Whether you’re a first-time mother or have just had another child, finding time to look after your physical health with a new baby can be challenging. However, keeping fit will help you to care for your little one and will be beneficial to both of you. It will also help to give you the energy to juggle all of the many tasks ahead of you. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can also help to stave off post-natal depression, and can be a major contributor in reducing stress and anxiety.
Giving birth will leave you feeling exhausted, and having a new baby to care for is, of course, constantly tiring. Under these circumstances, it may seem like exercising is the last thing you want to do, even if you could find the time for it. However, regular exercise will actually make you feel more awake, and will increase your physical stamina and energy levels. It will also help you to feel more in control of your life and will aid in giving you the confidence and strength to keep up with your new responsibilities.
How Soon Can I Start?
Assuming that you aren’t suffering from complications around giving birth, you can begin gentle exercises as soon as you feel ready. If you were used to exercising regularly before you had a baby, you’ll find it easier to get back into the swing of things than if you weren’t previously working out. However, do heed the advice to take it slowly. It’s advised to wait at least six weeks before beginning any intensive exercise regime such as aerobics or running.
Build Up Gradually
Light stretches and brisk walks are a good way to start exercising after birth. You can then gradually build up to more demanding routines. Remember that your body has changed during pregnancy and it may take some time to return to the way that it used to be. In some cases, it may not ever be quite the same, but that needn’t be a bad thing. Exercise can help you to get used to your new body, and make the most of it.
Take Extra Care
Your core abdominal muscles and those in your lower back will probably feel weaker than they were before you gave birth. Similarly, your joints and ligaments will remain softer and more pliable for a few months, meaning that they’re more susceptible to injury when you’re stretching or twisting them. Wearing compression leggings while exercising can help to prevent injury as the leggings give extra support to the calf and thigh muscles and can also reduce the risk of chafing. Be aware too that you will probably need to buy a new sports bra as your back and cup size will have changed during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be done sitting, standing or lying down. Squeeze and draw in your back passage and genital area and hold for up to ten seconds. Relax and repeat ten times, four to six times a day. Remember to breathe normally, and don’t pull in your stomach or your buttocks.
Later, you can combine these with deep stomach exercises. Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent and relax your stomach muscles. Breathe in gently and as you breathe out, draw in the lower part of your stomach. At the same time, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as above and hold for ten seconds. Relax and repeat, breathing normally throughout.
Making Everyday Activities Healthy
Walk when you can rather than driving or getting a lift, and use the stairs rather than the elevator. Pushing a baby buggy is good exercise, but make sure that your posture is correct. The buggy handles need to be at the right height so that your back is straight and your arms are bent with your elbows at right angles. When picking things up, bend down at the knees rather than bending over with your back.
Swimming is great exercise, but it’s best to wait until a week after your post-natal bleeding has stopped. You may also be able to join a dedicated post-natal exercise class. Some even encourage you to bring your new baby with you. If you join a regular exercise class, let them know that you’ve recently given birth as they may be able to adapt the routines to best suit you.
Finally, don’t be in too much of a hurry to lose weight or regain your old figure. The important thing is staying healthy. Give yourself time, eat well and get plenty of rest. You’ll feel all the better for it.