Earlier this year Michelle Bridges posted on social media the workout she was doing less than four weeks post birth. The workout included sustained jogging and caused an outpouring of negative comments.
Health practitioners voiced their concern that posting a generalised workout like this directed at new mothers could encourage women to start high-intensity exercise too soon after giving birth and cause more harm than good. Yes, the high-intensity workout might work for Michelle Bridges due to her extensive history of fitness training and yes, she may have had clearance from her health professional. However, it will not be the case for every new mum.
What are the guidelines and benefits of exercising after birth?
Exercising after the birth of your baby can have many benefits. When you feel ready to get back into exercise, it is important and to talk to a health professional to get clearance. Research has shown the advantages to women who exercise during this time these include:
- Improved mood
- Improved fitness and fatigue
- Promotes return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Improves recovery time
- Decreases the risk of developing future chronic health conditions
- Provides important mum time and social interactions
Where to start?
- Walking is a good exercise to begin as soon as you feel ready. You can start slowly and gradually increase the distance and pace. Try using a pedometer and increase the number of steps each day.
- Avoid running and crunching. Any rigorous exercise such as running or jumping should be avoided for at least six weeks particularly if you have had a C-section. You also need to wait at least six weeks before doing any abdominal strengthening. Pregnancy can cause a separation of your abdominal muscles called a rectus diastasis. For this reason, it is important not to do sit ups or crunches until the separation has closed because it can worsen the separation. Talk to us about specific exercises that can help close the separation.
- Pelvic floor exercises can be started again few days after birth when you feel ready. These exercises can help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which sit between the tailbone and pubic bone at the front. The pelvic floor helps support the uterus, bladder, rectum and vagina. Doing regular pelvic floor exercises can help prevent urinary incontinence and a prolapse later in life. They will also help you heal faster after an episiotomy.
When exercising listen to your body and don’t push yourself to hard or fast, but try to exercise at least five days per week. Start with a 30-minute walk, 2 x 10-15 minute walks, and move into cycling, swimming or a gentle yoga class.
Signs that you need to stop
Remember your body needs time to heal from the childbirth experience. Resist doing too much too soon. Stop exercising if you have any of the following signs and see your doctor:
- Feeling more fatigued
- Colour changes to lochia (post-partum vaginal flow) to pink or red
- Heavier lochia flow
- Lochia flowing again after it has stopped
Other helpful tips for post-pregnancy exercise
- Wear a supportive bra.
- You may want to breastfeed before exercising for comfort
- Initially, exercise for only 10 minutes at a time and increase the length of your workouts gradually
- Ideally, your exercise sessions should eventually last between 30 and 50 minutes
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise
- Don’t push yourself too hard – if you feel breathless, slow down
- If you experience pain, slow down or stop
- Remember that it may take you months to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight, so don’t be discouraged by slow progress
If you would like help with an individual after pregnancy exercise routine, book an appointment at Beachside Osteo. Make a start today.