Exercising during and after pregnancy is essential to our overall health. Exercise helps reduce your risk of injury, ease postpartum discomforts, boost your body image, improve your mental health, increase your stamina, give you a higher quality of sleep, and give you more energy.
However, you won’t be able to jump right back into your pre-pregnancy exercise routine. Giving birth is a transformative event. Your body undergoes a huge transformation to expel a baby—no matter what your delivery looks like. It is very important to return to exercise slowly and safely. Be patient and realistic.
If you decide to return to exercise, make sure to follow these guidelines:
- Receive consent from your medical provider prior to beginning exercise.
- Do not perform exercises if there is an infection at the site of a cesarean incision.
- If you feel dizzy, short of breath, or experience any vaginal or incision bleeding, stop exercising and rest. If bleeding continues, consult your medical provider.
- The hormone “relaxin” is pumped throughout your body during and after pregnancy, which makes your joints hyper-mobile and, thus, prone to injury. Keep this in mind as you begin to increase your workout intensity.
- Start slowly. Your body just went through a major change. It is important to give your body time to heal and build strength and endurance gradually.
Start with the following exercises:
- The most important goal for the first six to eight weeks after giving birth is to improve strength and rebuild the pelvic floor muscles that have become weak and damaged due to pregnancy and childbirth. Click here for two exercises you can perform to help strengthen and repair your pelvic floor after pregnancy. Initially, it may feel as if you’re not actually working anything, but stay with it. You will soon see the benefits and improvements in your pelvic floor.
- Gentle walking is a great way to get some fresh air and some light exercise in. Even just 10 minutes a day provides a whole list of benefits for you and your baby.
- Many postpartum women have excessive kyphosis (rounding of the shoulders), as well as diastasis recti (when your stomach muscles split during pregnancy and never close together, resulting in the “mom pooch”) after birth. To help with posture and diastasis recti practice the following exercise: Stand hip-width apart with knees slightly bent. Tilt your pelvis forward and backward. First, create a large arch in the lower back, then make your lower back as flat as you can. Settle your pelvis between these two extremes so there’s only a slight curve in your low back. Place your hands in a triangle position with your thumbs on your belly button and tighten your abs by gently drawing your belly button toward your spine by breathing out as if you are breathing in a stir straw. Repeat for 5-10 breaths.
- Another great exercise to strengthen your lower abdominal muscles while helping to heal diastasis recti are tabletop toe taps. In tabletop position, inhale to prepare, and slowly lower one leg on the exhale. Inhale to prepare again, and on your exhale, slowly return your leg to the starting point. Repeat on your other side.
- The angle our pelvis takes to accommodate baby during pregnancy makes our glute muscles weak. To get your glutes strong again, start by using them every time you bend down to pick up your baby or the toys scattered across the floor. Incorporate squats throughout your day. Squat wide, squat narrow, squat in a split stance—but when you do squat, make sure you are pushing your hips back, keeping your chest lifted, and squeezing your glutes when you come to a standing position. Start with a small range of motion and as you feel stronger you can increase your range of motion and go lower.
- Due to the extra weight in our chest during and after breastfeeding, our bodies begin to slouch forward and our backs weaken. A great exercise to counter this is resisted rows. Using dumbbells, cables, or a resistance tube, rows are a great exercise to strengthen your middle back and upper back.
Once you have medical clearance and are six weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth or eight weeks postpartum for a cesarean birth, you may want to step up your workouts as well as make some friendships with other moms going through the exact same things you are.
If this is you, then you may think about checking out a free Baby Boot Camp class. Classes are designed specifically to help moms regain or enhance their pre-pregnancy fitness levels as well as help prenatal moms in the preparation of meeting the physical challenges of parenting, labor, and delivery. Classes combine strength-training exercises with cardiovascular drills all in a safe, supportive environment tailored to moms.
There are also free playdates throughout the month for moms who are seeking a social group that is health-minded. Moms meet regularly and discuss what’s on their minds while allowing children to get in some fun playtime. Check our “Events” tab here and sign up for our next free play-date. Remember, the FIRST CLASS IS FREE, so click here to find a class that works for you and your schedule.
Annie Mills is the owner and lead instructor of Baby Boot Camp Eugene.