In this post, I’m going to briefly cover the exercises that are safe and unsafe to do post-partum. If you are newly post-partum (less than 6 months), I do encourage you to rest as much as possible. Release yourself of the pressure to shed the pounds and enjoy being a new mom. With that being said, I’m a huge proponent of movement - even gentle movements - for a healthy mind and body. The exercises below are generally safe to engage in. However, prior to engaging in any exercise postpartum, it is always a good idea to meet with a pelvic floor physiotherapist to assess for diastasis recti and pelvic organ prolapse.
Exercises to do post-partum:
Diaphragmatic breathing- this exercise will help the abdominals and the pelvic floor relearn how to increase and decrease tension. This can be done while lying on your back on the floor, sitting in a chair or standing tall. Focus on inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four. As you inhale, notice how your belly rises as it fills with air and as you exhale, you want your belly to return to it’s resting position. Do about 10 reps of this deep diaphragmatic breathing each day.
Gentle lower abdominal exercises- these exercises are designed to increase the strength and function of your transverse abdominis muscles (TVA). The TVA is the layer of muscles below your rectus abdominis, or your “6-pack muscles”. They are responsible for good posture and when they are not doing their job, they can lead to lower back pain. I’ll walk you through each of the seven lower abdominal progressions in the next few posts. But to get you started, here’s a brief introduction to lower abdominal level 1.
Body-weight squats- at this point, it may be a good idea to stick to body-weight squats to avoid excess intra-abdominal pressure. Stand with your feet hip width apart and sit back into your heels like you are about to sit in a chair. Perform about 15-20 reps or however many feels good to your body.
Walking- walking is a fantastic, low impact way to get some fresh air and light movement in. You can bring your baby or if you have the opportunity, go alone for some time for yourself.
Exercises to avoid post-partum:
Abdominal exercises that put outward pressure on the abdominal wall such as planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, push-ups, v-sits. Until you’ve determined that your TVA is stronger and/or your diastisis recti is healing, it’s a good idea to stay away from these exercises as they will only exacerbate the problem.
High-intensity exercises such as jumping, running, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping rope. These put a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic organs.
Anything that feels uncomfortable. Be gentle with your postpartum body. Take time to ease back into movement - your body will thank you later!