PREGNANCY and childbirth can cause significant physical changes to a woman's body. When this happens, women are usually quite eager to get their pre-baby bodies back.
Personal trainer and fitness expert Gisel Harrow said, while post-natal exercises are physically and emotionally beneficial, it is important that women looking to start an exercise regimen take the process slowly.
“After you've delivered your bundle of joy into the world, it's time to get your body back to optimum health and fitness. Exercising is the best, as well as the safest, way to help you to recover after childbirth,” Harrow said.
She advised mothers, however, to get clearance from their medical practitioners before committing to any post-natal exercises. The decision about when to start working out will be greatly influenced by the birthing experience, as well as the recovery, but generally, the recommended wait period is six weeks and for strenuous techniques, at least 12 weeks.
Wondering what exercises would be best after being given the green light? Harrow shares exercises you could include in your post-pregnancy workout plan:
Swimming is incredibly effective in working your heart and lungs without putting too much pressure on your joints.
“For post-natal women, swimming or an aqua aerobics class is effective in adding muscle tone while providing a gentle exercise that won't strain your body too much after giving birth,” Harrow advised.
2. WEIGHT/RESISTANCE TRAINING
“With clearance from your medical practitioner, light weight training helps to tone up muscles and strengthen your core. So it is a great post-natal exercise,” Harrow recommended.
When doing weight or resistance exercises, Harrow said that these should be gradual, even if you were doing them prior to your pregnancy.
Strengthening your core can help to stave off back pains, which tend to affect women after childbirth. This can also help with injury protection, she said.
“Brisk walking is the best option, especially if you were not actively working out before pregnancy. It is gentle but keeps you fit and healthy without putting pressure on your joints,” Harrow advised.
Brisk walking, she said, is one of the exercises that you can do with your baby as an accessory, whether you are using a stroller or a carrier. In fact, many strollers are now being designed to make walking and even jogging with your baby much easier.
“For best results, go on a brisk 30-minute walk four times each week. You can also jog as you continue to heal, and continue group classes like cycling, Zumba or dance. These are great forms of post-natal exercises and help to burn calories and get your heart rate up,” Harrow advised.
4. PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
Childbirth can weaken the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel when a woman delivers vaginally.
The chances of this happening increase when the woman pushes for a very long time or when the baby is big. Pelvic floor exercises are therefore very important when it comes to strengthening the area.
“Begin by sitting, standing or lying down in a comfortable position and squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles (these are the ones you use when you're trying to hold in your urine). Hold this contraction for up to 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat this 10 times and aim to do three or four sets each day,” Harrow instructed.
Harrow also recommended that women ensure that they stay hydrated, rest, slow down if they feel unwell, or stop altogether if they experience bleeding, and have an evaluation done.