If you’ve recently had a baby, then we want to start by saying a massive congratulations! Your body does incredible things during pregnancy – and that’s just before baby arrives! Whether you knew it, or not:
- Your blood volume increased – by up to 50% – to help supply enough oxygen to your growing baby
- Your heart may have grown by up to 12% to accommodate the extra blood and get it pumping to your body and baby
- Aside from growing a baby, you also grew a new organ! Your placenta was formed to provide your baby with the nutrients and oxygen they needed
- Your uterus expanded more than 500 times its normal size!
With your little one here, you may be wondering when you can throw on your running shoes again – and what your body can handle. To help, we’ve put together a guide on what you can expect when it comes to getting back into exercise in your first three months.
What you must know before you start any exercise
Before you jump back into any exercise, we highly recommend getting the all-clear from your maternity care provider. Every birth and person are different, and therefore, become ready to return to exercise at different times. Similarly, if this is not your first pregnancy, what worked for you with your last baby may not work for you this time.
If you have had a c-section, postpartum haemorrhage, excess weight gain in pregnancy, pubic bone symphysis, or have diastasis recti (separation of your abdominal muscles), your transition back to exercise can be affected. Listening to your body and getting medical clearance can help keep you safe and reduce your risk of injury.
Hormones still affect your joints
It’s important to remember that your body is still being affected by the pregnancy hormones that are in your system. The presence of a hormone called relaxin will mean that your joints are still more ‘loose’ and flexible than normal. While this was important for helping your body to expand and accommodate your growing baby, it may now make you more vulnerable to injury. Take it easy, and always listen to your body – particularly your pain response.
Keep it gentle in your fourth trimester
The fourth trimester is your first three months postpartum. If you’re starting exercise in this period, you want to gently ease your body back into exercise, staying mindful of any aches or pains. A great place to start is with walking, swimming and pilates.
Walking is a great place to start because you have complete control of the intensity – walking as fast or slow, and as much uphill or downhill, as you feel comfortable doing. You’re working your quads, hamstrings, calves, buttocks and abdominal muscles, which can start rebuilding the strength needed to eventually jog and run.
Swimming is a great start because it is low-impact, meaning that it takes the significant strain off your lower limb joints while working your whole body. When you’re standing in water up to your chest, you only take on 30% of your body weight. This makes activity very manageable, even if you were not very physically active before your pregnancy. Over time, as your strength and fitness improve, you may choose to incorporate greater resistance in the water with weights or other equipment.
As your core muscles are crucial in helping you perform everyday basic movements as well as exercises, you may also want to gently start to rebuild these foundations, too. This is done through core abdominal exercises, as well as pelvic floor exercises. Often, these exercises are covered in pilates and yoga classes, though you may wish to find a postnatal exercise class in your area too!
Pilates can help you gently strengthen your core and pelvic floor – if you’re ready. Always ensure you let your instructor know that you have recently delivered, and that you’ve obtained medical clearance. Working on your core muscles can help close the natural gap that develops in your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. Working on your pelvic floor can help support the bowel, bladder and uterus. Repeating pilates movements over time can help you gauge your progress and strength, helping you know when you’re ready to increase the intensity and introduce other forms of exercise.
Aside from walking, swimming and pilates, you may also wish to try:
- Aqua aerobics
- Working with light weights
Anything with a greater intensity should be avoided for the first three months at least, and until you have regained sufficient strength and movement.
A natural mood enhancer
As well as being good for your physical wellbeing, postnatal exercise is scientifically shown to have positive effects on the mental health of new mums.
- Exercise releases natural hormones like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and reduce stress levels, which may improve your quality of sleep (when you get any!)
- You can choose to get out of the house and socialise while exercising, bringing baby in a stroller, or have alone time while exercising
- Sessions of as little as 10 minutes, twice a day are shown to have significant positive effects on your mental health
- As your child gets older, look out for exercise routines you can enjoy together
What if I develop foot and leg pain?
Stop the activity that is causing you discomfort immediately – it’s not worth the risk of injury. In this case, it is likely that either your body is not ready and does not have the strength to complete the activity, or that you have sustained an injury.
Seeing your podiatrist can help you identify and treat the cause of your pain, as well as any weakened muscles that may be holding you back from your health and fitness goals.
Here at My FootDr, we work extensively with families to help keep them safe and active on their feet. One in three of our patients are children, too. If you’re worried about pain or injury, we’d love to help. Book your appointment online here or call us on 1800 FOOT DR