How To Get Started With Exercise After Having A Baby
You’ve just had a baby — congratulations! Pregnancy and postpartum is such a special time when women undergo a huge amount of physical and emotional changes.
Your body is different after birth, and in many ways, so is your whole world. From my experience as a personal trainer and hearing from members of the Sweat Community, I know many women do modified workouts during pregnancy but have questions about working out post-pregnancy.
Lots of them are excited about being able to work out again, but let’s not forget that we need to take time out, and also celebrate the huge journey and achievement of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. No woman should feel that there’s an ideal timeline for a return to working out.
- Before you start postpartum exercise
- How to start postpartum exercise safely
- Start with gentle exercises
- Build up your cardio slowly
- Work with your baby's schedule
- Follow your health professional's recommendations
- Starting over is okay!
Women’s bodies need time to heal, but workouts during the postpartum period can also be very beneficial to that process. It can also help your general health and sense of wellbeing during this time.
What you need to do before you start postpartum exercise
The first and most important thing to understand about exercise after having a baby is that you need clearance from your healthcare professionals before you start to work out.
As a personal trainer with 10 years experience, it’s my responsibility to ensure I’m clear when I say this: trainers are not able to give advice or clearance about when is the right time a client can train.
After having my baby Arna, I also had to get clearance from my health care professionals before I could start walking on the treadmill. I then built up to light workouts — which also aided my healing from a C-section.
The most important aspect of this is that women need to ensure they’re not going to do anything that will interfere with the healing that needs to take place after giving birth, and some of this is dependent on what their birth experience was like. What women undergo physically during pregnancy, birth and postpartum is amazing. It’s a huge journey and one that requires time to properly recover from, and your healthcare professional is the best person to decide when you can start postpartum exercise.
How to get started safely with postpartum workouts
When you’re considering which workouts you can do after having a baby, healthcare professionals will help to give you the right tools to exercise safely in a way that will help your body heal.
This may be at 6-8 weeks for some women (that’s usually also the time of a postnatal check-up with healthcare professionals) and even longer if you've had a C-section or any complications. Every pregnancy is different so every woman may have a different timeline.
However there are some basic principles to exercising postpartum — once you’ve been given clearance, of course!
For many women, life with a newborn is also exhausting in itself. It might feel daunting to consider making time to exercise again, and the key is to approach it with your own situation in mind.
Only you and your healthcare professionals can decide what is right for you and your postpartum journey.
Gentle exercise to build on after pregnancy
For many women, gentle exercises that work on building pelvic floor and core strength are a good place to start. This helps with regaining a stable core and will provide a good foundation for other forms of exercise. A healthcare professional should be able to provide you with some assistance on what core strengthening exercises are best for you.
The other thing I want to emphasise is that starting to exercise after pregnancy needs to happen SLOWLY. Don’t start with strenuous workouts, heavy weights or any movements that put strain on your pelvic floor.
Find post-pregnancy workouts that consider the changes your body has been through and are designed to rebuild your strength gradually.
Build up your cardio slowly
Starting cardio again doesn't mean you have to go straight to smashing HIIT workouts every day! Walking is a very good way to introduce activity back into your daily routine and it can be done with a stroller or pram. Some mums find walking with their babies helps them to sleep, which is obviously an added bonus! Even if you can only manage short walks to start with, that activity will have benefits. Aim to gradually increase the duration of your walks when you feel up to it.
Building up to a routine that includes swimming, longer walks and LISS (low-intensity steady-state cardio) will be something you can aim for overtime, but remember to check in with how you feel before you increase to a higher intensity beginner workout.
You’ll need to fit exercise into your baby’s schedule
You might also find you need to change your routine to match the needs of a new baby. It could mean working out at home or exercising at a different time than you’re used to — but the best time of day to work out is the time that suits you!
Follow a program designed for post-pregnancy
So many women are unsure where to start with exercise after having a baby, and after I had Arna, I discovered that there wasn’t clear guidance on what exercises to do and how to progress your fitness after giving birth.
That’s why I’ve worked with a team of exercise scientists to prepare a Post-Pregnancy program that is endorsed by a panel of obstetricians and exercise physiologists from the US, UK and Australia.
This program contains 16 weeks of workouts that are flexible to fit into your schedule as a new mum. Following this program you can rebuild your strength to prepare for more intense exercise.
Always follow the recommendations of your health professional
Every woman’s experience after giving birth is different, and that’s why it is so important that you work with your healthcare team after pregnancy.
Schedule regular checkups with your healthcare professionals too, to make sure you’re pacing yourself and doing the right kind of exercise for your stage of recovery.
Postpartum workouts can feel like starting over — and that’s OK!
Even if you were fit before becoming pregnant and were able to exercise during pregnancy, your body is going to respond differently to exercise when you’re postpartum. It might feel like you’re back at square one in terms of fitness, but that’s totally normal.
Take the time to appreciate all the amazing progress you’ve made just by having a baby, and don’t compare your progress with others. Pregnancy, birth and postpartum is a unique experience for every woman, and your journey with health and fitness after having a baby will be too.
Give yourself plenty of time to regain fitness and make sure you celebrate your progress too – BBG Mums are amazing!
Ladies, I want to hear from you — when did you do your first workout after having a baby? Let me know in the comments below!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.