Health: How I Got Active Postpartum

Shakira Akabusi gives us her top five tips on how to get back in touch with your body after having a baby.

Working out postpartum can seem incredibly daunting and on occasions down right impossible. But what if I told you there is a way to incorporate fitness into your life as a new mum? And it doesn’t involve a fad diet or a strict fitness regime.

As a health and fitness professional, I was eager to return to an active lifestyle postpartum. However, I was shocked at how unprepared the industry was for someone in my situation. There are plenty of leaflets about pelvic floor exercises and how to make sure you are getting enough rest, but very little telling me how to actively workout and nothing suggesting ways to incorporate this into motherhood. But postpartum exercise is important: it isn’t just about dropping a dress size, but about regaining a sense of self and feeling happy and confident in your new role as a mother.

First and foremost, it’s important to accept that working out postpartum takes time: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here are my five top tips for fellow fitness-driven mums out there. After all, we should be encouraging our children to grow up active, inquisitive and healthy and what better way then to lead by example.

1) Busting the Breastfeeding Myth

Exercise and its effect on breast milk supply has probably been the number one reason women are worried to work out postpartum. What has been proven is that high intensity exercise may cause a slight change in the contents of a mother breast milk. For example, a change in IgA levels (an antibody playing a crucial role in mucosal immunity) and lactic acid build up has been noticed for between 30-90 minutes. This may lead some mothers to decide to express milk prior to exercise. However, decreased IgA levels for one feed a day is unlikely to be significant and there have been no signs of any harmful affects for your baby. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics also concluded that exercise does not impede infant acceptance of breast milk consumed after exercise.

The most important things I have found with exercising and breastfeeding is to always stay hydrated, wear a supportive bra and adapt exercises that involve lying on your front. Finally, the effects of Relaxin (a hormone produced to encourage relaxation of ligaments during pregnancy) will remain present whilst you are breastfeeding, so extra care should be taken with resistance training to ensure you do not overextend any joints.


Mum and Baby Workout to try at home.
For babies four months plus
Total 15 – 20 minutes

  • Step ups (on a bench or garden stoop) x 1 minute
  • Baby weight squats x 20
  • Baby shoulder press x 12
  • Jumping jacks x 1 minute
  • Baby weighted lunges x 20
  • Press up (over baby) x 10
  • Tricep dips (on a chair or garden stoop) X 12
  • Burpees (or travelling squat jumps if baby is on the move!) x 1 minute

Three sets, with a 2 minute break in between

[/quote_box_left]2) Build Up Slowly

This is crucial. Your body has gone through a dramatic change and your hormones are still leveling out. Building in a workout programme should be gradual, making it sustainable and healthy rather than a quick fix.

Walking is a great starter exercise. Pelvic floor exercises are also vital and can be linked to everyday activities such as boiling a kettle and washing your hands. You want to aim for around 100 short contractions a day (that’s only ten sets of ten!). Once your body has recovered (usually around the six to eight week check), you can start to build body weight exercises back into a more intense training programme. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be hitting the gym and grabbing the heaviest weight you can carry; get creative with your workouts and enjoy building a body you feel comfortable in.

3) Making Exercise a Family Affair

The biggest struggle I found as a new mum was trying to incorporate a workout into my routine while still spending time with my family. To start with, I used the small amounts of time while Rio slept in the day to work on HIIT training (high intensity interval training), which included step ups, high knees, burpees. It wasn’t until Rio got a little bit older and more demanding that I realised I could actually make exercise a game and we began enjoying working out together. Rio grew as my strength improved and his bodyweight became my dumbbell. Moves such as squats, shoulder press’ and the plank all became ways for me and Rio to spend time together, still allowing me to get the results I wanted. More videos and tips regarding these workouts can be found via my Instagram page and YouTube channel.

[quote_box_right]Food Suggestions


Porridge Oats, cherries, bananas, lean meats (e.g. chicken and turkey), eggs, low fat yogurts, wholemeal bread, bran cereal. Skimmed milk

Lunch & Snacks

Omelettes, various coloured vegetables (e.g. peppers, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, spinach, kale, asparagus, aubergine), brown rice, nuts, seeds, soup (e.g. mushroom, lentil, chicken), wholemeal bread, beans, new potatoes, meat, fish, wholewheat pasta.


Lean meats (e.g. chicken, turkey), lentils, pulses, fish, onions, chilies, cauliflower, broccoli, buckwheat, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, frozen peas, sweetcorn and green leaves.[/quote_box_right]

4) Fit-Mum Fuel

Carbohydrates along with dietary fats have long been given a bad reputation for health: however, it’s more down to the type of fats and carbohydrates you are consuming and when. Try starting your day with a ‘wake-up’ glass of cold water for a great way to kick start your metabolism for the day ahead. When it comes to breakfast itself, have a meal high in lean protein and low GI carbohydrates for the perfect way to sustain you through a busy morning. Finally, after working out your metabolism will be at peak performance for approximately 2 hours. This is a great time to refuel with healthy nutrients and vitamins.

5) Stay Motivated

Motivation is the most important of them all. People can often lose motivation after a few weeks or find themselves bored with the same exercises, but there are ways to prevent this! Try to find a fitness buddy to experiment with; although I know that for new mummies a workout partner isn’t easy to come by.

I have found that thanks to the use of social media and informational websites, staying motivated has never been easier. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is paramount. Follow accounts you find inspirational and make goals and aims. It’s important to enjoy this process and by surrounding yourself with positive re-enforcements you will find it’s no longer a chore to workout. Soon your fuel will come from your constant achievements.

Catch up with Shakira here:
Twitter: @shakiraakabusi
Instagram: @shakira.akabusi
Facebook: Shakira Akabusi Fitness