TOP 5 EXERCISE TIPS FOR PREGNANCY AND POST PARTUM
For a lot of mums, pregnancy is a time where you suddenly become SUPER conscious of everything you put into your body, and suddenly start to question everything from how you should exercise, safe sleeping positions, prenatal vitamins, the list goes on, and it can be extremely confusing! We want to clear up a few exercise myths for expecting Mummas, as well as the WHO recommendations for safe exercise during and immediately post-partum. Lenny Rose Founder and experienced Physio, yogi and fitness trainer Rosie shares her top 5 tips.
Exercise and Pregnancy
Once upon a time, pregnant women were encouraged to be relatively inactive during their pregnancies, and to really take everything with a good dose of easy. Doctors usually recommend not to start anything NEW when you find out that you are pregnant, however this has been modified in recent times with WHO recommending that pregnant women (provided there are no special circumstances or complications), like all healthy adults, should be getting in 60 minutes of movement daily. So if you were sedentary before, we actually want you to start walking daily, swimming or gentle yoga, (with the blessing of your health professional of course). If you are already active, you can continue doing your usual sports/ activities, but may consider reducing the duration and intensity, and being mindful of staying cool and hydrated, as your bub is already inudbated at an extra 1degC, so you don’t want to get too hot or dehydrated. I used to own a hot yoga studio, and whilst we generally recommend to stay away from the heat during pregnancy, for regular/ advanced practitioners we would would recommend students stay away from the heat in the first trimester, and exercise their discretion for the remaining part of the pregnancy, some women continue to feel great if they are used to the heat – many feel uncomfortable and choose not to. I think the lesson is really to listen to your bodies, and make an educated choice after speaking with your managing physician. Other considerations would be impact activity, such as running, which many women wish to continue during their pregnancy. I worked alongside a Sports Doctor for many years, and her approach to running in pregnancy was keeping it easy in intensity, and shorter in duration, and to continue on as long as the individual felt comfortable, provided there weren’t any special circumstances. “Contact” sports such as football/ basketball etc would also be on my “no” list, especially once your bump begins to protrude.
A big consideration for exercise is that our bodies circulate the hormone Relaxin, amongst a myriad of other hormonal changes, which peaks early in pregnancy around 8-10 weeks, settles down in 2nd trimester and then increases again late in pregnancy, allowing for increased laxity of the pelvic and lumbar ligaments, making way for the baby’s descent. This means we need to take care with high impact as well as over stretching, as its much easier to over stretch and cause long term impact on the connective tissue.
Rosie’s TOP 5 ways to move in pregnancy:
- Strength training
Many women are itching to get back to exercise after having a baby. I have had women turn up to public yoga and pilates classes at 2 weeks post-partum, when their tummies still carry the look of being 4-6 months pregnant, and had to turn them away for their own safety- this is a time for healing and resting, and its advisable to get the go ahead for exercise at your 6 week check up.
Many cultures have a 30-40 day period in which the new mother stays mainly house bound, with family members helping out with cooking, older siblings, household chores and of course the new baby. This might not be a luxury that many of us can indulge in, but the premise that the mother needs to rest as much as possible, for as long as possible in that initial period holds many amazing benefits. Midwives argue that resting aids getting a good milk supply going, snuggling with your baby improves the production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, and allows you to get much needed sleep in the bank where possible. Physios will argue this point to allow the pelvic floor to recover, laying horizontal reduces the gravitational pressure on the pelvic floor, and our connective tissue needs a good 4-6 weeks to heal well, and at least 12 weeks to be strong again. If i had my time again (and hopefully i will!) i’ll be taking as long as is practical to rest and enjoy the newest family addition, getting back in to shape, chores and the rest of the world can wait!
After the first few weeks, some gentle walking might be appropriate, getting out in the fresh air and sunshine will do wonders at any rate. Wait 6 weeks before getting in the water, to mitigate the risk of infection (both natural and C section deliveries) and 6 weeks before getting back into yoga or pilates. Pilates is fabulous for recovering post baby, especially a physio-run or post-baby specific class. Body weight strength exercises may be appropriate to add in around this time, but wait 12 weeks (at least, WHO recommendation is 12-24 weeks) before resuming high impact or heavy gym based training. Remember that the hormone relaxin is still circulating in good amounts whilst you are breastfeeding, and so the same considerations for higher impact and over stretching apply as in pregnancy – i’ve seen numerous seemingly innocuous achilles, ankle, hamstring injuries as a result of not considering this powerful hormone and its effects, for the period of breastfeeding, well beyond pregnancy as is sometimes misunderstood.
Top 5 tips for Exercising Partum
- Give yourself adequate time to rest and heal – your body, hormones and family will benefit more from this approach in the long run! wait 6 weeks before returning to structured exercise, and a minimum of 12 weeks before a slow return to impact exercise – perhaps longer if you had any complications or an unresolved abdominal separation
- Wear support garments for the first 4-6 weeks to aid in healing and reduce pressure on your back and pelvis
- Walking and pilates will be your best starting point, swimming after 6 weeks is a great re-introduction to resistance exercise
- Wait 12-24 weeks at before resuming high impact activities like running or jumping based sports
- Work with a physio, trainer or yoga teacher who understands the changed needs of your fabulous, healing, post partum body.
Above all, be KIND to you
- Rosie xoxo