Embedding physical activity into the maternity pathway
All the evidence tells us that moving more is good for our mental and physical health yet many people in Lincolnshire still struggle to be physically active.
Being active, and meeting the CMO's guidelines for adults of achieving 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, may seem like quite a challenge to those who are currently inactive. But moving more doesn't mean you have to start doing sport, sign up for a gym membership or cycle to work (although of course all those have their benefits!). We need to find accessible ways to include more movement into people's daily routines and we've been working with a variety of partners to support this aim.
Active Lincolnshire staff have been working with the Better Births Lincolnshire team to embed physical activity of all types within the system for pregnant women and new mums. Our two organisations represent hundreds of people across the health system and the physical activity sector.
Previously, resources were put into place to provide learning opportunities; the first was a number of development opportunities for the midwife teams. Following this there was an insight brief delivered by Social Change, which has helped us to better understand perceptions, attitudes and behaviours towards engaging in physical activity in pregnancy and beyond, enabling us to identify key areas of focus for behaviour change. Finally, a funded online course for staff working in the leisure sector has been made available - the ‘Award in Supporting Pre and Postnatal Clients with Exercise and Nutrition’ prepares gym instructors to receive women that are preparing to give birth or recovering from it. With approximately 7000 births in Lincolnshire per year, it is an opportunity for the sector to re-think their clientele and engage new audiences at their facilities. Colleagues at One You Lincolnshire, Everyone Active and Active Nation have all taken part along with instructors at independent facilities.
For most pregnant women and new mums it is perfectly safe to be active, and beneficial to do so, however worries over exercising safely and a lack of knowledge about the best way to be active mean a lot of women avoid activity during pregnancy and after birth. The insight brief highlighted how the majority of residents and stakeholders feel their Healthcare Professionals are best suited to advise on physical activity but many were unclear on what the advice should be. By supporting the midwife teams with further training, we are working towards a clearer consistent message and this work now needs to continue with GPs, Practice Nurses, Healthcare Support Workers, Social Prescribers, etc.
We have recently delivered some workshops to strengthen the understanding that physical activity is more than sport and gyms and are encouraging primary care networks to work towards the Active Practice Charter. As a part of this, we want to see an increase in the number of people sign-posted to Lincolnshire facilities and activities such as; parkruns, Health Walks, exercise classes and digital platforms. We also want to see changes to employment habits where standing desks, walking meetings and ‘exercise snacks’ are incorporated into routines.
But that’s not all, we are working together to look at the entire maternity pathway and have begun to identify key opportunities to provide residents with a nudge towards physical activity. From the moment a lady decides she would like to have a baby through to that child attending school, there are a plethora of opportunities to encourage the whole family unit (yes, partners too) to move more. Sometimes, it’s as simple as walking a few laps of the garden in whatever shoes you have, other times it can be more creative using some of the excellent digital resources that are available. Case studies of where this has been successful and useful resources to support mums are available on the Let’s Move Lincolnshire platform where you can also see a handy Activity Finder to support all residents to find opportunities to be more active. More information and guidance for Healthcare professionals supporting pre and post-natal women to be active can be found on our Knowledge Hub. For help with other lifestyle improvements, we often signpost to funded programmes through One You Lincolnshire.
Although the work is in its infancy, we have had some successes at connecting parts of the system to parts of the leisure sector. As we continue to join up more elements, we are encouraging partners to come forward and make themselves known.
If you would like a further discussion about this work please get in touch with Matt Evans