As a fitness professional, this is a question that I hear quite often. However, it’s not a question that everyone naturally thinks to ask.
Many of us (my previous self included) believe that once our baby is born we are good to go! We can’t wait to “get back into it”. Even our GPs often tell us that we are ok to “return to exercise” after our 6-week check. For many women, this a green light to get out there. We feel we need to get fit and get our “pre-baby bodies back” ASAP… Don’t we?
We all have different reasons why we exercise. For some, it’s the endorphins – that amazing feeling you have after completing a workout. For others, it’s the feeling of being strong, to clear the mind or blow out the cobwebs. For others, there is a desperate need to lose baby weight.
It’s important to consider that no person is the same, so there is no single recommendation that fits all. The type of exercise you commence with depends on many factors:
- How active were you prior to giving birth?
- What kind of birth did you have? Were there any complications?
- How is your pelvic floor function currently?
- Do you have any other post-natal considerations to consider (carpel tunnel, pelvic instability, low back pain, abdominal separation)?
The answers to these questions might help guide you towards what is going to be the best for your body. Pelvic floor strength is super important to consider before launching into any running, or high-intensity or heavy strength programs. The best person to assess this is a Women’s Health Physio.
As a sleep-deprived mum the most important thing is to start with something that is easy on the body and mind, and easy for you to manage with your bub. Pram walking is always a great option to start with as it gets you outdoors into the fresh air, sunshine and can be a great way to catch up with friends (and maybe even get a coffee!) A 30-minute walk each day has been proven to improve your general health and well-being (thewomens.org.au).
It is particularly important to strengthen our pelvic floor, major muscle groups and stabilisers in a safe, low-impact way before we launch into any higher impact activities such as running or more dynamic sports such as netball or heavy lifting.
Pelvic floor strengthening and control is a super important first step. It is no good progressing onto other exercises if your pelvic floor isn’t ready for it yet. This can be not only embarrassing if your leak, but more importantly it can cause permanent damage such as prolapse if your body isn’t ready yet or your pelvic floor isn’t functioning properly.
Some options for some post-natal exercises that might be good for you to start with are:
- Light Yoga for stretching and strengthening
- Short bodyweight workouts that feel comfortable (focus on glute strength, back strength and pelvic floor)
- Lightweights (nothing that causes you to strain down or bladder leakage)
It is recommended that you don’t do any heavy strength work or high-impact exercise such as running until about 12 weeks post-partum. However, this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
It is always best to have a good chat with your Personal Trainer and ensure that they are educated in pre-and post-natal exercise. Check out the Body Beyond Baby Safe Return to Exercise affiliates here