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Exclusive: Gemma Atkinson on the challenges of bringing up baby Mia, body positivity and lockdown life

The Strictly star has relished lockdown life with boyfriend Gorka Marquez

Sharnaz Shahid

Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez may have demanding careers, with one working in radio and the other as a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, however, their first and foremost priority is being doting parents to baby Mia.

MORE: Meet the future generation of Strictly Come Dancing!

In an exclusive interview with HELLO!, the 35-year-old actress-turned-radio presenter has stressed the importance of keeping her daughter - who celebrated her first birthday on 4 July - grounded in this age of social media. Describing her own social media influence as "honest," Gemma explained: "I'm not into the pages where it's all about pouting and the hip popping to make your bum look big.

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WATCH: Gemma Atkinson talks to us about her life as a mum

"I get why people do that and again, we all want to post flattering photos. I'm the same, you don't want to put a photo up where you don't look your best. But at the same time, I don't want misleading accounts to make people not feel good about themselves."

"My niece is 16, and she's at the age where she could go either way with it," she added. "She could go on thinking she has to have fillers or Botox and she has to be a size six. Or she could go down the route - which we are hoping and what she's gravitating towards to - of accepting how she looks. She knows she's beautiful anyway, she's got an amazing personality, she's fun, she's curvy, she's half Italian and she looks incredible."

READ: Gemma Atkinson reveals how becoming parents has changed her and Gorka Marquez

Gemma hopes the attitude and stereotypes surrounding what some social media stars portray will one day shift. "You just kind of embrace what you've got," she explained. "That's the route we will go down with Mia to be honest. We don't have scales in the house. I don't want Mia to ever hear any conversations where she says, 'I feel this or I feel like that'. It's going to be about how strong she can be and not be physically on how she looks."

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On raising her daughter, Gemma said: 'It's going to be about how strong she can be and not be physically on how she looks'

Over the past few months, both Gemma and Gorka have been entertaining their followers with cute workout videos and candid family snaps, giving fans an insight into the organised chaos of their household amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And while Gorka was unable to go on tour due to strict social distancing rules, it hasn't all been bad news for their family. Gemma admits lockdown life has enabled the professional dancer to spend some quality time with his loved ones as well as working out together.

MORE: Inside Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez's Manchester home

"Obviously Gorka is usually away on tour, it's normally just me and Mia. I'll be up when she's up in the morning, trying to squeeze my training in," she revealed. "I suppose the only downtime is when Mia sleeps at night when I choose training and I have more energy for exercise. So, the lockdown for me is kind of… whereas Gorka has been here, we have been able to share everything including our exercise."

During lockdown, they have managed to fit in the odd workout together here and there – with the star remarking: "We get quite competitive while we are training together and Gorka is obviously physically stronger than me which really annoys me."

While it's safe to say many people have struggled to cope with life in lockdown – for Gemma and Gorka, this period has been invaluable. "It's not really a challenge to be honest," she said frankly. "Obviously, we are never going to get this time back again so we kind of embrace it and we stick to our routine."

"We need a routine to stay challenged - even if you are not working, don't treat every day as Saturday and Sunday," she added. "Get showered, dressed and do exercise for 20 minutes and you will feel better."

"Don't slouch for seven days a week," the media personality continued. "Two days a week is fine but not seven – that's what we tried to stick to really. You know? Certain times Gorka is in the gym and I am with Mia or vice versa, or he will take the dogs out or I will and then we will do a family walk. We just tried to keep some kind of structure where we can."

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The couple are both fans of fitness and healthy eating

READ: Gemma Atkinson feels for baby Mia after 'awful' first birthday injections

Meanwhile, there's no denying that Gemma leads a healthy lifestyle as she shares plenty of exercise tips with her followers. And now, the former soap star has once again teamed up with fitness streaming service, TV.FIT, to launch her second programme, Stronger 2. The programme itself combines familiar exercises – such as equipment-based resistance exercises with bodyweight-only moves and pure strength rounds with explosive, high intensity, interval bouts. The main benefit? As well as keeping active, you don't need the gym.

"Some people can't get access to a gym, some people can't afford the gym," she shared. "So I used to do workouts at home as well. I just tried to make it more approachable for everybody really." The mum-of-one added: "TV.FIT loved what I represented and they wanted to put a programme of mine on the condition that it was about being healthy and stronger, not weight loss or fitting into a certain size pair of jeans. It needs to be about getting stronger."

Gemma then sympathised with new mums, explaining how they can feel overwhelming pressure to snap right back to how they were before. Being frank about her own journey, the fitness buff confessed how she relished taking the time to slowly ease back into a routine.

"I always say to any new mums, make sure you get your doctor's approval – wait at least 12 weeks before you do any exercise," she said. "I mean I waited 15 weeks before I did anything after Mia so I definitely did take my time. You must get the go-ahead from your GP."

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"Don't slouch for seven days a week," Gemma advised

READ: Gemma Atkinson addresses pregnancy rumours in video

"Obviously, your time is spent with your little one," Gemma elaborated. "When it's not spent with them, it's either spent cleaning, sleeping or cooking. You never stop as a parent. But you can do ten minutes a day or you can do the full 20 minutes. I just think anything is better than nothing. But mentally, it's a good feeling as well."

"I didn't put the pressure on myself to get back into it," she continued. "I had to let my body heal. I didn't go guns blazing back in. I knew I physically wouldn't be able to do it and I knew mentally I would be thinking, 'Oh I used to be able to do that, now I can't.' I just started with walks – brisk walks with Norman and Ollie [her pet dogs]."

On the subject of healthy eating, the actress remarked: "I focused on making sure my diet was nice and clean and that I was hydrated. Just little things really. I never wanted to be the person snapping back into shape after a baby. I never wanted to do that, it was never an aim of mine at all."

MORE: Gemma and Gorka just won the internet with Mia's birthday cake

Gemma also explained how she relished having more time for herself and away from the gym, describing motherhood as a rewarding experience. "I kind of enjoyed the first three months of not thinking about anything other than myself and Mia in our little bubble," she explained. "I think it's quite a shame when new mums… they have the baby and the first thing they think about is getting back in shape because of the pressure they feel."

Stronger 2 is launching soon on fitness streaming service TV.FIT