As you likely already know, exercising during pregnancy is great for your health. Getting active again after you give birth is just as important though — and a great way to keep you feeling good physically and emotionally. While a postpartum workout can be beneficial for your recovery, sleep, and overall health, it’s important to ease into a routine that’s realistic for you as a new mom.
When you’re ready to start, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your postpartum workouts while also staying safe.
When Is it Safe To Start Postpartum Workouts?
Your OB/GYN will most likely clear you for physical activity at your six weeks postpartum appointment. To avoid any potential complications, it is advised to wait until this appointment to start any workout program, especially if you are recovering from a c-section.
If you are anxious to start moving your body again, going for short walks can benefit both vaginal and c-section recoveries. If you have any questions before your postpartum appointment, just give your doctor a call.
What Are the Benefits Of Working Out Postpartum?
Whether you are itching to get back on your pre-pregnancy workout routine, or you’re just starting out on getting regular physical activity, there are many benefits of a postpartum workout routine.
Let’s be real here — the postpartum period can be downright exhausting. Not only are you healing from pregnancy and childbirth, but you are learning how to care for a brand new baby, managing your house or any siblings as usual, and possibly working or helping family with other obligations. If you are feeling low on energy, you may want to try some light physical activity.
This may sound counterintuitive when all you want to do is lie on the couch, but give it a try. Put your baby in the stroller and take a short walk around the block. The movement, fresh air, and nature can help boost your energy and give major muscle groups the TLC they need.
Pregnancy is not kind to the core muscles. There is less core strength, endurance, and stability in women up to six months postpartum. The core is an important group of muscles though, because they help stabilize your entire body. They also help protect your back from straining, support your pelvic floor, and may help to reduce the probability of urinary incontinence.
Postpartum workouts can help get you get back to your pre pregnancy body in a gradual way – if that’s your goal. By slowly incorporating exercise, you may start to see positive effects on weight management. That goes double when paired with a healthy diet.
Support Mental Health
During the postpartum period, supporting your emotional and mental health is also important. Postpartum exercise can help improve many areas of mental health, from mood, postpartum depression, and anxiety.
What Are the Safest Postpartum Workouts?
Before you jump all in on your new wellness routine, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing the right exercises for you. Remember, your body has just been through a lot, and you won’t immediately be as strong as you before giving birth.
Starting with exercises that don’t put too much strain on your healing body is important. Think of simple exercises that you can build on later as you get your strength back.
One exercise you can do while you are snuggling your baby, driving in the car, or before you go to sleep are Kegel exercises. Kegels are pelvic floor contractions, and they help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and uterus.
If you know how to do them, Kegels can be pretty easy. The muscles used in Kegels are the same ones you use when you are trying to hold in your flow of urine. To do a Kegel, engage those muscles and hold that engagement for two or three seconds. Release. Do about ten reps of this movement at different points throughout the day.
Another exercise you can do early in postpartum is diaphragmatic breathing. This postpartum exercise routine can help gently strengthen your core muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing is as simple as taking a deep belly to inhale. While this isn’t an exercise that will have extreme results, it will help to slowly strengthen your core while you are not able to do more advanced exercises.
When you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing, lie down on your back. Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a big breath in and pull the breath down to your abdomen. You should feel your hand on your belly rise. When you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles as it lowers. You can practice this breathing throughout the day and use diaphragmatic breathing, sitting or standing, once you get a feel for it.
If you are looking for a full-body postpartum workout, try adding more walking into your day. Starting slow can help your body ease back into more physical activity. Walking may also be beneficial for strengthening your bones and muscles, reducing calories, and boosting your mood.
The best thing about walking is you don’t need any special equipment. Put on some comfy clothes and shoes, and quick do a lap around the neighborhood. If you can only make it out to get the mail and back, that is something! You’ll get your endurance back over time.
Yoga and Pilates
Workout programs like yoga and pilates are perfect for postpartum. Both of these workouts focus on the strengths of your own body.
Yoga can help you regain your flexibility and balance. Pilates helps improve the strength of your muscles and increase energy. A basic cat-cow yoga pose with a starting position that keeps your spine neutral can help open and stretch your hips.
To practice both yoga and pilates, you do not even need to leave home. You can find a class you like on the Expectful app and get a workout done in the middle of your living room, with your baby playing beside you.
Remember to go at your own pace. Over time you will be surprised at the improvements you make.
Strengthening your core is always important, but especially during the postpartum period. Focus on exercises that engage the core muscles, but don’t put a lot of strain on the abs. This can be more harmful to your progess in the long run.
Ab workouts like leg extensions, pelvic tilts, and the pelvic bridge are ideal. Talking to a personal trainer or physical therapist can help you hone in on specific moves that will be beneficial for you, specifically in your postpartum workout plan.
What Are Exercises To Avoid During Postpartum?
There are some exercises that are not safe during the postpartum recovery period. Certain core exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and planks may actually make a condition called diastasis recti worse by putting too much strain on your upper body. This is a condition where your abdominal muscles pull apart during pregnancy— up to 60% of women may experience this condition. Gentle core exercises can help correct this problem.
High-intensity aerobic activities and heavy weight lifting are also not safe for new moms. These exercises may cause unnecessary strain on your postpartum body and lead to pelvic organ prolapse or bleeding if care is not taken. If you have questions about your specific postpartum workout routine, reach out to your OB/GYN.
Tips for Starting a Postpartum Workout Routine
If you are ready to start a postpartum workout routine, use these tips to make the transition easier for you.
Take It Slow
The number one tip is to take it slow. Finding a routine that works for you and your postpartum body can take a little while to figure out. Make sure you are comfortable in the activities.
No matter what you choose, walking, pilates, or core exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity, making sure to consult your health care provider with questions or concerns.
You may be able to work your way up to resistance training using a dumbbell, but you should not rush to get to this point.
Write down Your Goals
Before you start your postpartum workout routine, write down what your goals are. Are you hoping to increase your core strength, increase your energy, or lose weight? Whatever your goals are, write them down. It may help you stay more accountable to yourself.
Make a Plan
After you write down your goals, make a plan. Are you going to go for a walk three days a week? Do you want to put on a yoga video during naptime? When you write down your plan, you will know what to expect that day. This may help you follow through with your exercise program.
Find a Buddy
If you are struggling to get motivated or just want some adult conversation, asking a friend if they want to start a workout program with you can be helpful.
On those days when the couch and slippers look a lot cozier than your sneakers and the walk you have planned, it is nice to have a buddy to help you stay motivated.
Postpartum workouts can be beneficial for boosting energy, strengthening your core, managing your weight, and supporting your mental health. While you should wait for your postpartum appointment to be cleared for extensive activity, there are some activities that you can slowly start to help regain your strength.
Ease into your new postpartum workout routine by writing down your goals, making a plan, and finding a buddy for support.
At Expectful, we know the postpartum journey can be full of highs and lows. You get to experience your baby and all of its first, but it can also be hard to be patient with yourself to get back to your new normal. We are here for you.
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