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Postpartum Exercises: How to Get Back into Exercise After Having a Baby

We've previously written about the importance of keeping up a regular exercise routine throughout pregnancy to help both you and your baby stay healthy and happy. But what about after the birth - how quickly can you get back to your old workout plans, and what sort of exercise should you be doing? 

Here, PureGym Personal Trainer and Ante- and Post-natal expert Shan Chloe answers some of the most common questions about postpartum exercise.

Why is postpartum exercise important?

Keeping up a regular exercise routine has mental and physical benefits that almost everyone can benefit from, but there are times when working out may not be right for your body, or when exercise needs to be altered. Unsurprisingly, after childbirth is one of those times -- you'll need to take a break after the baby arrives to help your body recover!

Once you're back on your feet, you should look at exercise as a restorative process which can help your body to recover after the stress of childbirth. Some of the key reasons to restart exercise include:

  • Supporting abdominal recovery - the right type of exercise (particularly strengthening and toning movements like pilates, yoga or gentle weightlifting) can help to restore the muscles most affected during birth.

  • Improving stamina - aerobic exercises in particular will boost your lung and heart function, helping to improve your endurance - ideal when you’re caring for a newborn!

  • It promotes levels of sleep - you may find your sleep patterns are out of whack post-partum. Exercise can help to improve your sleep so that, when your baby is asleep at night, you can rest too.

  • It boosts energy - exercise will help improve the oxygen levels in your body, which in turn can help to raise your energy levels. Being a new parent can be exhausting, so an increase in energy will be highly welcomed.

  • Managing post-natal depression - some studies have shown that exercise can help prevent or manage post-natal depression. Exercise is definitely known to improve mental health, so can be a good tactic if you're struggling after your baby is born.

When to start postnatal exercise?

While exercise is beneficial after having your baby, it's important not to rush yourself. Even if you think you feel fine, your body has just gone through a huge trauma and will need time to recover.  It's best to wait until you've had your postnatal check-up at around six weeks before you start any intense exercise regime - you can check with your health professional to make sure they agree you're ready.

Is there any exercise you can do immediately postpartum?

Postpartum recovery is essential and should not be rushed. Some people find themselves feeling ready to get their body moving that around three weeks after giving birth, while others may take longer.

If you feel well enough to be up and about in the first six weeks, gentle walks are a great way to some movement in -- don't do anything strenuous, and always listen to your body so that you can stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Other exercises you can try during your recovery phase and before your check-up include abdominal and pelvic floor strengthening exercises, and gentle swimming. Just make sure that any bleeding or discharge has stopped before you head to the pool.

What are some of the best postpartum exercises?

Some of the best exercises to try after having your baby include: 

  • Walking is amazing to ease back in - it doesn’t have to be long, but it gives the body a chance to move. This is also an easier option for new parents as you can take the baby with you - they often love a ride in the buggy!

  • Swimming is a great way to tone and condition muscles and raise your heart rate without putting too much stress on the body.

  • Exercises that focus on strengthening major muscle groups, such as your abdominals and back. Some of our favourites for this include forward lunges, calf raises, standing glute raises, standing leg extensions, wall press ups, lying chest presses).

  • One study showed that resistance training can be particularly beneficial after giving birth, giving a boost to both your physical and mental wellbeing.

If, after your check up, you’re going back to exercise you did before or even during pregnancy, make sure to start at a significantly lower intensity or with lower weights than you used before, and slowly work your way back up. Your body has been through a lot, so don’t rush it! You’ll have plenty of time to get back to your previous level, if that’s your goal.

How much exercise do postnatal people need?

Ease your way back into exercise - make sure to start slow. Once you've had the go-ahead after your six-week check up, then you can stick to the NHS recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. You can split this 150 into 30 minutes workouts, or whatever approach best suits your new routines. Just make sure you're mentally and physically ready before you leap back into your previous workout levels.

Restart your fitness routine by finding a PureGym near you - we offer a range of fitness classes and expert PTs who will be able to guide you through your post-pregnancy exercise plan. Prefer to work out at home? Download the free PureGym app for a range of exercise ideas.

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