There's only one rule to follow when returning to exercise post-pregnancy: Listen to your body.
The second most important rule is to understand that there is no right or wrong, every pregnancy and every case is unique. This is the advice from Chloe Lorback, women's physiotherapist and 28 by Sam Wood pregnancy and post natal expert.
"There should never be any pressure from yourself or others to “bounce back” and I encourage all new mums to first and foremost enjoy this special time with their baby," she says.
"This said, with so many expecting and new mums on my 28 program, safely returning to exercise is something I get asked about a lot."
Apart from slowly getting your body used to gentle exercise, the benefits that a low-impact workout can have on your mental wellbeing can also be extremely beneficial.
"Getting back in shape after a baby isn’t a race but I promise you this…when you start moving your body again you will feel better both in body and in mind," Chloe says.
Of course it is important to take your time and always feel safe and supported."
Here are Chloe's tips for slowly getting back into exercise post-pregnancy to help both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Head to your GP
Checking in with your GP is a great way to make sure your recovery is going well and to give you the peace of mind that you are ready to return to gentle exercise. Once you're given the go ahead, I definitely recommend starting with low-impact exercises. It is common that some of your muscles have been stretched and weakened during pregnancy, which is completely normal. Start with slow exercised like walking or low-imapct exercise like yoga.
Walk with your baby
Walking with the pram usually suits most mums and is a great way of getting some exerccise with baby on board. It's also a gentle on the body and will get you outdoors and into the fresh air. Anyone with a baby knows that no two days are the same so it can be impossible to get to a class or the gym at a set time so being able to just head out with the pram whenever you can works well. It may even be an ideal way to settle your baby.
Pelvic floor, pelvic floor, pelvic floor
This is so important. Make sure you keep breathing and aim for 5 seconds of squeezing with 5 seconds rest. Try to repeat this for 5 to 10 reps. And the best part is you can do these exercises anywhere. If you make a specific time to do them - for example while brushing your teeth - it becomes a habit.
Squat it out
You do a lot of carrying when you have a baby so having strong legs keeps your back strong and reduces the risk of injury. Whether it is while your baby is sleeping or in the ad break of your favourite tv show, aim to do five sets of 20 throughout the day.
Introduce upper body home exercises
Your upper body strength needs to be maintained pre and post pregnancy, especially when you are carrying around a newborn all day (and most of the night!). I recommend opposite arm/leg extensions for a strong back and couch or kitchen bench push-ups two or three times a day to get those upper body muscles working again.
Activate your tummy muscles
Deep tummy muscle activation will help your abdominal muscles safely tighten up and strengthen.
Pull your lower tummy in, this will engage your deep tummy muscles. Keep them pulled in for three breaths and then release. Do this five times. Do these after you have done your pelvic floor exercises, to help.
For more information, check out the 28 by Sam Wood postnatal program.