Top 8 Exercises After Giving Birth
Giving birth is one of the most transformative experiences a woman can go through. No matter what sort of shape you were in when you became pregnant, everything about your body changes, and once your little bundle of joy arrives, getting back into the sort of shape you desire becomes a challenge for many women.
It is important to keep in mind that it took 40 weeks for your body to make that baby, so time and rest are crucial for you in the weeks following your baby’s birth. Jiggly joints, out-of-whack hormones, stretched muscles, and severe sleep deprivation are all factors you have to consider when starting a postpartum exercise routine. Make sure to take things slowly, give yourself plenty of breaks for baby snuggles, and allow yourself to heal as you work toward reinvigorating your fitness routine.
The good news is, there are many exercises you can safely perform in the weeks and months after your baby’s birth. We’ve put together our top 8 exercises after giving birth to help you get fit and feel energized, even when your life, and your body, have changed.
Tyler Spraul, Exercise.com’s head trainer, notes, “Your body has been through a lot in the last 9 months, so don't get hung up on rushing back into your regular workout routine! It's important to give yourself time to heal, and slowly build things back up over time to rebuild your foundation — especially when it comes to your core. It's not uncommon to experience some amount of Diastasis Recti (separation of the center line between your abs) as a result of pregnancy. This is why it's so important to ease your way back into your core training, even if that means starting with exercises that might seem simple at first!”
Walking is the most basic cardio exercise anyone can perform, and it is a fantastic option for the postpartum mother. You can start out at a slow pace and work up to more intense walks as your body heals, but something that makes walking such a great exercise when you have a new baby is that it doubles as baby bonding time! Put your little one in a stroller, and take them with you. Time outside with your baby — getting fresh air, exercise, and time together — can also help combat the baby blues.
Perhaps the part of your body that needs the most reconstruction after giving birth is your pelvic floor. Kegels can help with that! Kegels are muscle-tightening exercises for your pelvic muscles. They are important for tightening up all those muscles that are stretched out of shape — and sometimes torn — in the process of pushing out a baby. Perform these by sitting on the edge of your seat, or on an exercise ball, with your spine straight and tightening your internal pelvic muscles as if you are drawing them up inside you. Several repetitions a day can work wonders for repairing your pelvic floor!
- Pelvic Tilt
Another way to work on the pelvic muscles is to do a pelvic tilt. There are many variations to this exercise, but the basic form is to lie on your back with your knees drawn up and your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands out flat, palms down, beside you, and then slowly lift your pelvis into the air until you form a bridge, keeping your shoulder blades on the floor. When you lower yourself down, be sure to lower slowly, one vertebra at a time.
- Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is a fantastic way to rebuild a stomach that has been damaged by abdominal separation in pregnancy. As Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist, Terrell Baldock, says, “Diaphragmatic breathing encourages recruitment of the deep core.” It is extremely low-impact, easy to do, and helps with stress reduction and relaxation! Although you can perform belly breathing from a seated or standing position, it might be easiest, at first, to perform it while lying on the floor. Simply lie on your back and draw your knees up. You might consider elevating your knees with a pillow, if that would be most comfortable for you. Place your hands on your stomach near your navel and take a deep breath slowly in through your nose, expanding only your stomach — not your chest. Breathe in until your stomach is fully expanded, and then let the air out just as slowly through tightly-pursed lips. 5-10 minutes of belly breathing, two or three times a day, not only helps you rebuild damaged abdominal muscles, but it also doubles as a time of meditative relaxation.
- Forearm Plank
Workouts that you want to avoid for a while after having a baby are the traditional crunch, sit-up, and basically any core exercise that will require a lot of twisting or pulling. The forearm plank is much better for you in the postpartum stage. Simply get facedown on the floor with a neutral (straight) spine, and elevate yourself onto your forearms and toes. Tighten your glutes and core, and hold the position, being careful not to round your back. A simple plank like this, done with proper form, can be a very effective core exercise.
- Heel Slides
Heel slides are a great, low-impact core exercise you can perform that also engages your pelvic muscles. A win-win! Lie on your back with your knees up and your core engaged; then slowly slide one leg out with your heel. Draw your heel back in, and repeat. It’s that simple!
- Leg and Arm Circles
Performing leg and arm circles are a great way to strengthen both your limbs and your core and to increase flexibility after your body has gone through shifts and wiggles and changes. You can perform these exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down, so you have a lot of versatility depending on where you are in your healing process. You can also add light weights when you feel ready. Simply extend your limbs one at a time, and perform small circular motions — both forward and backward.
- Leg Extensions
Leg extensions are also good for working out those kinks and getting the blood circulating again after 40 weeks of pregnancy! Whether you perform your leg extensions while sitting or lying down, make sure to get a straight extension with your legs fully elevated. This movement will work your glutes, your lower back, and your hamstrings.
It is important to remember that any exercise routine you start after giving birth should be okayed by a medical professional, nothing should be rushed, and you should always ensure you are performing exercises with proper form. You just brought life into this world! Take a moment to appreciate the amazing capabilities of your body. Don’t worry — although things may look different in the mirror and you may feel different in your clothes for a while, different can still be good.