Updated: Feb 24, 2020
How crazy is it that one minute bub is inside your tummy, and the next, in your arms?
You may have heard that it is generally not recommended to engage in physical activity until after 6 weeks of birth, but have you thought about how holding your baby and getting up from a chair is an exercise in itself? You don’t have to wait 6 weeks after giving birth to start getting some structured movement back into your body, in fact it is better to start moving than to restrict yourself. Exercise isn’t just about weights, squats and medicine ball slams!
“So what exercises can I do?”
Let’s break this up into smaller phases with a key focus in each:
Weeks 0-6: Rehabilitation & retraining
Rest, recover, and retraining your breathing and pelvic floor muscles are key during this time. Start with gentle movements that are no more challenging than the tasks of daily life. Tissues only recover as fast as they can, and doing more does not lead to a faster recovery. Examples of exercises you can do with close supervision to start with include clamshells, glute bridges and bodyweight step ups.
Weeks 7-18: Return to exercise
In this phase, you can start to do more to help improve pelvic floor recovery and optimal breathing patterns. Increasing strength is important, particularly your trunk muscles, and improving aerobic conditioning for activities of daily living. Building a base of functional strength should be progressive and not cause symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Exercises during this 12-week period shouldn’t cause urine leakage, feel heavy in your pelvic floor and not painful to do. Exercises can include bird dogs, goblet squats and bodyweight hip thrusts. Ensure you have close supervision to start with.
Weeks 19-42: Let’s move a little more!
Here you can start to progress to more intensity with your resistance training and aerobic conditioning. Ensure to continue maintaining your pelvic floor and breath work. Again, build your exercise regime up slowly, first by trying to achieve the ACSM physical activity guideline of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and then eventually safely returning to whatever activity you desire.
Exercises to avoid in early postpartum
Whether you feel physically capable of doing these exercises or not, keep in mind all the changes that have occured during your pregnancy (outlined in our previous blog post). Here are some exercises you are better off without in the early stages postpartum:
- Plyometric (high impact) exercises e.g. running, sprinting, jogging and jumping
- High intensity conditioning exercises e.g. mountain climbs, squat thrusts and burpees (not that we enjoy doing burpees in the first place anyway...right?!)
- Group exercise classes that are not well-supervised or caters for your individual needs
Remember, it does take time, and you should always be cleared to resume exercising by your doctor before beginning any regular activity or training.
It isn’t uncommon to experience pain in your lower back, hips or knees (or just about any other major joint in your body!) after childbirth, but don’t let it stop you from exercising. You just need to ensure specific modifications are made and this can best be achieved with an allied health professional such as an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP).
AEP’s are university-trained exercise professionals who understand the physiological system’s responses to exercise. If you are a new mum and want to exercise, chat to the accredited exercise physiologist at Boundless Health & Wellness who has completed additional training and keeps on top of the latest research about pre- and postnatal exercise.
Finally, in our last blog post, we introduced you to Compassion Australia as Boundless’ good cause to contribute to for the month. Many mums and children are living in poverty and do not have access to some of the most basic things that everyone should. Any donation, as small as a toothbrush, to sponsoring a child, to as much as supporting 15 mothers and their babies in the New Mums and Babies Survival Project can be made! Take a look at Compassion Australia’s many other Gifts of Compassion campaigns. Let’s build a community together and give back!