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Exercise Post Partum - move your body!

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Birthing your baby, no matter how you choose to birth, might possibly be the greatest achievement you'll have in your lifetime. The mentality, the physical strength and the emotional connection we have in the months leading up to birth, the moments within birthing our babies and the months following their arrival is nothing short of incredible.


For me, physical activity is my saving grace, always has been! I've always been active, whether it was a walk in the hills, representing my country at Waterpolo or my degree in Recreation Management I've always thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors and the endorphins that come with exercise.

As you are well aware, birth takes a toll on our bodies. The 9-10 months preparation of growing your littlest love has a huge impact on us physically. From expanding waist lines, bigger boobs (which were welcomed by me!), throbbing, veiny legs and nether regions through to all the affects growing a human has on our body internally. The female body and what it is capable is nothing short or astonishing. I certainly have a new found love and respect for my own body and how it supported not only my babies but me as a Mum, wife and woman.


Exercise post partum is not something all women 'naturally' enjoy or look forward too. Whether you welcomed your little one via caesarean, vaginal birth, water birth, home birth and any means of assisted birth you will feel, look and undoubtedly be different physically than you were prior to children. Knowing when you are ready to exercise again is entirely up to each individual and should be strongly supported by a medical practitioner, in particular a women's health physiotherapist.


I still remember my first walk around the block after my first baby. Actually, I don't think it was even a walk, more of a shuffle. With maternity pads stuffed in my knickers front and back I shuffled around the block. It was absolute bliss. Not only was I baby free but I had my dog beside me and the sun on my face and in that moment I felt like me again. The endorphins and mental clarity I got from a 15 minute block stroll empowered me to make that my daily norm moving forward. My shuffle became a walk, which lengthened over the first few weeks and took me up the hills and increased to a run by the time she was 10 weeks old. I ran a half marathon (21km) when she was 7 months old and a month later I was pregnant with our second child.



So, when can I start exercising again?


My advice - start small early on. Keep mobile and active in those first few weeks post birth. Walk to the letterbox, around the block, to the local coffee shop. Take the opportunity for some exercise when your baby is due a nap; can you pop them in the front pack, the pram or enjoy some self care time just for you? I would highly recommend booking an appointment with a Women's Health Physio. I first saw my physio when I was 11 weeks pregnant with my third child. My only regret, I wish I'd gone sooner. I had three babies in four years. I have always listened to my body, pushed it but not too far that I caused injury or discomfort. However, post partum injuries aren't always visible or even painful. Our muscles, ligaments and skin all stretch and lose elasticity. Some of which we can strengthen with pelvic floor and abdominal exercises, but a lot of which will always be different. I suggest seeing a medical practitioner before you embark on any physical activity. I was doing high intensity interval training and felt great, but running was a different story. I knew that maybe it was time to give the old body a break for this last pregnancy but I wanted to know where I was at and have some direction and an exercise plan moving forward.


What sort of exercise should I do?


Move your body. It really is that simple. Start slow with low intensity exercise like walking, swimming or biking (if you're comfortable on a bike seat). Avoid doing anything too vigorous and if something doesn't feel right or is painful, then reduce the exercise and seek medical advice.


It could be as simple as a block walk, a few laps of the local swimming pool or a bike to a friends place. As your body heals you might increase this to running, body weight exercises or a class at the gym. Don't worry about how fast you 'used' to be, focus on how much stronger you are now. The heavy lifting, high intensity, speed and stamina will come with time as you heal and grow stronger from the inside out.



Why should we exercise?


Four words: It soothes the soul. Exercise produces endorphins, which make us feel good. It doesn't matter what sort of exercise you do, moving your body and getting some fresh air will help cleanse your body, give you mental clarity and allow you to just be. I've always made time to exercise without my babies and don't feel guilty about it. Sure, I walked laps around my community with the white noise machine blaring and my baby squawking from the buggy within, but it's not the same as making time for myself, just for me. Self care is so important, and the more people you add to your family the more you have to juggle life around self care. Make it a priority, not a luxury.


Who can support you through exercise post partum?


Reach out to your local GP or health care provider for a referral to a women's specific physiotherapist and personal trainer. There are also some great supports available within your community and likely a friend of a friend can recommend someone. Some countries have fantastic post partum care, others like New Zealand not so much. Don't let this be a barrier - I strongly suggest getting a medical evaluation of your current physiological strengths before you push the boundaries further than you might be ready to. Professionals such as Contenience and Women's Health Physiotherapists and Gynaelogical Therapists are your best go to for all things pregnancy, antenatal and post natal care.


Disclaimer: The above article does not replace any medical advice previously given and it is highly recommended you seek your own support and guidance from a health care provider.



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