In the first few weeks after having your baby, your body and your mind will most definitely not be ready for exercise! But after you’ve had the all clear from your GP or midwife at your six week check up, you may be starting to feel more human and ready to get your body moving again. And we couldn’t recommend this enough as a technique for helping to alleviate anxiety. Postpartum exercise, otherwise known as postnatal exercise, will help you to regain your strength and energy both physically and mentally.
What do you mean by exercise?
We are not suggesting you start marathon training! Exercise can be anything which either raises your heartbeat, gets you sweating (or perspiring!) or makes you slightly out of breath. It can be a buggy walk, swimming, yoga, pilates, running or jogging or simply dancing in your kitchen. A lot of mums rave about the Coach to 5K app which helps you to go from sitting on the sofa to running a 5k in a sensible and easy to achieve timeframe.
Why do I have to be careful during postpartum exercise?
Towards the end of your pregnancy, a hormone known as Relaxin helps to soften and open the cervix and vagina in order to help you give birth more easily. But the effects of Relaxin can continue for up to five months after your baby’s birth, making you feel more supple and flexible than you actually are. For this reason, you need to be careful when starting postnatal exercise regimes and any high impact or intensive exercise should be avoided.
How can I strengthen my core after childbirth?
It’s very important to avoid abdominal crunch exercises post pregnancy. During pregnancy your abdominal muscles can actually separate, something which is known as Diastasis Recti. In laywoman’s terms, this is the widening of the gap between the two sides of your six pack! The split happens at the Linea Alba – or the midline collagen structures of connective tissue at the front of the abdomen.
To check if this has split, lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Pop your finger tips vertically along your tummy just above your belly button. Very slowly lift just your head off the floor – you shouldn’t be able to fit more than a finger width inside. A bit like putting your finger between your bent knuckles.
Six simple exercises to strengthen your core
These six exercises have been recommended by Simon Keele from The Shapesmiths who is fully qualified in pre and postnatal exercise and can be done every day to help strengthen and improve your core stability post pregnancy. Do ensure you warm up your muscles before and stretch out afterwards. A simple and easy way to warm up inside your house is to jog on the spot for ten minutes.
Engage your core and ensure your back is flat. Your head and neck should be aligned. Once ready, stretch out your opposite arm and leg alternately, aiming to complete ten on each side.
Hip Tilts and Glute Bridges
Lie on your back with your head neck on the floor. Then tilt your hips up and down, ensuring your bottom stays on the floor but your back is raised. Repeat ten times. Lie on your back with your feet a bit wider than hip width apart. With your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise hips, squeezing your glutes at the top. Then lower your hips and repeat ten times.
Lie on your back again with feet a bit wider than hip width, legs up and bent. Raise your head and shoulders slightly, engage your core and touch heels alternately with your hands. Control the movement and don’t go too quickly! Try to do 20 – so ten either side.
Lie on your back with your arms and legs raised up. Legs should be bent, calves parallel to floor. You will look a little like a dead bug – hence the name! Engage your core and then move your opposite arm and leg at the same time towards the floor, ensuring your legs don’t touch the floor. This is more taxing on the core, start off with small amounts and aim for ten each side.
Start on all fours and place one hand on the side of your head, with your elbow out. Then rotate this elbow towards the ceiling – opening up the chest and reaching as far as you can. Move
back to the starting position and repeat ten times on each side.
Ready to go onto the next stage? Then grab your buggy and follow Simon through these great buggy fit exercise ideas which you can do outside or inside your own home, with or without baby napping!