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How to start exercising as a new mum

Getting back into exercise after having a baby can be tough. But gentle movement and small steps can get you feeling strong and in control, one day at a time.

Young mother is practicing yoga in the living room of her home. Her baby daughter is sitting next to her trying to copy her.

One of my biggest passions is encouraging people to exercise a little bit every day in order to promote physical and mental health. I have worked in strength and conditioning and Pilates for over a decade and am particularly passionate about helping mothers take care of themselves through exercise.

Recently, I became a first time mum (five weeks earlier than expected!) A tiny baby girl changed my daily routine – not to mention my body shape and my self-identity. This huge change in my life personally inspired me even more to encourage other mothers to take some time in their busy day to focus on their own musculoskeletal health and function.

Finding the time

New mothers experience so much change to their daily routine that fitting in exercise is usually far from their mind. If the baby is awake they usually require your full attention. If the baby is asleep, you most likely will need to rest also.

But I encourage all mums to use just one naptime each day for 20 minutes of exercise. If the weather is good, organise for your baby to nap in the pram while you go for a power walk around the streets or a nearby park. If you struggle for motivation, contact some mums or dads from your local parents group and walk together.

When the weather is bad or it’s too hard to get out of the house, keep some light weights at home for arm exercises like biceps curls, triceps extensions or overhead presses and give yourself a 20 minute circuit in the lounge room, including some squats and lunges for the lower body.

The pelvic floor

Let’s not forget about the pelvic floor. As a Pilates practitioner I had always prided myself on the quality of my pelvic floor strength and the stability this provided to my entire skeletal system. Yet the first thing a newborn does as it flees the comfort of the womb and begins its new life in the outside world is leave its mother’s pelvic floor muscles much worse for wear (especially in the case of a vaginal delivery!)

In my experience, the pelvic floor can recover after giving birth and women do not have to succumb to believing it will never be the same. A little bit of work and concentration is all it takes.

Once I was given the all clear by my doctor to resume moderate exercise after my six-week check up, I was straight back into doing regular Clinical Pilates. This was an integral part of my recovery and I am thankful for the one hour a week of concentrated pelvic floor practice and functional retraining of my muscles and joints.

The lounge room circuit

A little bit of exercise most days of the week will help you feel happy and healthy and your baby will benefit from this greatly.

Here are some suggestions of exercise sets that take less than 10 minutes to complete, use minimal props and are generally safe to do six weeks post giving birth. Make sure you have approval from your doctor first.

Standing
10 x squats
10 x standing lunges on each leg
10 x biceps curls (2-3kgs)
10 x overhead press (2-3kgs)
Repeat x 3

Lying supine on the floor
10 x chest press (2-3kgs)
10 x triceps extensions each arm (2-3kgs)
10 x chest press (2-3kgs)
10 x bridges (legs bent, feet on floor, lifting hips up in the air)
Repeat x 3

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