Exercising after having a baby promotes mental and physical wellness. It prevents postpartum depression, and helps you to get your post-partum body back. Exercise includes all forms of movement such as performing household chores, gardening, going to the market, in addition to structured supervised activities.
When is the right time to exercise after child birth?
You can start exercising right after delivery. You need to start gradually with light intensity activities, slowly at first and increasing each exercise at a pace comfortable for you. Even if you have had a Caesarean Section, you can start exercising on the day after surgery by moving your ankles and legs.
What are the types of exercises you can do after delivery?
Walking, cycling, swimming, playing, and dancing are easy exercises that postpartum women can enjoy. Begin in simple ways by taking gradual walks at a comfortable pace, 3 days in a week, progressing with brisk walks in between house chores, or stepping out of the house. Other very important exercises are stomach exercises and kegels.
Begin with easy strolls and progress to brisk walks. You may include backwards walking or walking in a zigzag manner to spice it up and make it more challenging. Aim for 20-30 minutes of a gradual pace, then briskly with light jogs, and coming to gradual strolling. You can carry your baby in a front pack to add extra weight to increase benefits. Baby will benefit as well by seeing new sights as you move.
Standing bicycles are easy to begin with. Or you may lie on a mat on the floor and paddle in the air.
It does not have to be ballroom dancing. Rhythmic bodily movements done in fast pace that one enjoys is a great way to add both exercising and spice to one’s daily routine.
Stomach exercises – deep belly breathing with abdominal contraction
You can begin this exercise right after delivery. It helps to relax stomach muscles, and it starts the process of strengthening and toning your abdominal muscles and stomach. Sit upright and breathe deeply, drawing air upward. Contract and hold your abdominals tight while breathing in and relax while breathing out. Gradually increase the amount of time you can contract and hold your abdominal muscles.
This exercise can strengthen your abdominal muscles. To begin, lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 or more repetitions over time.
You should aim at contracting and holding the muscles of the bladder, that is, muscles that control the flow of urine. While urinating, try to stop the flow of urine without squeezing your buttocks. It may be difficult to start with, but keep at it each time you use the bathroom. As you become familiar with stopping the urine flow without squeezing your buttocks, begin to do it when you are not urinating by contracting, holding, and releasing those same muscles. Progress to doing this about 5-10 times each time and repeating 3 times daily. Specific vigorous aerobic exercise such as race walking, jogging, running, swimming laps, tennis, aerobic dancing, bicycling, jumping rope, heavy gardening, or hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack can be done as exercising becomes familiar to your body. You may speak to a physiotherapist to have an exercise program tailored to your specific needs.
Exercising pearls for the postpartum woman
- Take time to warm up and cool down.
- Start slowly and increase your pace gradually. Rome was not built in a day.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is life.
- Dress the part. Wear a supportive bra and loose-fitting clothing that will help keep you cool. Wear breast pads if you’re breast-feeding in case your breasts leak.
- Don’t punish yourself. Stop exercising if you feel pain.
- Aim to stay active for 20–30 minutes a day, but even 10 minutes of exercise is beneficial.
Written by Bridget Numarce ,MSc.PT, MGPA. Edited by Babychildandco staff.