Getting back into exercise after having a baby is one of those things we all aspire to do, but when reality hits can be a very different story.
Most literature tells us that we’re good to go after our 6 week GP check, but if you’re a new mum and haven’t physically been active for a few months, then you know your body might not be quite ready at 6 weeks postpartum. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule with some mums running and training right up until they go into labour. For those mums it might be fairly easy to get back into it even before 6 weeks, but for most, it might just be a little too soon.
If and when you are thinking about getting back into exercise, then here are some things you should consider:
Women’s Health Physio
Your 6 week postnatal GP check up was probably a bit rushed. It’s a shame because you should get as much attention as the baby at this appointment. Your body is still healing after the birth of your baby, whether it was a vaginal birth or a C-section. Before getting back into exercise after birth, especially things like running or HIIT, you’ll want to get referred to a Women’s Health physio (by your GP) to have your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles checked. The physio will assess if you have any issues with your pelvic floor, like incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Having any of these issues will dictate what types of exercise you can and can’t do.
Diastasis recti or abdominal separation occurs in all women towards the end of pregnancy. For most women this gap closes completely within the first 8 weeks of giving birth. But for some it doesn’t. The physio will be able to determine if you have this gap, the severity of it, and how it impacts you when you exercise. They will then recommend some exercises and the frequency to work towards closing the gap and getting your core stronger. You want to make sure your core is in the right place, so please do this for yourself and get booked in with a Women’s Health physio.
Type of exercise
If you have a trouble free vaginal birth, then you can start doing some gentle core exercises around 4-6 weeks post-birth. These are extremely low intensity exercises but fundamental in helping you get stronger to take on some more high impact exercise in the future. If you had a C-section, it’s important to allow your body to heal for at least 12 weeks before doing any strenuous types of exercise. Swimming and walking are great low impact exercises that you can start doing after you have been checked by your GP.
Training with resistance bands, dumbbells and bodyweight are a great way to exercise once you feel stronger and are ready to take it up a notch. I would recommend going to a class, like Hayley’s class in Balham, or training with a trainer to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly.
In all your workouts, try to focus on breathing correctly and activating your inner core muscles (TVA). Again, the physio can show you to do this when you go for your check.
Resistance training of any kind is great to make sure you strengthen your entire body. Your body changes a lot during and post pregnancy with some muscles becoming shorter and others becoming over-stretched. Make sure you work on your glutes, legs, shoulders and back as these will help you maintain good posture and avoid potential back pain.
If you’re brand new to exercise after having your baby, then your focus should be on gradually building up your strength. As well as doing your core exercises, you should also make sure that you are walking for 30 minutes each day. Walking is such a great low impact exercise that you can easily do with your baby in the pram.
After a few weeks you might feel ready for more, so you can then add bodyweight exercises and light dumbbells. Pay attention to how your body is feeling when you exercise and make sure to not go too fast too soon. If your body isn’t ready for star jumps and burpees, then stick to low impact exercises until it is.
When you go a new exercise class make sure to let the instructor know that you have recently had a baby, especially if it’s been less than 6 months. They should monitor your performance and modify any exercises if necessary.
Exercising after having a baby is a great way to look after yourself and take some time out for yourself. Just be sure to be safe and listen to your body at all times.
Funmi is a personal trainer who specialises in pre and post natal.