Keeping fit (and sane) for new mothers
So you’ve had a baby and want your figure back. But like many other new mothers you are unsure how soon after birth you can safely participate in exercise.
Smartplay, Sports Medicine Australia’s sports injury prevention program funded by VicHealth and the Department of Planning and Community Development (Sport and Recreation Victoria), offers the following advice on when, and how, to start exercising.
Why Should I Exercise?
Postnatal exercise has many benefits. It hastens recovery, muscle strength and toning. Studies have also shown that it reduces anxiety and depression whilst increasing vitality. It also helps you return to your pre-pregnancy shape, but be patient – it normally takes a few months.
How soon after birth can I exercise?
Gentle exercise, such as walking, can be started as soon as you feel comfortable. Some women will feel able to start exercising early and may do so as long as they start gradually.
Those who have had a Caesarean birth should wait at least six weeks before exercising to allow for adequate healing.
As a guide you should wait at least a week after you no longer feel any discomfort and have been to your doctor for a check up.
What Types of Exercise Should I do?
Most forms of recreational aerobic exercise can be resumed after giving birth.
• Aqua aerobics.
• Low impact aerobic workouts.
• Light weight training.
Walking is the easiest to start with as the baby is readily transportable in the pram. Start slowly and then increase distance and speed as your body responds to the activity. If you plan to head ‘off-road’ on rugged trail paths rather than city pavements then look at prams or strollers with larger tyres, sturdy construction and in-built suspension.
Running with a pram is not recommended for newborns, but as your fitness returns and your baby grows then take a look at pram brands that specialise in jogger strollers. These prams come with their own specific set of safety and comfort considerations.
Cycling, swimming, weight training and other forms of exercise require more planning because your baby cannot always accompany you.
Many centres run exercise classes for women who have given birth, which focus on improving aerobic fitness, pelvic floor strength and weight loss. These often incorporate the new baby, or provide on site child-care.
10 Exercise Tips
With any form of exercise you should:
- Start gradually.
- Warm up.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Start with low impact exercise.
- Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear.
- Wear a supportive bra.
- Exercise after breast-feeding.
- Include pelvic floor exercises.
- Eat regular meals and snacks.
- Choose food high in nutrients.
And remember, if the discomfort of exercise is greater than you expect with the level undertaken, you should consult your doctor.