Your body has gone through a number of changes during pregnancy and now you are ready to get back into your pre pregnancy shape. Here are some great tips on how to stay fit while taking into account all the changes your body has encountered over the past nine months. Prior to starting any sort of new work out, you should always consult with your doctor to be certain that there are no contraindications to activity or exercise. Remember that although you may be ready to hit the gym, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that exercise should always be resumed gradually following pregnancy1.
1. Breathing and Relaxation
Being a new mom brings on new roles and new stresses which can influence your mood and your energy levels. Some of the best exercises you can start with in your post pregnancy routine are simple breathing exercises, which will also help with activating your inner core muscles.
Basic Breathing Exercise:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed on the floor hip width apart. Try and maintain the natural curve of your spine while in this position. Place one hand below your ribcage onto your belly to feel for your diaphragm muscle. Take a long deep inhale using your diaphragm muscle (you should feel this muscle expand like a balloon below your ribs as you inhale). Slowly breath out and gently draw in your lower abdomen to contract your deep core muscles. This contraction should feel similar to when you squeeze your pelvic muscles to stop the flow of urination (often referred to as a Kegel exercise). While you perform this contraction you want to maintain the natural curve of your spine and be sure not to tense all of your outer abdominal muscles. Continue for 10 breaths.
2. Restore your core, and pelvic floor!
Following pregnancy your abdominal muscles become stretched and weakened, and many women experience a condition called diastasis recti* (separation of the abdominal muscles). Additionally, your pelvic floor muscles become stretched from carrying the weight of your baby throughout term. Inner core and pelvic floor strengthening can help tighten these muscles so you can get rid of that mummy tummy for good.
Pelvic Floor Exercise:
Once you have got the hang of your basic breathing you can progress this exercise for further activation of your inner core and pelvic floor. Laying on your back with your knees bent, start with your basic breathing exercise. Once you have performed your kegel exercise (as shown above), try and hold this contraction while maintaining your breathing. Slowly raise one leg up into “table top position” and lower back down. Repeat with the opposite leg. Remember to keep your spine in neutral during this exercise. For an added challenge try extending your leg before lowering your leg down. Repeat 5 times each side.
*Exercises to avoid with Diastasis Recti:
Although you may be ready to kick your core into action with some crunches, you should avoid full sit-ups as they may cause the abdominal muscles to separate even further. Focus on your inner core instead with the exercises above and in no time you will be able to incorporate crunches back into your program.
Did you know Yoga and Pilates classes can offer the benefits of breathing and relaxation in addition to strengthening important core and pelvic floor muscles? They are also a safe and effective form of exercise for women post pregnancy. Check out some of the yoga and Pilates classes offered at Kinetic Yoga and Pilates:
3. Cardio Kick-start
Although you may be eager to get your heart pumping and shed some of that extra weight, this may not be the best time to start training for your marathon. Those vigorous aerobic exercise classes your gym offers are not always appropriate for postpartum women2. It’s important to gradually return to your previous level of cardiovascular fitness and the best way to start is with a simple walking program. Start with short walks pushing your stroller around the block, and as you get stronger you can increase your speed and distance.
Did you know that stroller walking programs have the potential to; increase fitness, improve mental well being and help reduce depressive symptoms for women experiencing post natal depression?3
Kinetic Yoga and Pilates offers a Stroller Fit class designed for moms who want to get back into shape while spending time with their baby and other moms.
When to consult your physiotherapist:
Postnatal low back pain and pelvic pain can affect up to 82% of women during the first year after giving birth4. If you find yourself struggling with pelvic floor exercises or leaking urine when you exercise, sneeze or cough, you may benefit from a consult with a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy can also provide various interventions to help manage low back pain and strengthen your core through an individualized program.
Kinetic Physiotherapy offers physiotherapy services to help with pelvic health and other conditions experienced post pregnancy. To book an appointment visit our website or give us a call at:
2078 Pine Street, Burlington ON L7R 1G2
Phone 905 637 1414 | Fax 905 637 4343
Artal, R., O’Toole, M., White S., (2003). Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Br J Sports Med. 37(1): 6-12. DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.37.1.6
Ko, Y., Yang, C., Fang, C., Lee, M., Lin, P. (2013). Community-based postpartum exercise program. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 22: 2122-2131. DOI: 10.1111/jocn.12117
Armstrong, K., Edwards, H. (2004). The effectiveness of a pram-walking exercise programme in reducing depressive symptomology for postnatal women. International Journal of Nursing Practice. 10: 177-194
Bennett, R.J. (2014). Exercise for postnatal low back pain and pelvic pain. Journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Women’s Health. 115: 14-21
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