Benefits of exercise
- Helps you get back into shape after your baby is born
- Helps to improve sleep quality and mental well-being
- Raises your energy level making you less tired
- Build strong healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Can strengthen your core (abdominal muscles)
- Reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers
- Help with bladder control.
When is it sensible to begin postnatal exercise?
It’s important to speak to you healthcare provider about when it’ll be a good time for you to start exercising.
- Light exercising, like walking, can be started as soon as you’re up to it
- Generally, six weeks post-delivery, your body will start to return to normal. However, this may be longer if you had a caesarean, difficult birth or complications
- Avoid vigorous exercise until you’ve had your 6 week postnatal check, just to be sure your body is ready for it.
Tips for starting postnatal exercise
- Establish a routine and maintain it
- Start slowly don’t rush back into it and allow your body to rest between exercises
- Your joints will be unstable to begin with, so avoid jumping exercises. Also avoid stretching to the maximum in the first six weeks
- Ensure that you warm up and cool down with light, low-resistance exercises prior to each session
- Pushing your baby in their pram is an ideal way to start getting active and can even help put your baby to sleep
- Speak to your doctor before resuming any competitive sports.
Finding the time to exercise
With the stress of giving birth and the strains of raising your newborn exercise can seem like your last priority, here are a few ways to help you find the time:
- Ask your partner, family and friends for their support, whether it be looking after the little one or exercising with you
- Get your baby involved. They can lie beside you while you’re doing floor exercises or you can push them in their pram while going for a brisk walk
- You don’t have to do it all at once. Spread your activity out across the week and make the most of the small breaks you get. Even 10 minutes a session can make a difference
- Do the best you can and remember it will get easier as your baby settles into their routine
- Multitask! Some abdominal and pelvic exercises can be done while you’re doing other tasks, either when sitting or standing.
Pelvic floor exercises
While you may have been introduced to these prior to giving birth, now’s the time you’ll need pelvic floor exercises the most. This is because childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles, which is the area between the tailbone and the pubic bone. Your pelvic floor supports your bowel, bladder, uterus and vagina and when weakened can cause incontinence later in life.
Here is a simple exercise, that you can do sitting or standing, to help strengthen the area:
- Try to relax your abdominal muscles
- Gradually squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can
- Release slowly and gently
- Then squeeze slowly and hold for between five and 10 seconds, repeat 10 times
- Next perform quick, short and hard squeezes, repeating 10 times
- Aim to do 5 to 6 sets each day.
Examples of postnatal exercises
Please check with your healthcare professional for advice on which exercise is suitable for you.
These exercises can help particularly when in hospital:
- Lie flat on a bed with your legs out straight in front of you
- Flex your feet then extend them
- Circle your foot one way, then the other
- Take turns at bending each knee and then sliding your foot along the bed
- Repeat each exercise 5 times.
- Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent and your hands straight beside you
- Breathe in and hold
- Pull in your tummy, tighten your buttocks and push your lower back against the floor for 10 seconds and breathe out slowly
- Slowly relax
- Repeat 3-4 times increasing gradually up towards 24.
- Lie on your back with your head slightly raised, knees bent, feet flat
- Place hands on thigh
- Breathe in, tightening your tummy and pelvic floor
- Breathe out as you lift your head and slide hands toward knees
- Lower your head and relax, the repeat
- Don’t try to do full sit ups in the first six weeks.
- Lie flat on your back with both legs flat on the floor and extended
- Slide one foot, flat on the floor, until it touches your bottom or it becomes uncomfortable
- Then stretch it out again
- Swap sides and repeat
- Repeat three times. Repeat more times as you get stronger.