If you have just had a baby, postnatal exercise might understandably be one of the last things on your mind.
However, it can be beneficial to get back into a routine if you enjoyed regular exercise pre-birth, or to gradually introduce a fitness regime if you’re relatively new to getting active, and keen to get started.
It’s not exactly a big secret – we all know that exercise can keep you fit and healthy, make you feel more energetic and can even help you to relax.
For mums – whether you’re a first-timer or one welcoming a new member to a larger family – exercise can be enjoyable, fulfilling and a refreshing distraction from parental duties.
On top of the feel-good benefits, staying active during the postnatal period can also help your body recover from giving birth.
When it comes to postnatal fitness, we’re really looking at a range of activities. It doesn’t mean strenuous training and PT sessions straight away. Instead, the initial exercise can be as gentle as walking or a few stretches.
Looking after your health is vital. After all, a healthy mum makes for a happy baby!
How soon you start exercising after birth depends on the type of activity you’re considering. Walking is fine almost as soon as you feel physically able to do so, and of course, it’s important to get out and about, enjoying the fresh air.
Daily walks with your baby can be a great way of bonding; walking with a friend, with childcare in place, is an excellent way of staying connected socially and just taking a well-earned break.
If you’re planning more strenuous activity, the advice from the NHS suggests that it’s usually best to wait until at least six weeks before you start exercising again.
By this stage, you will have had your six-week postnatal check-up with your GP. You can discuss exercise then, especially if you’re planning on doing any high-impact fitness.
Bear in mind that, during childbirth, your body goes through a lot so it’s always best to give yourself enough time to heal. If you don’t feel ready, don’t push it.
You may be able to do gentle activity before the six-week check-up, such as pelvic floor exercises. Again, only attempt this if you feel fit and well; speak to your health visitor, midwife or GP first. If you gave birth through a caesarean section, your recovery will typically be a lot longer.
Exercising after having a baby can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. Although you may be feeling tired, postnatal exercise can actually help increase your energy levels, which can have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.
Exercising can also improve your mood, help relieve stress and can help prevent postnatal depression.
There’s also the physical benefits of postnatal exercise, like improving your cardiovascular fitness and promoting weight loss.
After childbirth, your post-baby body will be weaker than it was before. Exercising will help strengthen your muscles and firm up your body, which is especially important for your abdominal muscles.
It’s important to make time for yourself after having a baby. That may sound like it’s easier said than done, but it’s true.
Finding the time for exercising with a newborn can be challenging, especially if you feel particularly tired on some days. You could find it useful to regularly schedule exercise time every day, or at certain times of the week, and commit to that time.
Support from other people – whether it's your partner or your friends – can make a massive difference. Exercising with other people can help you stay motivated, especially if you are doing so with other mums who are in the same position as yourself.
This way, you can exercise and socialise at the same time, and you’ll also be able to encourage each other.
Of course, you can also embrace the opportunities to exercise with your baby. Here are some great ways you and your little one can start working on your postnatal fitness.
Ease yourself back into exercising with mother and baby yoga. Gentle yoga moves are a great way for you to get moving, and you and your baby can do it together. It’s an opportunity for you both to bond while you focus on your health and fitness.
Mother and baby yoga strengthens and tones the muscles that were affected by giving birth, like your abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor.
Yoga is also a great way to improve your fitness level and posture while helping you to relax and improve your sleep. It is a calming experience for your baby and it can help to develop their reflexes, as well as improving their awareness of their surroundings.
You can meet other mums by going to classes or do it from the comfort of your own home. The choice is yours. If you choose to go to mother and baby classes, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and share your experiences in a calm environment.
If you’re struggling to fit in the time to exercise between feeds and naps, jogging with a buggy is an option. Many babies like to feel motion like they do in cars, which can help them to sleep. This can be particularly handy when trying to fit in a quick exercise session.
Jogging with a buggy can be a challenging exercise. It’s a cardio workout, while also navigating the buggy, which requires upper body strength, particularly in the arms.
Tips for jogging with a buggy from Runner’s World include having a light grip on the handle – to avoid over clenching, which can put a strain on wrists – and alternating between one hand and the other.
You should also use a wrist strap that attaches your hand to the buggy, preventing it from rolling away from you. If the buggy has front swivel wheels, lock them in place to ensure stability.
A couple of other things. Pace yourself, and listen to your body. If you’re out of breath, slow down or even pause for 60 seconds.
Finally, choose your jogging route wisely. A park with wide pathways and plenty of space is far preferable to a busy high street, which could provide too many possible hazards.
Lightweight and streamlined, the Cybex Avi is designed for the utmost running performance. Whether you’re running in the city or in the park, it’s perfect for both you and your child.
The Avi’s lightweight aluminium frame and 20-inch air-filled tyres provide a smooth run, while the soft rear suspension provides all the comfort your little one needs.
This running pushchair features a rounded slip-proof silicone handlebar, so you can steer with ease without stopping. It can even be adjusted to fit your height.
There’s even a speed control handbrake that can vary the speed of the pushchair to meet your pace. A reinforced backrest keeps your little one safe and secure, so they can sit back, relax and nap.
With a wide range of fabrics to choose from, you are sure to look and feel fabulous. The Avi’s stunning frame can also be customised to suit your taste.
Reflective details help you stand out, making it safer for use whenever you choose to run. Once you’re finished, simply fold the Avi into an ultra-compact package with just one hand.
The Cybex Sport range
Babies have the natural ability to swim. They instinctively move their arms and legs in a swimming motion while staying tummy side down.
This incredible instinct allows them to open their eyes and breathe underwater. So if you’re a mum who loves the water, you can share this experience with your little one!
Swimming is a great way to introduce gentle exercise into your routine. It’s not too harsh on your body and you can strengthen your muscles while being supported by the water.
Swimming is especially good for strengthening your abdominal muscles - an area that will need some TLC after childbirth.
Mother and baby swimming groups are perfect for bonding with your new baby while getting in some gentle exercise. It’s also a great opportunity to be surrounded by new mums just like you.
Support from people who are in the same position as you can be really refreshing and exactly what you need to not feel alone.
You can take your baby swimming at any age, just make sure the water is warm enough. A suitable temperature for babies younger than 12 weeks or smaller than 12lbs is 32˚C.
Babies older than 12 weeks or heavier than 12lbs can swim in water at 30˚C. If you’re not sure whether your little one is ready for the water, check with your GP or health visitor first.
If you are looking for a simple exercise that you can do any time during the day without any expense, power walking could be for you.
You don’t need any equipment or fancy gym wear - all you need are clothes you’re comfortable in. It’s up to you whether you choose to power walk with your little one in a pram, pushchair or in a sling.
Power walking is a great excuse to get out of the house, get some fresh air and get those steps in. It can help you maintain a healthy weight without overexerting your body. Power walking on a regular basis can also improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance and it can help increase your energy levels.
Whether you choose to go power walking on your own or with your friends, it’s a perfect opportunity for you and your little one to get some much-needed vitamin D. You could even persuade your partner to go with you for some moral support!
Let us know your experiences with getting back into exercising after having a baby. We would love to hear your stories!
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