Six of the best postnatal exercises

Two women squatting in gym
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Mindbody, the leading health and wellbeing app, shares six of the best postnatal exercises for getting active again both comfortably and safely after having a baby

Gentle weight training

Lightweight training helps to tone up muscles and strengthen your core, so is a great postnatal exercise.

Alex Miller, CrossFit London coach said: “Start by using low weights and slowly work your way back to using the heavier weights you were before. Our go-to for teaching movement and ingraining great form is to perform exercises at a controlled tempo. For example, take five or six seconds to lower a weightless bar and five to ascend. You’ll find that you can keep your strength and improve both movement quality and body composition without having to load the bar.

Yoga

Many postnatal women find yoga beneficial, as it helps them to relax in the post-birth whirlwind while helping to strengthen core muscles and ease back pain.

Jill Simpson, founder of Mindbody studio Ebb&Flow explains: “Post-natal yoga is a great way to get strong again in specific areas, such as your core muscles. It’s also a time to focus on you, connect with other mums whilst boosting your energy.”

Pilates

Pilates is one of the most effective pre- and postnatal exercises as it targets the muscles that generally weaken during pregnancy.

Erica Foulds, Master Trainer at MINDBODY studio Ten Health & Fitness explains: “As pilates is non-impact, compared to other forms of exercise. There are also mental and emotional benefits, as pilates is a highly immersive and focused form of exercise; the focus and concentration required make a great ‘time-out’ from everyday pressures.” 

READ MORE: Male postnatal depression is a real issue

Pelvic floor exercises

Any mum will be very familiar with pelvic floor exercises. These exercises are incredibly important, as they help to strengthen the muscles that come into great strain in pregnancy and childbirth. After birth, pelvic floor exercises can also help you heal quicker as they improve circulation to the pelvic area, thus reducing bruising and swelling.

Jill Simpson says: “Begin by sitting, standing or laying down in a comfortable position and squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles (these are the ones you use when you’re trying to hold in a wee)! Hold this contraction for up to ten seconds, then relax. Repeat ten times and aim to do three or four sets each day.”

Light cardio

Brisk walking is the best option for women who did not have a strenuous fitness regime before pregnancy, as it’s gentle but keeps you fit and healthy without jarring your knees and ankles. If you can, aim to go on a brisk 30-minute walk four times a week. Classes like cycling, Zumba or dance are also great forms of postnatal exercise and help to burn calories and get your heart pumping. 

Swimming

Swimming is incredibly effective at working your heart and lungs without putting too much pressure on your joints. For postnatal women, swimming or an aqua aerobics class are effective in adding muscle tone, whilst providing a gentle exercise that won’t strain your body too much after birth.

…and don’t forget!

“Post-birth, make sure you get sign off from your GP at six weeks before re-starting your fitness regime and get advice for healing your ab separation – don’t automatically assume you can jump right into your normal class, even if you were a fitness fanatic beforehand,” says Clio Wood, founder of &Breathe postnatal retreats. It’s important to listen to your body and to rehab properly, especially before performing moves like the plank again.”

READ MORE: Over half of pregnant women feel anxious about exercise


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