Updated: Oct 12
When’s the right time for a new mum to start exercising? According to the NHS, as soon as you feel up to it.
Of course, there are a few stipulations. You must have had a straightforward birth, and you should stick to a gentle fitness routine.
Those rules are simple enough, but creating an exercise plan is not quite as intuitive as you thought. Everyone tells you what to expect when you’re expecting, but what about afterward? How can you build healthy habits and start to feel like yourself again?
Start your search here. We’ve gathered a list of exercises and fitness programmes that suit you in this stage of life. Here are 11 moves to try as you rebuild strength, stamina, and self-confidence.
1. Deep Breathing
This move’s so gentle that you can start with it an hour after giving birth. Yes, we’re talking about exercise after childbirth, quite literally.
That means, of course, that your deep-breathing exercise will be incredibly gentle. All you have to do is sit up straight and inhale deeply, imagining that you are filling your diaphragm from the bottom up.
As you breathe in, try contracting your abs and holding the air in as long as possible. When you exhale, relax the core.
This exercise is buildable, meaning you can increase your endurance, holding in each breath for longer and longer. You’ll strengthen your core, of course, but you can use deep breathing for other purposes, too. Namely, mindful inhalations are a great way to soothe anxiety, and many new mums deal with this sensation as they adjust to life with a new son or daughter.
2. Head Lifts
Much of your gentle exercise after pregnancy will revolve around your core muscles. It makes sense—your core shifts to accommodate a growing baby, and it doesn’t snap back into place once your little one has entered the world.
As such, you’ll want to start your core routine with something simple and low-impact—you will have to build up to the ab workouts you used to do. A head lift is a great place to start.
Lay down on the floor with your arms by your side, knees bent, and feet flat, a traditional crunch position. Breathe out as you lift your head and neck off of the ground. And, as you lower them back down, breathe in.
The great thing about a core workout like this is that you can slip it into the few free minutes you have whilst the baby sleeps. Or, just place them in their bassinet or cot and work on your core on the ground next to it.
3. Shoulder Lifts
Now, once you’ve mastered the art of the head lift—say, you can do 10 reps without a sweat—it’s time to move onto the shoulder lift. You can probably guess what this move entails. Indeed, it’s not much different than the head lift.
You’ll now start lifting your head, neck, and shoulders from the ground. Reach your hands toward your knees if you can. Otherwise, cradle your head in your hands for extra support as you curl up.
Here’s the progression to the shoulder lift. Again, wait until you can comfortably complete 10 shoulder lifts before moving onto a harder core exercise.
For curl-ups, you’ll be halfway between a shoulder lift and a full-on sit-up. Lift your torso that it’s at a 45-degree angle between the floor and your bent knees.
5. Heel Slides
Your core work should incorporate the lower abdominals, as well. So, in tandem with the head lift, you can work toward mastering heel slides, which help tone this area in particular.
In the same position, you can try heel slides, too. Keep one foot planted while you slide the other away from you until your leg is parallel to the floor. Then, slide it back into a bent position and repeat on the other side.
Work up to 20 reps on each side before moving onto a tougher abdominal move.
6. Leg Extensions
The graduated version of the heel slide is a leg extension. This move requires you to hold your legs in a tabletop position: your feet will be in the air with legs bent at a 90-degree album. If you’re doing it properly, then your shins should be flat, creating a table-like surface.
Keep your arms, head, and neck on the floor as you straighten one leg at a time. This time, though, your leg or foot won’t touch the floor. They’ll continue to hover in the air until you’ve completed the set number of reps.
You’ll want to start with five reps per side, but work your way up to 20. And, to further toughen it, try and keep your leg elevated but as low as possible. Two to three inches from the ground is a great benchmark.
7. Toe Taps
Now that you’ve nailed the leg extension, you can try on toe taps for size. You’ll lift your legs back into the same tabletop position, but rather than straightening your limbs, you’ll lower your foot to the ground. Once your digits touch the floor, lift them back into place.
Again, you’ll alternate sides on this move. And you’ll want to practice it until you can do 20 repetitions per side.
Let’s switch gears from specific exercises into workout programmes that are safe and effective for women who have recently given birth. Yoga falls into that category, as you may have already guessed.
But not all yoga poses will suit new mums—no matter how gentle yoga is, some moves will cause a bit too much tension in a recovering body. So, stick to approved moves for post-partum yogis. These include:
Legs up the wall
Once you feel comfortable with a flow incorporating all six, you’ll be ready to move onto a more involved yoga routine.
It may require a few slight modifications, but a post-partum Pilates routine can do wonders for your core strength and stamina. Reach out to local studios to see if they have any classes for new mums. That way, you can ensure that it’s a safe set of moves for you and your body at this current time.
The good thing about building up your core strength is that it will help you in so many ways down the line. Let’s say you want to have more children. Well, building up a strong set of abs and a fortified lower back will help you avoid the pains that come with pregnancy.
You can further ensure you’re ready for another new baby by signing up for a well-woman check-up. We’ll be able to verify that you’re in good health—and all of these recovery workout moves will certainly help you get there.
If you partook in intense cardio workouts pre-baby, then you might not even consider walking as a form of exercise. Turns out, this is an excellent way for new mums to get moving safely. It’ll help you build up to more intense workouts, too.
Start slow with a stroll—you can even bring the baby along in their pram or a front pack. The latter will add more resistance to your walk, making it even more of a workout.
When you walk solo, try switching things up to wake up other muscles. Walking in a zig-zag pattern or moving backward can activate other areas. You might lose a bit of balance, though, which you don’t want when you’re carrying your little one with you.
You can’t dive right into the pool post-baby. You will have to wait until your labour wounds heal. So, if you had a C-section, you’ll have to wait six weeks until you can go swimming.
However, once you’ve healed, you should consider swimming as your first cardio workout. It’s low-impact, which will help you ease in without too many aches or pains. At the same time, it’s an effective way to tone muscles, torch calories, and re-build endurance for other, more high-impact routines.
Build Healthy Habits After Baby
As a new mum, you’re devoting nearly all of your time to your little one. But you deserve to do things that make you feel good, too. Developing healthy habits post-birth will help you feel more like yourself, both inside and out.
And don’t forget we’re here to help you stay healthy on your motherhood journey, too. We perform pre-baby well-woman scans to confirm that you’re ready for pregnancy. And we can check on your baby with ultrasound scans to give you peace of mind, too.
Click here to contact us today, wherever you are on your path to becoming a mum.