New mums are often anxious to get their figures back as soon as possible. The amount of time it takes to shift those extra pregnancy pounds varies from mum to mum but the important thing is not to do too much too soon.
How long should I wait to start exercising?
If you had a natural delivery, wait 6 weeks before starting any exercise. If you had a Caesarean, it’s best to leave it 10 weeks. Starting earlier than this may cause long-term damage so always check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise routine.
What sort of exercise should I do?
When you do start exercising again, take things easy at first.
The easiest way to do this might be simply to go out with your pram for brisk walks that make you break a bit of a sweat. Listen to your body and if you feel dizzy or overly tired, stop and rest.
This post-natal exercise programme has been specially developed by mum and personal fitness trainer Liz Stuart. Liz is also the creator of the exercise craze Powerpramming, which encourages you to exercise while out and about with your new baby.
Liz advises all new mums who want to start exercising again to drink plenty of water and invest in a good sports bra.
‘Don’t worry if you currently feel unfit,’ says Liz. ‘Lots of the women I work with haven’t done any exercise since before pregnancy. Most have just been walking with their prams. They are often surprised at how unfit they are but it’s not a problem. These post-natal exercises are designed for all fitness levels so nobody gets left behind.’
Before you start doing any vigorous stomach exercises, you need to
check if your muscles are strong enough after birth. The stomach
muscles at the front (called rectus abdominus) can separate during
pregnancy and take roughly 6-12 weeks to repair themselves.
Here’s how to check if you’re ready – but don’t do this if you’re still
* Lie on your back, head on floor, knees bent, feet flat and tighten
* Place the tips of your index and middle fingers, side by side, just
above belly button and push down firmly.
* Tighten your stomach muscles and breathe in. As you breathe out, bring
your head and shoulders off the floor. Feel the abdominal muscles
closing in on your finger tips.
* If the gap between your stomach muscles is more than two finger widths
apart, you’re not ready to do stomach curls yet so concentrate on
gentler movements like pelvic tilts (below) and posture instead.
* If the gap between your muscles is two finger widths or less, you’re
ready to do one or two sets of 12 head and shoulder raises. You can move
on to more advanced exercises only when stronger.
After having a baby, pushing a pram, bending and carrying will all place
demands on your back and stomach. That’s why it’s so vital to keep your
posture correct. Here’s how to ensure you are standing with good
posture and protecting your back.
* Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your weight spread evenly
over both feet. Ensure the whole foot is in contact with the floor.
* Soften the knees and align them over the ankles. Tilt the pelvis to
correctly align the spine.
* Pull in and tighten the abdominal muscles.
* Lengthen the spine by lifting up out of the hips.
* Relax the shoulders and ‘open’ the chest.
* Lengthen the neck keeping the chin parallel to the floor. Look
* Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Place one hand on your
* Tilt your pelvis upwards which will lengthen your spine and push your
lower back towards the floor. The front of your pelvis should lift
slightly and you will feel your abdominal muscles tightening as you
* Breathe out as you tilt and in as you relax. Try to keep your bottom
on the floor.
* Don’t over-arch your back. Do 3 sets of 12 then relax.
These will tone and strengthen your bottom and thighs.
* Stand with your feet about one and half times hip distance apart. Make
sure your stomach muscles are tight.
* With your feet flat on floor bend your knees and lower your body. Keep
your back flat and let the weight go down through your heels.
* Don’t let your bottom come lower than your knees. Your knees should be
further back than your toes.
* Come back up to starting position. Do 2 sets of 12.
These will also strengthen and tone your bottom and thighs.
* Stand with your feet about hip distance apart. Take a large step forwards with one foot and hold this start position.
* Bend your back knee first and your front knee second. Lower your body straight down.
* Push back up through the heel in front. Do 2 sets of 12 then change legs and do another 2 sets of 12.
Make sure you’ve performed the ‘Rec Check’ before doing the following exercises.
Head and shoulder raises
These will help tone and strengthens your stomach.
* Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Knees and feet should be about hip distance apart.
* Place your hands on your thighs. Breathe out and slowly raise your
head and shoulders off the floor. As you raise push hour hands towards
* Make sure your stomach muscles stay flat as you come up. When you
start to feel your muscles tense, do not come up any further. Instead,
lower yourself down gently.
* Start with 2 sets of 12. As you get stronger, you can raise further up
and increase the number of sets.
These exercises will help strengthen and flatten your stomach.
* Lie on your back with your legs in the air. Flex your feet. Place your hands on the floor by your sides, palms down.
* Keep your head on the floor. Breathe out and push your feet up towards the ceiling. This will raise your pelvis off the floor.
* Do not let your legs swing. Gently return to the start position.
* Do 2 sets of 12.
These are not beginner exercises and you should only try them when you
can comfortably do head and shoulder raises and reverse curls without
your muscles bulging. These will strengthen and tone the oblique muscles
that run down your sides.
* Lie on your back with your feet hip distance apart and flat on the
floor. Knees should be bent and in line with your toes.
* Put your fingertips on your temples. Breathe out and curl your upper
body towards your knees.
* As you do so, reach over with one hand towards the outside of your
opposite knee twisting your torso as you do so.
* Keep the elbow and shoulder of the other arm on the floor. Breathe in
and come back down to start position.
* Do 2 sets of 12 on each side.
This will help strengthen and tone the bottom and thighs.
* Go down onto the floor on all fours. Breathe out and draw your tummy button back towards your spine.
* Keep this tension in your stomach muscles but make sure you are able to breathe normally. Extend one leg out behind you.
* Keeping the back flat raise the extended leg to hip height. Lower until the toe nearly touches the floor.
* Repeat but don’t let your back arch. Do 2 sets of 12 on each leg.
This works your stomach muscles and bottom – a double bonus!
* Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Breathe out and draw your tummy button back towards your spine.
* Keep your stomach muscles tense but make sure you are able to breathe
* Using the muscles in your bottom, lift your bottom off the floor until
it is only your feet, upper back, neck and head making contact with the
* Lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 12.
These will help lengthen and tone your muscles. Try to do them at least four times a week.
* Sitting up straight with tummy muscles tight, tilt head to the right and hold for five seconds.
* Tilt head left, hold for five seconds.
* Tilt head up and hold for five seconds.
* Tilt head down and hold for five seconds.
* If you slouch try this. Sitting down, tighten your tummy and breathe normally.
* Place both hands, palms down, on the small of your back.
* Keep back straight and imagine you are trying to get your elbows to meet.
* Enjoy the feeling of the chest being stretched. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat five times.
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* On the floor, get onto all fours. Tighten up your stomach muscles and make sure your back is flat.
* Arch your back upwards. Keep the rest of your body relaxed. Hold for 10 seconds.
* Return to starting position and repeat five times.
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