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I’m postpartum - when can I start to exercise?

Women Health Collective expert Rosie Stockley explains when it’s safe to get back into fitness

Women Health Collective expert Rosie Stockley explains when it’s safe to get back into fitness© Getty Images

If you were a regular at the gym before giving birth, you may be keen to know when you can safely start exercising again, postpartum.

For others, pulling on lycra, or getting sweaty may sound like the last thing you want to do, especially with a baby in tow - but the right exercises postpartum can help with your pelvic floor and have mental health benefits too.

So, when is it safe to start again? 'You should wait until around the 6-week mark postpartum before starting to exercise, but it’s fine if you’re not ready then as there’s no set time period with postpartum recovery. There are many factors including the type of birth, fatigue and energy,' explains Women's Health expert Rosie Stockley. If you're not sure it's always best to consult an expert like your GP, who can give you more personalised advice.

'Although you should avoid higher intensity exercise, you can still start from early days post birth with pelvic floor exercises, gentle abomination activation and walking,' the PT explains.

Rosie adds that if you've had a vaginal birth then the muscles will have stretched and weakened 'at the minimum, and there may be various degrees of tearing which affect strength and function.' She adds that, 'pelvic floor activation, breath work, mindfully activating the muscles in certain movements will help heal the muscles and get them activating in functional movement (and reacting in periods of exercise and higher intensity work).'

Starting point

'Exercises that build up strength in the deep core muscles are often a good place to start, many of these exercises are taken supine as it reduces the pressure of gravity on the abdominals,' Rosie says, adding: 'Moving to all fours and standing is a way to increase the pressure and activation. Avoiding increased separation is a focus, so notice when lifting weights or performing certain abdominal movements if that is putting too much pressure on the abdominals.'

So, if you're raring to get back to exercise, what should you start with? Before you get your running shoes on, or sign up for a race, Nicole Chapman, PT and postpartum expert says that compound exercises are a good start, as they work up your posterior chain: 'When you have a baby, you're going to have posterior changes - as you'll spend time in front-loaded position - when you're changing, feeding, or holding the baby - you're in that unnatural position, which is going to cause aches and pains all down your back, shoulders, neck.'

While Rosie adds that you should wait around 12 weeks to start running again: 'This is to allow the pelvic floor muscles time to gain strength and endurance. Start with bodyweight exercises and low-impact cardio before introducing resistance training with bands and light weights. The best exercises work on building overall strength and connectivity in the body. The abdominals, lower back and pelvic floor muscles should be a focus as they are your core and will likely be weaker from pregnancy and birth.'

Time poor

Of course with a new baby you'll have less time on your hands but should you aim to exercise for a certain amount of time to see results? 'There is no magic formula for this because any window that you can grab that doesn't cause you stress is a win,' adds Nicole, however, she adds that a good starting point is to aim for 'two to four workouts a week.' We know curveballs may get in the way - so just knowing the power of 10 minutes is important.'

The benefits of postpartum exercise for a new mumma can be huge: 'Exercise can give you a bit of space (even if your baby is on the mat next to you), it can support mental health by giving you confidence and providing the feel-good hormones which are so beneficial,' explains Rosie, but goes on to say, 'focus on movement that you love in the early stages, rather than a strict regime that puts too much pressure on your body and time.'

Of course, if you're not ready to start exercising, and you'd prefer to spend more time cuddling your new baby, we get it. But if you're simply just not finding enough time, Nicole says the tricks she advises are, 'getting your workout gear on at the beginning of the day and setting up your workout area whilst they're still awake.' This will save time once you put them down. And she adds that you can always work out with them on the mat with you. 

Story by Sarah Finley: Women's Health UK 

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