Getting Fit With Baby

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after labour - but it shouldn't be. Postnatal exercise has a huge number of benefits. We talk you through the safest way to go about getting fit with baby.

Surprise, surprise - exercising after giving birth is good for you! You didn't think we'd tell you to sit on the couch and eat cake, did you?

The benefits of postnatal exercise include:

  • Post pregnancy weight loss
  • Faster recovery from childbirth
  • Improved mood (helps prevent postpartum depression)
  • Increased energy
  • Improved muscular strength and stamina (helps you take care of your baby)
  • Reduced aches and pains due to stronger muscles

When You Can Start Getting Fit With Baby

It's essential that you talk to your doctor before starting 12WBT's Exercise Plans or any kind of postnatal exercise program. If you had an uncomplicated birth and stayed active throughout your pregnancy, you could be able to start exercising gently as soon as a week or two after delivery.

In some cases, your doctor might advise you to wait six weeks before working out - that's about the time it takes for your body to fully recover. You might have to wait a little longer if you had a caesarean section, complications or a difficult birth, as your body may require more time to heal.

Follow your doctor's advice and listen to your body. If you don't feel ready to exercise yet, don't push it. You might also want to get specific advice on losing weight while breastfeeding.

Safe Forms of Postnatal Exercise

All women should start performing pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible after having a baby. Childbirth weakens pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to bladder leakage and incontinence. Contract the muscles that stop your flow of urine (but don't do the exercises while urinating) and hold for five to 10 seconds, then relax for five to 10 seconds. Do three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

You should also start some gentle tummy strengthening exercises, such as belly breathing and pelvic tilts, as soon as it feels comfortable. Don't attempt more demanding abdominal exercises until you've regained some strength in those muscles.

Walking is a great way to get moving shortly after giving birth, and it allows you to bring your baby with you. Once you feel ready and your doctor has given you the green light, swimming, yoga, Pilates, cycling, water aerobics, low-impact aerobics and light weight training are all great ways to get back into shape and ease your body into your pre-pregnancy exercise routine.

Things to Watch Out For

Your ligaments and joints will be loose and more prone to injury for up to three months after you give birth, so avoid any high-impact exercises or activities that require excessive stretching or twisting. Your abdominal and lower back muscles will also be weaker, so take care not to strain them.

If you experience discomfort or pain at any time while you're exercising, stop immediately and talk to your doctor.

Getting Fit With Baby

It's likely that you're probably bending down to pick up your baby hundreds of times a day, so here's a great additional way to make use of your bundle of joy: drop the arm weights and grab your baby instead.

This program of safe, functional exercises including squats, lunges and kiss-ups uses your baby's weight to add extra resistance.

These exercises can be done three times a week with your baby. The workout will work on all of the major muscles in the body, and gives you another way to bond and have fun with bub.

Equipment:

Baby plus enthusiasm!

Baby Squat

As you squat down, extend your arms out in front. Then, as you stand up, bring bub in close for a kiss.

>> 2 sets, 12-15 reps

Kiss-ups

Place your baby on the ground, get on your knees - or toes if you're feeling super strong - and each time you lower yourself for a pushup, give bub another kiss.

>> 2 sets, 12-15 reps

Bicep Baby Curls

Instead of using dumbbells, try standing up with a straight back, lower your baby and then curl your arms back up again.

>> 2 sets, 12-15 reps

Lunges

Begin by holding the baby close to your chest, then lunge - either keeping bub close or extending your arms if you want more of an overload for the shoulders and lower back. This can be a tough exercise, so just work to your capacity.

>> 2 sets, 12-15 reps

Plank above baby

Hold a perfect plank over your baby for as long as you can on your toes, and then drop down to your knees (note to self: don't fall flat!) before rolling off to the side.

>> 2 sets, for as long as you can hold the plank

Just make sure when you are doing this program that your pelvic floor and core muscles are fully engaged - just like they should be before you pick up anything.

By practicing these exercises often and with your core switched on, you'll be training your stomach muscles to turn on during everyday activity. Good core strength can help prevent back pain and you should find with practice it will start to automatically engage when you bend down to pick up your baby, their toys, or anything else that requires bending down!

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