Whether it’s your first, third, or fifth time around the postpartum block, your post-baby body is likely to be vastly different from your pre-pregnancy self.
And, if you were a gym fanatic or did regular exercise at home pre-pregnancy, you might be wondering whether it’s safe to resume exercise and what types of activities are best in the weeks and months following childbirth.
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Postpartum exercise will almost certainly be a very different experience than you anticipated.
Even the most well-intentioned new moms may find that their fitness suffers when you have a new baby in the house.
The truth is, it will take longer than anticipated to get back into physical shape.
Here are a few reasons why you’ll need to be patient with yourself and learn to get back into physical exercise slowly:
Your Core Has Been Stretched or Separated
According to a 2015 study, nearly all women develop diastasis recti (when the right and left abdominal muscles separate) towards the end of pregnancy, and up to 39% still have some separation six months later.
When this is coupled with a weakened pelvic floor, it can be difficult for new mothers to get back into shape, as core strength is critical for overall health and general fitness.
Pregnancy, Labor, and Healing Are Different for Every Woman.
“Every woman’s postpartum recovery time is different,” says Gina S. Nelson, M.D., an ob-gyn at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Postpartum depression, c-section, postpartum hemorrhage, excess weight gain during pregnancy, pubic bone symphysis, and diastasis recti are all issues that might make postpartum exercise difficult.
Ideally, your doctor would bring up the subject of exercise and grant you permission to resume your normal routine. However, you should have questions prepared for your six-week checkup, and you should inquire about returning to workouts that you were doing before the baby.
You Need to Sleep and Rest More Often
Your newborn will sleep up to 20hours per day, in increments. This means as a mother, you may not get long hours of sleep and you’ll need to rest more often, which means the energy for a workout may be depleted.
Whilst exercise can give you more energy, it may wear you out even more if you are sleep-deprived.
You will need to strike a balance by listening to your body and doing high-intensity workouts when you have the drive to do so (and if your Dr says it’s okay to do so) and less strenuous walks or stretches when exhausted.
Everything Aches and Pains
Relaxin (the hormone that helps loosen joints for childbirth) is talked about a lot throughout pregnancy, but it actually stays in your system long after your baby is born.
According to some sources, relaxin can persist in the body for up to 12 months after weaning. This means that your joints are going to be looser than usual.
Your body will be more prone to aches, pains, and injuries as a result of this lack of stability. It would be recommended to keep exercise very light until your body is stable enough.
Here are the sort of exercises you should go for.
Start by Strengthening Your Core
Because your core is the most affected area, you will want to focus on rebuilding it first. The aim is to work on the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and transverse abdominal muscles
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The colon, bladder, uterus (womb), and vagina are all supported by the pelvic floor muscles, which are firmly draped between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone.
They are the muscles you squeeze to stop urinating. Unfortunately, childbirth can weaken these muscles, leading to difficulties later in life, such as incontinence.
Start with Kegels. Contract your pelvic floor muscles as tightly as possible for 10 seconds at a time, and release slowly. Do this whilst lying down or sitting and standing throughout the day.
Try to do hard squeezes and cough or clear your throat a little whilst doing it – it sounds ridiculous, but it works!
Diaphragmatic / Deep Breathing Exercises
You can start doing deep breathing exercises as soon as a few days after giving birth. Breathing exercises for a few minutes each day can help you relax and reduce stress.
It can also help to strengthen your core and calm your breathing rate.
This exercise can be done whilst seated or lying down on your yoga mat. Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply through the nose – your belly should expand whilst your chest remains still.
Hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat the exercise for 2 to 3 minutes.
Do Swiss Ball Bird Dog Holds
This exercise improves stability, posture, and lower back pain, which is all too frequent after birth.
First, grab your exercise ball and lie down on it, making sure your torso is covering the whole ball and your palms and toes are touching the ground.
Next, lift your right leg together with your left arm and hold this position for 2 seconds—alternate legs and arms for up to 20 repetitions.
Do Light Exercises
Do not underestimate the power of a brisk walk, a swim, or cycling around the block. As long as you do not overdo it, light exercises will help you to gradually get back into shape, losing all the baby fat and building muscle. Add yoga or pilates to it to improve your flexibility and get rid of some of those joint aches and pains.
When You Are Ready, Do Some Light Weight Training.
To help stabilize your joints, some lightweight exercises will do you good. Use kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells to help you increase your strength and lower your risk of injury. This exercise will also improve your sleep, mood, and confidence.
Lastly, remember to keep listening to your body whilst doing all these exercises because it is at a very delicate stage. Hydrate well and get plenty of rest.
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