When Can I Start Exercise

Exercise After Baby

148 (1)Just like exercise during pregnancy, it is important to consult your doctor before beginning any postnatal activity. We advise our clients to take a slow and steady approach in the early stages. Your body may need a little more time than you think to heal from the tremendous changes that childbirth causes. Try not to be pressured by social media to lose the baby weight before you are ready – spend the first few weeks bonding with baby rather than putting on your running shoes. We suggest waiting for your 6 week post-natal check up before starting a postnatal exercise routine and a little longer for a caesarean births (8 weeks).   However, you can start to engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominals with gentle navel to spine contractions and pelvic floor lifts as soon as you feel ready.

Being aware of the changes your body has gone through will help you be more proactive in your recovery phase.  

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEW MUMMY BODY


Abdominal Separation

One major change, is the length and elasticity of your rectus abdominal muscles after pregnancy. Your growing belly can cause the connective tissue between these muscles to stretch and create a large gap called Diastasis Recti. For most women this gap will clAb Sepose naturally but for some it can remain open for 6 months or longer post birth. If the separation is more than 2cm, very light pelvic floor and stability exercises can have a positive effect on the closing of this separation but it is recommended to avoid sit-ups, planks and crunches until the separation has closed to less than one finger.

 

Rec CheckTo check for Diastasis Recti, lay on your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Place your little finger in your navel and your other 3 fingers in a line toward your breastbone. Keeping your feet on the floor, lower your chin to your chest and slowly curl your head and shoulders off the floor. You may feel a gap appear between two ridges, so turn your fingers at a 90 degree angle to see how much separation you have. A normal gap is one to two fingers wide.  But if you can put more than a couple of fingers in the gap, you should definitely avoid regular abdominal curl up exercises as well as planks and those that increase intra-abdominal pressure.

Joint Laxity

It is also important to remember that the pregnancy hormone relaxin that softens your ligaments around your pelvis in preparation for child birth can also remain and effect all of your joints, increasing the chance of injury when your are active. So, avoid high-impact exercises and ballistic movements (like running) for the first three months after birth.

For some lucky new mums, a couple of months is all it takes to get back to their pre-baby body, but for most of us it can take up to a year. And even with a good consistent post natal exercise program, sometimes the changes of pregnancy can alter our bodies forever. But whether or not you have abs like a Victoria Secret model ever again, the most important thing now is to be physically fit and mentally healthy enough to cope with all the demands of your new role as a mother.

CHOOSE SOMETHING YOU LIKE


Enlisting the help of a personal trainer or physio in women’s health is a good way to ensure that you have a safe and effective program. But, the easiest and cheapest form of exercise is simply pushing your baby in the stroller – it will help strengthen your legs and get that heart pumping. Regular cardiovascular and resistance training will help you gain energy and muscle strength so you have the stamina to change all those nappies, do endless loads of laundry and just get through the next 24 hours.

MIMG_3858ake It Fun!!! The key is finding something that you really enjoy so that you stick with it. Unless your baby sleeps all the time it may be difficult in the beginning to find time and energy for a regular routine – don’t be too hard on yourself; just do the best you can. As your baby starts to settle into a pattern you can start your journey to a new body together.

Here is a list of exercises you can begin when you are ready:

1.  Start with intermittent navel to spine and pelvic floor contractions that you can hold for 10-20 seconds while you’re changing or feeding baby. You will be doing a lot of changes and feeds during the day so it will remind you to exercise more often and it will only take a few minutes.

2.  Push baby in the stroller wherever and whenever possible – the more ‘incidental’ exercise you can do, the faster you will see results. Incorporate hills to get your heart pumping and rev up the caloric burn. Start with 5 or 10 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes/day.

3.  If the weather is not great, do an exercise video while baby is in the rocker watching you.

4.  If you are tired of being stuck in your house and want to get out and meet other mums why not start a stroller group fitness class. Working out with other mums is a great way to stay consistent, bond with your baby and making new mummy friends will give you the support you will need when you are a first time mum. Go to mummyliciousfitness.com.au to book a Free Week Trial of sessions with an educated postnatal professional who is also a mum and knows what you are going through.

Other Safe Activities for new mums include:

Swimming / Aqua aerobics

* Yoga / Pilates
* Light weight training (with a personal trainer/physio is recommended)
* Cycling

KNOW YOUR LIMITS  – SAFETY GUIDELINES


Once you decide to embark on your postnatal fitness regime, be sure that you take the following precautions:

* Give yourself time to heal – begin slow and steady and consult with a doctor before starting any exercise program.
* Always wear a supportive bra and appropriate footwear.
* Avoid exercises that cause back or joint pain or dizziness.
* Aim to exercise 3-5 days per week for 30 minutes.
* Try to exercise after breastfeeding, rather than before when your breasts are full and heavy.
* If you feel breathless or light-headed while exercising, slow down or stop.
* In the early stages, avoid activities that place high stress on your pelvic floor and joints until strength and stability has improved. Avoid sudden changes in direction or high impact activity.
* Check for changes in your postnatal vaginal flow (lochia), such as increased heaviness or changes in colour- see your doctor or midwife – you may be exercising too strenuously.
* Eat regular, healthy meals in order to nourish the body to produce milk as well as give you energy to exercise and look after your baby.
* And avoid fad diets or extreme food restrictions especially if you are breastfeeding.

GET RID OF TIMELINES


 

Don’t expect too much too soon. Many women experience difficulties in losing weight in the post-partum period. Allow yourself a reasonable length of time, up to a year, to get back into pre-pregnancy shape. Remember to always listen to the advice given to you by your Doctor, tune in to your body and don’t push too hard too quickly.

So, congratulations and welcome to the wonderful world of motherhood! Get active and have FUN!

Christine Groves (Mum of 2)

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