Exercise after pregnancy

So some supermodels are back on the catwalk five minutes after giving birth, well that’s lovely for them, but for most of us it’s not particularly realistic.

It’s not just that celebrity mums have an army of personal chefs, personal trainers and live-in Kundalini gurus; it’s also comes down to the fact that we all need to go at our own pace, according to what our individual bodies need. Your postpartum body can be achy, fatigued and may never really be the same as it was. Be gentle on yourself and your expectations, but consistent in your approach.

When to start exercising after birth

If you were pretty fit before you had your bub, and your labour was complication-free, you can most likely get back into some gentle exercise when you feel ready. However, if you didn’t exercise a lot beforehand, experienced complications, or had a Caesarean, you’ll need to take it a bit more slowly. Six weeks is a good length of time to wait if you had a tough time during labour - but it’s best to confirm with your doctor at your postnatal check.
Gentle walking is a good start and you can easily take your newborn along in the pram. Even if you’ve had a C-section, walking is a great way to get out and about and start exercising again. The trick at this stage is not to overdo it - the body needs time to heal after giving birth.
Post-pregnancy exercise has all kinds of benefits - it can help you shed the baby weight, improve your mood, get your muscle strength back, and may help the symptoms of postnatal depression.

What to avoid

Ensure your bleeding has stopped before taking on any strenuous activities. Remember, your joints become looser with pregnancy and will be for several months after, so avoid anything high-impact. 

Also, take it easy with jogging, tennis and other high impact exercise until your pelvic floor has recovered. It’s also best to give swimming a wide berth until you’ve had your postnatal check in order to prevent infection.
woman doing pilates on reformer

Speaking of the pelvic floor...

You can work on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles as soon as you feel ready. To identify the correct muscles, stop your urine flow mid-stream then pulsate the muscles in bursts of 10. You can do this whenever you feel like it - when watching television, taking a rest or even while reading this article. 

You’ll need to get this part of your body back in shape before taking on sit-ups, Pilates or other abdominal work, as you could hinder the healing process by getting back into those crunches too soon.
Also, avoid any abdominal work if you’ve experienced diastasis - separation of the abdominal muscles. This takes a minimum of four to six weeks to close. If you can feel a separation of your abdominal muscles, get a check-up and avoid those crunches as you could injure yourself.

Get moving

Once you’re ready for something a bit more taxing than a stroll, strap on your supportive bra and step it up a notch with brisk walking, bike riding, a gym class or an exercise DVD. Ensure that you stay hydrated, warm up, cool down and stretch to prevent injury - and most importantly, take it slowly and listen to your body.

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