A Guide to Restarting Fitness After Pregnancy
After childbirth, some parents are eager to get back into fitness as soon as possible. For many, it is an integral part of their daily routine that allows them to reduce stress and build their health. But postpartum exercise is not as simple as getting back into the gym or joining a class.
New parents must be realistic about starting over and mindful of their recovery body. But the good news is that movement is possible sooner than you may think. By following your doctor’s recommendations and honoring the trauma your body has undergone, you will be grabbing your Billabong swimwear before you know it.
Important to Remember Before You Begin
If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and a natural delivery, starting light movement and short walks a few days after giving birth is generally considered safe. However, most women are encouraged to seek advice from their GP before they begin exercising.
It is vital that you begin at a time that is both medically safe and when you feel comfortable and confident enough to start. Don’t rush your return to fitness or compare yourself to the journeys of those around you.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Considering you have just given birth to your new bundle of joy, weightloss focused exercise should not be a priority at this time. Instead, look to the other benefits you will encounter when planning how to move forward.
Exercise will improve cardiovascular health, strengthen abdominal muscles, and boost energy levels. Additionally, it relieves stress, promotes better sleep, and can help reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Jumping back into your previous workout routine or starting a new intense one right after birth is not a good idea, even for those who consider themselves very fitness focused. If you push your body too hard from the beginning, you actively set yourself back from properly recovering from your delivery.
That does not mean you must sit at home like a prisoner for six weeks. Instead, start walking around the block daily, extending the distance occasionally as you progress. Refrain from carrying your baby or pushing a stroller in these early days to avoid unnecessary strain on your body. As you get stronger, add gentle upper-body stretching or postpartum exercise classes.
Watch Out for Physical Signs
When you start with heavier or more strenuous activities, make sure you are looking for any physical; sign your body may have that indicates you are pushing too hard. For most women, postpartum bleeding is the strongest indication you need to slow down.
If your bleeding has previously tapered off and starts to get heavier again, you must take time off for your body to heal as needed.
Look for Wobbly Joints
Relaxin, the hormone your body produces during pregnancy and childbirth to soften ligaments and joints, can potentially stay in the body for nearly six months after delivery. The presence of this hormone can contribute to wobbly and unstable joints and a loose pelvis.
To prevent any added strain on your body, avoid exercises with frequent jerky movements that can potentially lead to injury during this time.
Exercise & Breastfeeding
If you are a breastfeeding mother, weight loss should not be a goal for exercise. Instead, most experts recommend that women delay starting an exercise routine until they have a stable milk supply.
Naturally, you will lose weight as your body lets go of fluids that were needed during pregnancy, but weight loss should be gradual as you become more active. When nursing, your body needs at least 500 more calories than pre-pregnancy.
Be Aware of Diastasis Recti
After birth, it is common for women to experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominals or the ‘six-pack muscles.’ The extent of this separation can be checked during your postpartum exam.
If severe enough, you should work with a physical therapist to help the muscles come back together. Therefore, when you begin abdominal exercises, be careful not to overdo it, impacting the muscles healing.
Strengthen Pelvic Floor
If your pelvic floor has weakened after birth, intra-abdominal pressure from exercises like crunches, pilates, and general ab work can put too much measure on your pelvic floor and prevent it from healing. Without proper recovery, you are at risk of organ prolapse.
One of the first exercises you can add to your routine is a kegel routine. It will help to strengthen your floor and allow you to become familiar with these muscles again after pregnancy. It will also help improve any incontinence and boost your sexual enjoyment.
Get Plenty of Rest
As a new parent, rest might be a slightly foreign concept to you. Despite being told to sleep when your baby sleeps, there always seems to be a household chore that needs completing. However, allowing yourself a moment to rest post-exercise will help to replenish your energy and give your body the much-needed rest it needs.
If you are breastfeeding, you already know how important it is to stay hydrated. This importance only increases as you add exercise and fitness to your routine. Buy yourself a stainless steel reusable water bottle that you can keep filled and take with you on your errands and daily walk.