Fitness After Childbirth: What You Need To Know
You might be aware of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. It helps to boost your mood, reduces backaches, helps you to sleep better, etc.
But did you know that exercise is also helpful even after your pregnancy?
Yes, exercise brings a lot of benefits for you after your pregnancy. Therefore you should continue exercises after the birth of your baby.
Benefits of exercise for postpartum women
Postpartum is the 4–6 week period just after childbirth.
Many women begin to feel sad or depressed from 3 to 5 days after delivery. Sometimes depression may begin during pregnancy. If the depression is prolonged or lasts for more than 2 weeks it means you are suffering from postpartum depression. For some people it can last up to 1 year.
But there is no need to worry because exercise can help you to get out of postpartum depression. Following are some benefits of exercise for postpartum women.
- Exercise can help you to improve your sleep quality
- Exercise helps to boost your energy.
- It helps you to get relief from stress and anxiety.
- Exercise will strengthen your abdominal muscles.
- Regular exercise along with reduced calorie consumption will help to lose the weight that you gained during your pregnancy.
- It can also help to prevent postpartum depression and makes you feel good.
- It also helps to keep your heart healthy.
How much exercise do you need after pregnancy?
Generally, a moderate amount of aerobic activity for up to 150 minutes every week is considered best. But the length of time you exercise is of less importance. Exercising for only 10-minutes can also bring a lot of benefits to your physical well-being. It can keep you fit and helps to strengthen your muscles.
You can start with 5- 10 minutes and then increase it over time. You can divide the time according to your stamina.
For instance, you can go for 10- minutes walk each day or you can work out for up to 30- minutes for 5 days a week. You can manage this time according to your willpower.
Best time to start exercising after pregnancy
The best time for exercise comes when you know that you are ready for it. Pregnant women can start exercising soon after normal vaginal delivery. This is safe and recommended by the doctor.
In the case of cesarean birth or any other complications consult your health care professional first before starting any exercise. Your doctors know better about your health condition and will recommend the best time to start regular exercise.
Exercise with breastfeeding
Some mothers may worry that exercise during breastfeeding maybe not be good. But it is completely safe for you and your child. The composition of your breast milk is also not affected by your exercise.
Guidelines to begin your exercise after pregnancy
- When you plan to do exercise after your pregnancy, start with some simple postpartum exercises first. These initial exercises help to warm up your abdominal muscles and strengthen them.
- Keep on practicing these exercises for a couple of days and then gradually add some moderate-intensity activities.
Some easy ways to start exercise after pregnancy
- After pregnancy, you can join an exercise club. There are numerous gyms and local fitness centers that offer special postpartum exercises. You can search for them around in your neighborhood and also search online.
- If you are not interested in joining a club then you can follow online exercising videos. It is a great and cost-efficient way for you to get back in shape.
Steps to follow to get prepared for your workout
Below are some tips and measures to follow when you are planning to exercise.
- First, warm up your body and cool down.
- Start slowly.
- Always keep a water bottle with you during the whole exercise session. Take sips of water from time to time to stay hydrated.
- Always wear loose-fitting clothes during workouts. It will help to keep you cool.
- You should wear a fitted bra and nursing pads. It gives a lot of support and protects your breast.
- It is better to feed your baby before your workout if you are a breastfeeder.
- Stop the exercise if you feel pain.
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Best postpartum exercises to do after pregnancy
The primary goal in the postpartum period is to get back your strength. You need to especially work on areas including the diaphragm, transverse muscles, and the pelvic floor.
There are some specific after-pregnancy exercises for women that you can start after consulting your doctor. The following moves will help you in rebuilding your strength:
- Swiss bird dog holds
- Cat-cow in the tabletop
- Postpartum planks
- Side plank leg lifts
- Swiss ball glute bridge
There are two other important exercises also to do during the whole postpartum period:
How to do postpartum exercises
Pelvic floor (Kegel) exercise
This exercise is very helpful to do in the postpartum period. Regular practice will help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
How to do:
- To start it, first tighten your pelvic floor muscles.
- Hold for up to 10 seconds.
- Repeat the same throughout the day.
You can start deep breathing a few days after your delivery. Deep breathing only for few minutes can help to keep your muscles relaxed and help relieve your stress. You can do it while sitting or lying down.
How to do:
- Lie down flat on your yoga mat.
- Take time to relax your body completely.
- Now, put a soft hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach.
- Take slow deep breaths in for 2 to 3 seconds and then slowly breathe out. Your chest should remain still while breathing.
- Repeat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Walking is a great workout after delivery. This will refresh your body and mind. You can also take your baby with you for a walk.
After getting your strength back, you can also stop for a while and consider performing a few bodyweight squares.
Cat-Cow in tabletop
This is a beginner’s yoga move and is very helpful in supporting your back muscles. The Cat-Cow stretching helps to improve mobility and blood circulation. Your body will get a soothing effect from this exercise.
How to do:
- Get on the floor on all fours. Your back should be flat with your wrists under your shoulder and knees under your hips. Try to keep the spine in a straight neutral position.
- Now, take a deep breath in the same position. When exhaling out, your lift your spine so it’s rounded towards the ceiling and your head and tailbone come closer.
- Hold the cat position for 2 seconds. Then inhale and relax your body to the cow position dropping the spine and lifting the head.
- Repeat the same for 60 seconds.
A standard plank is a great total body exercise. You can do it a few weeks after normal vaginal delivery.
You can further modify this move by taking a start from your knees before performing a standard plank.
How to do:
- Lie down on your stomach with forearms on the floor, elbow beneath your shoulder, and toes touching the floor.
- Now lift your body a few inches from the floor so that only your forearms and toes touch the floor.
- Your body should be straight in that position.
- Now, breathe normally and hold it for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the same exercise for 2 minutes.
- You can increase the time limit as you get stronger.
Side plank leg lifts
Side plank leg lift is more advanced than a standard plank. It is a variation of the standard plank. You should not do it in the initial weeks of postpartum. Wait until your body gets a little stronger.
How to do:
- Put your forearms on the floor or mat and elbows beneath shoulders and lie down on your stomach.
- Move your forearm and turn in a sideway direction.
- To get into a side plank position, you should raise your body off the floor.
- Now, raise your upper leg and hold it in the air for up to 30 seconds or repeat the process of raising your leg to 20 to 30 seconds.
- You have to perform 1 to 2 sets on each side.
Swiss Ball Glute Bridge
The Swiss Ball Glute Bridge exercise is great for strengthening and toning your glutes and your hips. The Swiss ball allows you to roll forward in a very natural, fluid way as you rise off the floor.
How to do:
- Lie face up on floor with legs extended and together, heels on top of Swiss ball, arms extended by sides, palms down.
- Press into heels as you slowly lift hips off floor, forming a diagonal line from heels to shoulders.
- Gently lower hips back to start.
Here's a short video demonstrating how to do the move:
As you can see, there are many benefits - both short-term and long-term to exercising after the birth of your baby. We hope this article helps you to find the exercise(s) that work best for you. Be safe, consult your doctor if anything doesn't feel right or if you are in pain for a long time. And enjoy the benefits of postpartum exercise.