Post-natal exercise has proven to have a huge range of both physical and mental health benefits including:
- Helping to prevent and manage post-natal depression
- Strengthening of abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, as well as improving upper and lower body strength. Helping to get rid of Mummy Tummy.
- Reduce the chance and manage common injuries and reduce back and neck pain
- Relieve stress
- Increase energy levels
- Weight management
Every mum is different and it is important that a one size fits all approach isn’t taken. Your journey back to exercise and recovery will be different to your friends with little ones and that is ok. Working with an Exercise Physiologist can help determine what is the right type of exercise for you at different time points.
So what is safe after giving birth?
The body goes through a number of physiological changes throughout pregnancy so it is important to gradually re-introduce physical activity with the appropriate guidance. Your return to pre-natal exercise levels will depend on a number of factors including the type of delivery you had and any complications that arose.
There are a number of types of exercise that have significant benefits for new mums. These include pelvic floor, abdominal and glute exercises, aerobic exercise and strength training.
Pelvic floor, abdominal and glute exercises assist in rebuilding the strength and stability around the core and pelvic floor muscles and joints of the pelvis which is essential in reducing discomfort, preventing incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, as well as returning to pre-natal activities.
Aerobic exercises such as walking, running and cycling are important activities to increase your cardiovascular fitness post-birth, improve your energy levels and reduce stress. Though, it is generally not recommended to begin impact exercise, such as jogging or running, until at least 12 weeks post-birth and only with clearance from a health professional. We often liken this post natal period to the same time and care you would take if you were recovering from a sporting injury. You don't just jump straight back on the field after an ankle sprain. Performing impact exercises to soon in your postpartum period can overload your unstable joints and pelvic floor muscles which can increase the risk of sustaining an injury or pelvic organ prolapse.
Strength training can assist in building strength in areas of the body that are heavily used in the daily life of a mum, as well as reduce the chance or manage injuries, and help relieve stress. As a new mum you will experience incidental strength exercises by caring for your baby (lifting, carrying, bouncing etc), this is a great way to begin strength training post-birth. You can generally increase your strength training approximately 6 weeks after giving birth, with the appropriate clearance and guidance from health professionals.
How do I begin exercising after birth?
Soon after giving birth you will often be given pelvic floor and simple abdominal exercises to perform by your physiotherapist. You will also be able to begin walking, which is a great way to slowly get back into exercise and fitness. Start with slow gentle walks and gradually build up the intensity when you feel ready by increasing your speed and duration, or walking uphill. A good goal to aim for initially is to be physically active for 20-30 minutes each day as long as you feel comfortable to do this. This can be broken up into multiple small bouts of physical activity to make it more manageable.
When beginning strength training exercises, it is important to perform exercises that are safe and appropriate for you and what you want to achieve. Seeking the right guidance from a health professional is recommended, especially if you have not performed any strength training in the past. Another focus we have is teaching you how to both engage and relax pelvic floor muscles. We tend to use different breathing exercises to assist with this and then combine this from simple pelvic floor exercises on the floor and progress through to standing and strength based exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
When beginning or returning to exercise post-birth it is essential to remember that each new mum is different so it is best to seek advice from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to help you devise an individualised exercise plan that is tailored to your needs. For more information on how we can help, please contact us on 8969 6300 or firstname.lastname@example.org