicted to your chiropractor if you have to go back each week.

8:17 Not to complain about practitioners, but I actually don’t think that’s in the dialogue enough. “I am someone to help you fix yourself” needs to be more of a dialogue. And that’s the [Core] Walking Program.

10:22 I ask Jonathan what he thinks the tucked pelvis is about. How did we even get this idea that it’s a good thing for a body? [Jonathan] I have lots of theories. I really believe something happened in the aerobics practice, Buns of Steel. The whole concept shifted in the public’s idea of what working out was. Also in medical practice if you hurt your back MD’s tell you to make your butt stronger and make your abs stronger. And I don’t think that has served people’s back pain. If someone goes to a doctor a doctor can say if you tuck your pelvis under you’re going to elongate your spine and make more space, and there's a certain logic to that. And it takes hold and so it becomes a part of the fabric of treatment of low back pain.

12:15 Another one of my main theories is that we do it because we can. We’re the first upright beings and I think we lean backwards simply because we can.

12:50 [Me: Tell people some of the benefits they would get from sticking their butt out] The main thing they would get is to relax it. We are a tight-assed people and we need to learn how to let go. I want to teach people anatomy so that they know how their body works, but I also want to teach them to feel their body.

13:40 The next time you are in a store and you are on line [this is New Yorker speak for waiting in line...] if things are moving too slow in that line my butt starts gripping. That tension goes right there. I now know when I get into a place of that tension, I relax it, and that brings nervous system ease.

15:07 Taking Root to Fly, the book by Irene Dowd, I think the first line of her book is the pelvis is a hub of a wheel. So to me it’s the pelvis. If you pelvis isn't’ in the right place, nothing can be in the right place. so a lot of this adds up to what happens when I stick my butt out.

15:55 I think kegel exercises are in controversy these days. I’m all for their anti-kegel-ness, except I just think people do them wrong. If their pelvis was in the right place, they could do them correctly.

17:40 [Me] Do you come up against a cultural bias of hiding the butt? [Jonathan] I find that all the time but for endlessly different reasons.

18:15 I’m not a psychologist, but I really do believe a lot of this body stuff is purely about the psychology of who I am, and what I am. And that gets into a lot of weird stuff. So I think it’s a very interesting process telling people to change. And there’s this amazing psychology of why our bodies turned out the way they did.

19:58 The 83 year old client who attributes never having had a day of back pain to eating hot dogs off the street [at NYC vendor carts] every day. True story.

20:45 That’s what’s fun about my work. Every body is so individual.

21:58 To me it is all fear of change. There is nothing driving our show more than fear. A lack of permanence in an impermanent world. And without getting too spiritual I really think our walking and movement patterns are really wrapped up in that. Our bodies are where we come from, but as an adult you get to choose if you want to change that. Or not.

23:46 [Me] A lot of people don’t put that together: If I change my walk, my pain will get better. So can you address that a little bit and what you teach in the walking program?

23:58 It’s called the Core Walking Program. So the idea is you have to walk correctly, but you also need muscles to support that walking. Kids don’t get taught how to walk. We teach them how to tie their shoes, how to zip their coats, but not how to walk. And I thought why not? Why should anyone walk well when no one taught them how?

24:41 Most of the people I work with have joint pain, low back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain. They’re really only coming to me as a place of last resort, because they think of walking as this weird thing. So they’ve seen many doctors and other specialists by the time they see me, and I’m giving them very simple things to do.

26:32 In a lot of ways it’s about getting them into the front of the body. Everyone has a tight back body: their achilles, calves, hamstrings, their butt, erector spinae, suboccipitals, it’s all tight! So we’re walking that way.

27:00 So everything I teach is how to get people into the front of their body. Which gets into really unbelievable stuff because there are no rules for this stuff. I just had somebody who came in with back pain. They obviously had very tight psoas, and this person did a lot of crunches as well. He thought he was fat, but his belly was rigid and hard. His tight psoas was shoving his abdominal contents forward. So if he’s told to do sit ups, he’s going to create more congestion in his middle to do it. So that’s where it has to become very specific with people.

28:51 [Me] What are some of the ways you get people into their front body? We talk about the mystery of the psoas, and how it can be really tough to understand and access.

29:40 I am mystified by the mystery of the psoas. Because I have people who I have literally trained and they still come up and ask me, “where is the psoas?”. After listening to me talk about it for days, they still can’t understand where it is. My main exercise is not a core strengthener, it’s a psoas release: constructive rest position. 10 years later I cannot believe how profoundly useful it is for people.

31:07 I meet very few people who have enough core strength. But the other piece of that is you need to have a happy, released psoas which makes things complicated. There’s nothing wrong with stretching the psoas. What’s weird is that you don’t ever want to feel the psoas stretch. And when you feel it on one side but not the other you know you’re in trouble because you’re imbalanced.

32:13 It endlessly gets back into people getting to know themselves. People learning how the body works.

32:26 Everybody usually wears their shoes out on the outside of their shoes, and that’s living in the outside and living in the back body. I can either say, “walk this way”, or I can say, “How would you walk on the inside of your shoe?” If you know your foot is supposed to place down on the inside it’s going to place down that way.

33:38 Learn how to take apart yourself. Become an expert on you, and it will serve you for the rest of your life.

35:33 Patient, heal thyself. Our game is to facilitate how people can heal themselves. On a certain level a practitioner might get all wrapped up and feel like they need these people to come back, but the world is big.

36:19 Jonathan talks about his sister who has severe scoliosis, and his niece, a hip hop dancer, who was recently diagnosed with mild scoliosis. [Jonathan] And they start talking right away about things they can do, and she’s 16. When she came home from the doctor I told her I didn’t think she needed to do any of these strangely invasive processes. She’s so strong, she can do amazing things.

37:22 I ask Jonathan what his favorite thing is for self care at home for people to play with. I have to go back to constructive rest. It’s oddly benign. But on a different level, everyone learns differently. So I think it’s about learning about your body. If you like reading, buy an anatomy book. If you like watching, get NOVA on the body DVD’s or something. What’s amazing to me is how much money people spend on medical that they don’t need to.

39:33 Be your own healer.

DIY Friday: The Mysterious Bum Knee

diyfriday (2)

*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

When I was interviewing Christine Jablonski about her rehabilitation from a nasty knee injury, she and I spoke off camera about the fact that the vast majority of knee stuff that we both see with clients is actually not precipitated by an injury, and instead is given that lamest of lame labels (I hate even typing this phrase. I seriously might break out in hives over here.) "normal wear and tear".

Give me a moment while I clear the flash of white rage from my eyes... What!?! I'm sorry but people in their 80's or 90's can talk about "wear and tear" (and even then I've got a lot to say about it), otherwise it is simply far from "normal" for knees to wear out, to the point of requiring either "clean up" surgery or a total knee replacement. So the orthos at some point decided to use the term "wear and tear" instead of the less appealing: "I have no idea why your knee is shot." Or the more honest, "My medical training- which is about performing surgery on people- and world view tell me that our bodies simply wear out for no good reason, so I'm going to throw you into that pile." So get ready for it: If you are using your joints with integrity, i.e. how they are designed to function, then they will not be "wearing" or "tearing". They will simply be doing what they are designed to do, and functioning. 

As Kelly Starrett points out in his book Becoming a Supple Leopardour tissues are designed to last roughly 110 years. Going farther, Starrett clarifies that 1 percent of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction is due to pathology (i.e. there is some serious disease process going on, for example cancer instead of a torn meniscus), and another 1 percent is due to catastrophic injury (like the kind Christine and I discussed). Which leaves a full 98 percent of dysfunction (98 percent!!!) due to overtension (missing range-of-motion), and open circuit faults (moving in a bad position). In other words, most of our dysfunction, or wearing and tearing, is a result of misusing our own bodies.


Now before you go shaming yourself into a stupor, please remember that you didn't do this on purpose. Sure you probably ignored some signals that you were pushing it, but mostly it was that you never got the owner's manual on how to use your body with integrity. And sadly we now live in a culture where we are disconnected from that and are doing things our bodies really don't benefit from. Like sitting in chairs, or typing on laptops. But I for one and not going to give up the glory of technology to become a hunter gatherer (I am both sitting and typing on a laptop right now), so let's instead go the route of getting some insight on how not to wind up with the mysteriously bum knee.

Which brings me, finally, to this week's DIY Friday round-up. Both of these posts are courtesy of Vital Gaitway. And sometimes all I can say is, just, wow. Both of these posts are gloriously thorough in explaining how to use your knees with integrity. But as our knees are connected to our everything, they are so much more. If you've ever wondered about healthy standing, walking, or sitting, or just plain how and why do our joints wear out when we're not aligned, well then, this is a treasure trove. It's a bundle of information, and I know we're all time pressed, so I suggest you print them out and make your way through them gradually. The nuggets of wisdom in them are worthy of your time. For reals.

Fixing Your Knees Without Surgery Part 1

Fixing Your Knees Without Surgery Part 2


*And if you missed it, Christine also gave us her top Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball moves in last week's DIY Friday.

Images by Vital Gaitway

The Most Important Joints?

163900640_682302eded_bWell I don't mean to go picking favorites or anything, but if I have to pick one group of joints to pay attention to for the the greatest benefit to the whole rest of the body (and the best one-stop-shopping spot for anti-aging benefits), I'm going to have to go with the toe hinge. Hands down. If you have a full range of healthy movement at the joints where the toes meet the feet (the metatarsal-phalangeal joints if you want to be fancy about it), this will instantly translate into a healthier and happier range of movement for everything upstream. Yep, your knees, hips, pelvis, and normal biomechanical movement of your spine all depend a great deal on how well this joint complex adapts in walking. But enough of my talking about this mystical part of your anatomy, check out the video and play along at home to get friendly with your toe hinge.


Photo by crowdive

Safe transition to minimal footwear

[Side note from Brooke: this is a great addendum to the last DIY Friday on eradicating foot pain, which is a review of Katy Bowman's fab book. And for those of you who are minimal footwear curious (no they don't all have to show your toes in all their glory...), some great brands to check out are: Vibrams 5 Fingers, Vivo Barefoot, Merrell Connect, New Balance Minimus, and AirwalksEnter Jillian: 3731945345_fcc530cc96_bSo, spring is here and soon it’s gonna be summer. I’ll be out walking every day, and I’m sure you will too. Right? Promise me you’ll go out walking every day because it’s one of the best things you can do for your health! Good. There’s a big trend right now toward minimal footwear, like the famed 5 Fingers.

It is a trend that I am more than happy to follow. For some people it can be hard to catch up and jump on the bandwagon though, because their feet are already so screwed up. It can be discouraging to start wearing minimal shoes and then discover that they are way harder on the feet and increase your foot pain. You thought these shoes were supposed to be good for you! Trust me, they are good for you, but if your foot is really weak and tight (which most feet are) it can be downright damaging to the foot to wear minimal shoes . But don’t worry! As long as you don’t have gangrene  you can whip your feet back into shape and you can transition to minimal shoes. I’m going to give you some tips on how to do this, so you can experience all the rad-tastic benefits without busting up your parts.

First of all, why is minimal foot wear so awesome? Because it allows the foot to move. Movement is the key to health in any part of the body. Movement increases circulation, it stretches tight muscle, it strengthens weak muscle, provides fresh oxygen and increases lymph flow to the area in motion, which in turn decreases inflammation and pain in the area, it keeps the bones strong, blahblah you get the idea. This is really important for the feet, since they are the base you stand on. If you have hurting feets, it’s gonna be really hard for you to get in any of the movement the rest of your body requires for health. Standard foot wear, especially shoes with an elevated heel (which is anything that isn’t 100% flat, I’m not just talking about high heels) does not let your foot move, and the heel maintains an incorrect joint angle in the ankle and knee while you move around. Ouch. It’s like stuffing your foot in a cast, day after day, week after week…30 – 80 years go by and you have bunions and plantar fasciitis and you can’t even walk to the car, let alone go hiking on a woodsy trail. Now, because your atrophied foot muscles can’t bear the weight of your body anymore and everything hurts all the damn time, you get stuck in really supportive shoes and orthotic arch supports. Here’s the killer though, the more supportive the shoe, the more your muscles will atrophy  and the worse the problem gets! All the support you’re putting around your foot is basically telling your muscles to shag off and go on vacation. The less supportive the shoe, the more your own foot has to move and work to support you, and the healthier it becomes.

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Hehe. No, the first step is getting into some flat footwear. Start going barefoot around your house, and start transitioning to wearing flats all the time. If you’re having a lot of pain, try wearing low heels for a while, and then wear flats more often.


These Sketcher’s Go Walk shoes are a nice transition shoe for someone who is used to wearing high heels all the time. They are NOT flat, but they are flexible. I wouldn’t wear them forever, but they’re a really nice step between high heel and flat shoe!


This stretch on a half roller or a rolled up towel will help you get into flats more quickly.

Even going from flat shoes to minimal shoes is tricky. I have wonderfully healthy mobile feet, but after just 1 hour in my new shoes, my feet were really feeling it. I discovered a muscle on the bottom of my foot that controls my pinky toe. Evidently, ALL your toesies are important for walking. A little bit of foot training goes a long way when trying to get used to shoes with less support.

Finally, go easy on yourself. Don’t decide one day that you’re just going to wear minimal shoes all the time after years of wearing high heel shoes. You have to prepare your foot, and then get in the water slowly. Wear your new minimal shoes for short walks at first, and when you’re not wearing minimal shoes make sure to keep wearing flats so you don’t undo all your hard work.

A final tip: really minimal shoes work best on natural surfaces. They’re great for going hiking in the woods, or walks on gravel trails, or over fields, etc. Not so great for long walks on pavement. Your muscle and bone was designed to thrive in a natural environment. Walking or running around on pavement (in minimal shoes) can be harmful to your feet, and even your bones. It’s not the shoe’s fault. Minimal shoes are still awesome and great for you, but if you stuff your atrophied  tight, weak feet into a pair and then go for a long walk on pavement, you’re asking for trouble! Prepare your feet, don’t undo the work by wearing elevated heels, take the transition slowly, and don’t spend long times on pavement or concrete in minimal shoes.

Vibrams photo by The Witchery 

Re-posted from the original post Safe Transition to Minimal Footwear, With a Video! with permission from Jillian Nicol


About the Author

red dressI’m Jillian.  I’ve been a fit person for as long as I can remember, walking and exercising have always been some of my favorite pastimes.  So it made sense that when I became pregnant, I remained fairly active through my entire pregnancy,though I had pain in my tailbone which was crippling at times and lots of foot and leg pain.  After the delivery of my daughter, it was 10 days before I could even stand again, let alone carry on with my previous active lifestyle. It became clear to me that although I was an extremely fit person, my body wasn’t really working the way it was supposed to.  My back hurt all the time, I had pelvic pain, and what seemed like the beginning of arthritis in one knee and one hand.  I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin, and thought that age and childbirth were to blame.

Then I found the Restorative Exercise™ program, and felt like I had unearthed some kind of treasure.  Here was a way for me to get my own health back and an opportunity to spend my time helping other people increase their well being, too.

Now, as a certified Restorative Exercise™ specialist and certified Healthy Foot practitioner, I am dedicated to helping others learn about the impact of movement patterns on their health.  It’s my mission in life to help people understand that what we consider normal aging of the body is not inevitable, that pain doesn’t have to be a part of everyday life, and that many diseases can be reversed without drugs or invasive surgeries.  My goal is to bring this information and the Restorative Exercise™ movement program to people of every level of mobility and health.