Returning to exercise after baby

  • Returning to exercise after baby - Sally Muir

    As a new mum you find yourself balancing a variety of different demands. Trying to recover from your recent birth, whilst maintaining some sort of order at home! Plus trying to ensure that both you and your new baby are having enough sleep and nutrition.

    As the days roll into weeks, and the weeks come around to that 6-8 week point many mums start to thinking about reintroducing some exercise back into their routines. Before this point in the post-natal recovery period it is important that new mums limit their exercise in duration and intensity to ensure that their body is able to recovery from the recent birth. It is essential to discuss your return to exercise with your GP or obstetrician at your 6-8 week appointment. Your doctor will assess you recovery, and usually discuss any concerns regarding your pelvic floor or prolapse and your return to exercise.

    Gradually increase duration, intensity and variety.

    New mums need to gradually increase their exercise. It is important to realise that you can’t just resume your pre-pregnancy exercise routine. Your overall fitness level alone will be noticeably different. A new mum's body and pelvic floor have undergone large changes (physically, hormonally and emotionally!). It is therefore important to reintroduce exercise in a gentle and gradual approach, to ensure that no damage is done.

    Ideas for returning to regular exercise.

    Initially starting with gentle exercise of walking, swimming, post-natal pilates or other post-natal exercise session that understand the needs of post-natal women. Once you have developed a solid foundation of exercise, you can start to introduce a greater variety of exercise.

    Many mums who have been regular runners are extremely keen to reintroduce this to their lives. It is really important this is introduced after 12 weeks have passed, as the hormone levels start to rebalance after this point in time. Initially it is important to be very aware of your pelvic floor, and it is recommended to start with some walk/runs, where you do 1-3 minutes of walking, followed by 1 min of running (for 20minutes). Following these sessions it is important to notice how your body, in particularly your pelvic floor, is feeling. Should you notice any signs of heaviness, dragging or pulling you have definitely pushed too hard. Initially you should reduce the intensity, and it is also recommended you see a women’s health physiotherapist to discuss how to strengthen your pelvic floor. It is important for all mums to remember that the hormonal changes your body experiences will continue until some months after a mum has completed her breastfeeding. The lack of oestrogen produced while mums are breastfeeding has a significant impact on a woman’s body. This makes new mums more prone to injuries relating to ligaments (particularly shoulders and knees) and potential for ongoing concerns with pelvic instability.

    Pelvic floor exercise.

    It is paramount that during the 12 month post-natal period you continue regularly to do your pelvic floor exercises to ensure that your pelvic floor regains the strength and muscle integrity that is required to increase exercise intensity. Should you have any concerns that your pelvic floor is not recovering from your recent birth, it is paramount that you see a women’s health physiotherapist to ensure your recovery is optimised.

    Other exercise options, what to look out for.

    If you choose to attend exercise classes at a gym or bootcamp environment it is extremely important that the instructors understand the post-natal recovery period and the impact on a new mums body. The different levels of hormones (relaxin and oestrogen), the energy demands of breastfeeding, and the recovery of the pelvic floor are just some of the changes a new mother’s body is experiencing. Many fitness professionals do not understand the changes, and the modifications to regular exercises that can be made to ensure that post-natal woman can exercise safely without damaging their recovering bodies.

    About the writer:
    Sally Muir is a mum, a Personal Trainer, a qualified Dietitian and owner of Shape Up Mums, a Melbourne-based mum and bubs fitness company.

    You can learn more about Sally and Shape Up mums here:

    You can also WIN a 1 month membership with Shape Up Mums, at various locations across Melbourne, by visiting our Facebook page and entering our competition



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