As an exhausted new mother, working out may be the last thing on your mind. But if you are ready and eager to get back to a workout routine, exercising does wonders for your well-being!
If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin exercising around 6 weeks after giving birth or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section, any trauma associated with birth, you will require a longer time for recovery. It is best to talk to your gynaecologist or a medical practitioner about when to start an exercise program.
Here are some tips to help you get started!
Pay attention to your body
It does not matter whether you had a simple or complicated birth experience. Being postpartum means you need time to recover from major surgery, one that is challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Ask yourself these questions: Are you experiencing any pain? Any discomfort? Is recovery difficult? If so, back off on the intensity level, and take another few weeks to recover from childbirth before you try again.
You have a new body now, so you have to figure out what level of intensity suits you and your body.
Watch out for red-flag signs, including:
Postpartum vaginal bleeding
Other fluid leakages (urine or feces)
Heaviness in your pelvic region or the feeling of organs coming out of your vagina
In addition to these red-flag signs, stop if you feel lightheaded or dizzy
Start with low impact exercise
Signing up for CrossFit or HIIT may not be the ideal exercise for you right now. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you may actually set yourself back from real recovery!
To start, try walking up to 30 minutes a day. If you can’t walk 30 minutes straight, try six sets of 5-minute walks or three sets of 10-minute walks.
Take baby steps and don’t overwhelm yourself. You are in a new stage of life, juggling between sleep deprivation, feeding, diaper changes, and adjusting to a new family member. Go easy but be consistent.
Remember - whatever type of activity you decide to do, look for certified and experienced instructors. Speak to the instructor before class and ask for adjustments to the workout based on your postpartum needs.
Strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor muscles elongate during pregnancy and are stretched with birth. (source)
While you are excited to be exercising, do not rush into doing crunches, sit-ups, planks or push-ups. Try these gentle core exercises instead! You can also do brisk walking, swimming, and aqua aerobics!
So, to end, here are some useful rule of thumb:
Before embarking on any exercises, be sure to clear it with your ob-gyn or a medical professional first
Walking 30 minutes a day is a good place to start
Carving time out to exercise may be challenging when the baby needs your attention. Start slow. Over time, you will notice progress!