Are you anxious that it's too early to start exercise after baby? Or are you too tired to even think about the word ‘exercise’?
Whichever side you're in currently, you must know there are certain benefits to even the slightest of post-delivery exercise.
The key fact to recall when thinking about post-natal exercise is that your body has just done something magical – which means developing a cute, little baby and giving birth. Not only emotionally, but physically also your body will have transformed in ways that are unable to expect even.
If you’re missing your ‘pre-pregnancy’ body in this case, just to remind you once again, your changing shape is an entirely natural part of the process. It took almost 40 weeks to nurture your baby, it might take 40 weeks (or more) to come back to your pre-pregnancy shape. That’s the reason it’s remarkable to start gradually.
Before starting any abdominal strengthening exercises make sure you get the all clear from your doctor as some women experience separation of the abdominal muscles. If this happens you may need to be looked after by a physical therapist to ensure that the muscles come back together safely.
There is so much to be said for baby-friendly physical activity. It can sometimes be hard to fit exercise in around your baby, but yoga is another form of exercise that you can include your baby in. With the help of your baby carrier, you can carefully undertake a modified yoga class incorporating stretching, breathing and meditation, all while wearing your baby. Not only is this great for your health and wellbeing, it’s a lovely opportunity for bonding time with your baby.
A gentle walk is the perfect place to start. Walking with your baby in a baby carrier is a great way to get out for fresh air, move your body in a gentle way and remain physically close to your baby. Keeping them close in a baby carrier means that you are participating in aerobic, weight-bearing exercise but in a way that your body can manage. The benefits of walking are enormous, and while you are still building a special bond with your baby in those early months, a baby carrier will enable both physical and emotional connection.
Babies get heavy pretty quickly, so now's a good time (while baby's a relative lightweight) to build your upper-body strength — because honey, you're gonna need it! Push-ups are a great way to strengthen and tone, plus you can do this postpartum exercise anywhere (baby will enjoy lying near your head and watching your ups and downs). Start slowly and build up to a set of ten. Your ultimate goal: three sets of ten. Then, tank tops here you come!
Once you are feeling fitter, you can extend that activity to hiking. It’s an amazing activity to do with your baby when using an appropriate carrier. There are baby carriers designed specifically for more active parents, and warmer climates. Getting out into the fresh air, and out into nature is great for your overall health. Not only will it improve your physical health, your mental health, going on a Sunday hike with your partner will help you reconnect after a busy week.
While incorporating a gentle walk in to your daily routine, it’s important to remember to do your pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegel exercises. Your entire body is healing and recovering from pregnancy and birth, your pelvic floor is no exception. Once your pelvic floor is strong again you can consider doing more vigorous forms of exercise. Launching straight into an aerobics class or a running routine could do further harm to your pelvic floor, so combining walking with pelvic floor exercises is a great way to start.
The Continence Foundation of Australia advises waiting until at least 16 weeks before considering returning to high a impact exercise program, both for the protection of your pelvic floor but also to protect your lower back. It can take a minimum of eight weeks before your abdominal muscles are strong enough to support your lower back and pelvis, so if you are doing high impact exercise before this, your risk of injury increases.
The key to returning to exercise after having baby is to start slowly and gently, avoiding high impact exercise for the first few months after birth. A regular yoga or walking routine will bring you and your baby a lot of pleasure; both in the early months and beyond when your baby is engaging more and more with the world, so walking is a great way to start. Once you are feeling strong and have been given the all clear from your health care provider, you can consider more vigorous exercise.