The dos and don’ts of post-natal exercise
Getting back into exercise after having a child can be intimidating. “The body changes so much during pregnancy, it can almost feel like we’re learning to walk again post-baby,” says Kimmy Smith, post-natal fitness expert and founder of the Fit Mummy Project. Here, she gives us her tips for returning to exercise in a safe and positive way.
DO get support
New mums should look for support and guidance from a women’s physiotherapist before returning to exercise. A good physio will give you a personalised assessment so that you’re aware of any exercises that you should be doing or avoiding. Not sure if you have stomach separation or pelvic organ prolapse? A physio will let you know and will help you to work out a plan to heal these common post-birth issues.
DON’T rush back to bootcamp
In the months after you give birth, your body is doing huge amounts of work to recover and tone. It’s a time to respect your body and embrace the changes that are happening. Most bootcamp exercises are not designed for new mums and some exercises like squat jumps, planks or burpees can even make stomach separation worse. Take your time allowing your body to recover as you strengthen it in the months after having a baby.
DO focus on inner strength
After nine months of your belly stretching, it’s normal to have little or no core strength. You may even have stomach separation, a weakened pelvic floor or incontinence. Start strengthening and toning your deep core muscles with these exercises:
Single leg extensions in quadruped
1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
2. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, gently draw your belly button toward your spine.
3. Maintain this gentle abdominal contraction whilst sliding your right leg behind you. Keep your toes in contact with the ground.
4. Lift your right leg to hip height.
5. Slide your right leg back to the start position. Repeat 10 reps on the right side before practicing 10 reps on the left side.
Opposite arm + leg extensions in quadruped
1. Repeat steps 1-3 above.
2. As you slide your right leg back, lift your left arm directly in front of you.
3. Aim to extend your limbs away from your core, rather than ‘up’ from the ground.
4. Focus on keeping your spine in a neutral curve, and your hips and shoulders level.
5. Bring your right knee and left elbow into touch beneath your belly.
6. Return to the start position.
7. Repeat 10 reps on the right side before practicing 10 reps on the left side.
Supported side plank (a modification of the traditional plank)
1. Lie on your right side with your knees bent.
2. Engage your core and press your weight up onto your right elbow.
3. Make sure that your right elbow is directly under your right shoulder.
4. Lift your hips up off the ground so that you have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
5. Practice 10 tiny pulses up and down before lowering down and repeating on the left side.
DON’T engage in crunches and planks
Just like when you were pregnant, avoid any crunching or twisting movements while you are recovering from birth. Crunches are not only bad for your pelvic floor in those early postpartum days, but they are also bad for stomach separation. If you have stomach separation, swap these exercises for the ones mentioned above:
- Sit ups and crunches
- Planks and Chatarunga in yoga (check out some postnatal yoga modifications here)
- Russian twists and bicycles
DO find exercise that makes you feel good
Don’t feel pressured to return to the same exercise that you have always done. You’ve changed and so has your body. There are so many amazing forms of post-natal exercise – find the type of exercise that makes you feel good and go with it.