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Exercise for mums

Getting your old shape back can seem daunting but it may not be as hard as you think.

Losing weight

Dieting when you're breastfeeding isn't recommended. Not only could you miss out on vital nutrients that both you and your child need, you also need to keep your energy levels up.

  • While dieting should be avoided, adopting a healthy eating regime is important.
  • Taking gentle exercise, like walking, can be good too
  • Ask at your local leisure centre or gym about post-natal exercise classes or exercise classes suitable for new mums
  • Breastfeeding may also help you get back into shape. Not only does it burn extra calories, it also helps your womb shrink back to its normal size

If you are very worried about your weight, speak to your GP or health visitor.

Benefits of exercise

  • Boosts energy
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Combats stress and tension
  • Helps weight-loss
  • Produces endorphins which give you a natural high
  • Tones and strengthens muscles

Some good habits to get into

  • Rest every day
  • If you've learnt a relaxation technique, practice it daily to help you cope with stress
  • Walk with your tummy and bum tucked in
  • When you sit, make sure your back is straight and well supported
  • When feeding, use pillows to bring your child close, so you don't have to stoop

When is it sensible to begin exercising?

  • It takes 6-12 weeks to recover from childbirth, so it's important to take things easy
  • You can begin doing low impact exercises from about three months
  • You can start doing high impact exercises, such as step aerobics and court sports, from about six months
  • You can start swimming once you've had your postnatal check

Finding time

One of the main barriers to exercising is finding the time. Your partner can look after your child, or perhaps you have a friend who can look after your child for an hour or two each week?

If not, you can do the stretching and strength training at home when they sleep. You can get your cardiovascular exercise by walking with the pushchair.

Pelvic floor exercises

These are important for every woman. The muscles in your pelvic floor support your pelvic organs and control the vagina, urethra and anus. It's important to strengthen this area before you do any other type of exercise.

  • Release your vaginal muscles (like you do when you wee)
  • Then contract these muscles up and in
  • Hold for five seconds, breathing normally
  • Relax
  • Repeat as many times as you can. As you get stronger, you'll find you can hold the position longer
  • Once you've got the hang of this, try adding contraction-like pulses. Then try doing several little contractions without resting in between

Exercises after birth

Try to go through these exercises regularly. They'll help your circulation.

  • Lie flat on a bed with your legs out straight in front of you
  • Flex your feet then extend them
  • Circle your foot one way, then the other
  • Slowly and gently draw one foot up the bed towards your bum. Repeat with the other
  • Press the backs of your knees against the bed. Then relax. Repeat 3-4 times
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose, concentrating on expanding your lower chest, and then breathe out

Posture

  • Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent
  • Place your hands low on your tummy/waist
  • Breathe in and hold
  • Pull in your tummy, tighten your buttocks and push your lower back against the floor and breathe out slowly
  • Slowly relax
  • Repeat several times
  • You can also try this exercise standing or sitting

Abdominal muscles

  • Lie on your back with your head supported, knees bent and feet flat
  • Place hands on thighs
  • Breathe in, tightening your tummy and pelvic floor
  • Breathe out as you lift your head and slide hands toward knees
  • Lower your head and relax
  • Repeat three times. Repeat more times as you get stronger

Abdominal twist

  • Lie on your back with your head supported, knees bent and feet flat
  • Tighten your tummy muscles and pelvic floor
  • Breathe out whilst lifting your head and shoulders and reach for the outside of your left knee with your right hand
  • Swap sides and repeat
  • Repeat three times. Repeat more times as you get stronger

Waistline

  • Lie flat on your back with one leg straight and the other bent
  • Slowly draw up your straight leg until your foot touches your bum or it becomes uncomfortable
  • Then stretch it out again
  • Swap sides and repeat
  • Repeat three times. Repeat more times as you get stronger

Bust

  • Stand or sit with your back straight
  • Grasp wrists and push your arms together
  • Relax. Try to do this five times, twice daily

Walking

  • Walking is really good exercise and it's easy to do with your pram or pushchair
  • You could start by walking for five minutes daily, going up to a 30-45 minute, or two 15-20 minute walks, by six weeks after the birth
     

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