If you’ve just had a baby, you’re probably getting to know your post-bub bod, and the new stretch marks, bulges and sags are all making you eager to get back into shape. But just how soon is to soon to ease back in?
The first thing to bear in mind when easing back into a fitness routine is to be patient and realistic. Your post-bub body has been through a lot!
As a rule, it’s recommended to give yourself a recovery window of 6-8 weeks (possibly longer if you’ve had a cesarean). Beyond that, the key is listening to your body. If you’re feeling well and up to moving sooner, a walk with bub in tow is a great way to ease back in.
Remember, your pregnancy path is completely unique - and your postpartum journey is too. If you experience bleeding, diastasis recti (separating of your abdominal muscles), regular incontinence, feelings of pain or pressure, or severe scar tissue, you may need to sit exercise out for a little longer.
Don’t beat yourself up – allow your body to heal in its own time and rely on your health professional guide you.
Postpartum activity isn’t about marathons and HIIT classes; it’s about functional strengthening and repairing your muscles.
Think low intensity and low impact movements, such as like post-natal yoga or pilates, swimming, walking, cycling – with a strategic focus on your pelvic floor, abdominals, lower back and hips.
Here are some good movements to get you started:
This simple move targets the legs, bottom, core and pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor, in particular, will be weakened by your recent pregnancy and birth, so getting it back to its former glory is essential. All you need to do is lie on your back, bend your knees and slowly lift your hips (like a bridge).
This is a wonderful movement for the deeper layers of the abdominals – the muscle that support your entire core (including your lower back).
Simply lie on your side with your elbow underneath your shoulder and raise your hips to engage your entire core.
If abdominal separation is an issue, a physiotherapist will guide you with specific exercises that target the transverses abdominis – the deepest layer of the entire core. Avoiding inappropriate abdominal exercise like crunches is crucial.
Many pregnant women struggle with back pain and it can endure into postpartum. This exercise is great for strengthening the lower back.
Get into a kneeling position on all fours and simultaneously (and slowly) extend your right arm and left leg, then switch sides.
One to target all those tricky areas – butt, thighs and calves.
Simply place your feet slightly wider than hip distance, bend your knees into a squat position (no lower than 90 degrees), and engaging the buttocks as you lower down and rise back up again.
Remember, slow and steady wins the (postpartum) race. Enjoy the benefits of moving at your own pace – without any pressure. Be sure to keep well hydrated and get plenty of rest. As always, talk to your doctor if you’re ever unsure what’s right for you.
Kathleen Alleaume is an exercise and nutrition scientist and founder of The Right Balance.