In the days and weeks after giving birth, exercise may not seem to be close to the top of your agenda. In fact, it may be one of the last things that you feel like doing. Equally, do you even have the time?
There are, however, significant advantages to getting more exercise at this stage. Let’s look at a few of those:
- First up, you may be feeling run down and not quite yourself. This is a normal reaction (although it can sometimes come as a surprise). Exercise can help to boost endorphins, which is useful for improving your state of mind. So physical exercise can have a positive impact upon your mental well-being.
- You’ll almost certainly have gained weight during pregnancy. Exercise (which needn’t be exhausting) can assist with weight loss, even at a relatively early stage. In fact, some women report that they find it more difficult to lose weight as time passes after giving birth.
- There’s a very practical reason in terms of caring for your newborn baby too: you’ll build up strength and stamina, helping to protect your body from pain and examining a healthier mental state. All of those elements put you in a better position to provide a caring, nurturing environment.
Now, you may have read all of the above and thought that it sounds great. It certainly presents a convincing case for why you should be starting to exercise. But there’s a separation between a great idea and putting it into effect. So what might you look to do?
In the first few days after giving birth, your focus is likely to be one a very particular set of exercises: pelvic floor exercises will undoubtedly be your priority and rightly so. Critically, by strengthening your pelvic floor you can help to avoid urine leaks in the future.
You can continue the same exercises that you were undertaking during pregnancy. Many new mothers report that they don’t feel like there is any benefit from these pelvic floor exercises during the first few days and weeks after giving birth. This is perfectly normal. It may take some weeks for you to feel the difference, but the activity will all ultimately be worthwhile!
There are a number of other exercises that you will soon be able to consider, including working on your lower stomach muscles. Here, your focus should be on relatively short, simple exercise sessions:
- You might breathe in and then, when breathing out, tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Once you can feel that you have tightened your pelvic floor, you can gently pull your belly button in and also up. You should notice that sensation.
- Now, try to hold this position for a count of 10. After the count, slowly relax your muscles and wait for 10 seconds before repeating the exercise again. In the first few days, you find that it’s a struggle to hold for a count of 10 (or anywhere near it! – don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. What you should be aiming to do is to build up over time. Ideally, by the time your baby is around 6 weeks old, you should feel confidence carrying out these stomach muscle exercises.
The key is to listen to what your body is telling you. If you don’t feel capable of pressing harder, then don’t do so. You’ll eventually reach a point when you feel able to head back towards a more normal exercise regime. How can you approach that?
My first steps (quite literally) involved using a treadmill. This was an ideal solution for me because it meant that I could easily exercise from home, in between my son’s naps. I used Shop Farinellis to identify a treadmill that met my fairly basic requirements: I didn’t want to spend too much money, I wanted some form of entertainment (as I was worried that I might get bored) and I didn’t want a treadmill that would be too noisy.
It was a while before I started using the treadmill (I didn’t feel up to it initially) and I initially opted for relatively short bursts. I built up my strength and endurance over time, gradually walking longer and longer distances. As time has passed, I still use it, even though I now take part in longer and more physical exercises (returning to my passion for tennis). It’s been a good investment and may be worth considering as part of your post-pregnancy exercise regime.