As a Dad and as someone that has worked with thousands of new Mums over my career, including my wonderful Snezana, I understand the balance of taking care of yourself and your bub while your body is going through such an enormous change. Safely getting back into exercise and ensuring you’re eating nutritious, nourishing meals are a big part of a healthy post-pregnancy recovery process.

If you’d like some extra support, my expert nutrition team and I have put together a complete online postnatal fitness and weight loss program that contains daily exercises to help you regain your strength and confidence, as well as an easy-to-follow healthy meal plan to keep you healthy and happy.

My team and I have taken care of it all. You’ll receive a weekly postnatal meal plan carefully designed by our nutrition team to provide you with an abundance of nutrients from vegetables, quality proteins and healthy fats – everything a new mum needs.

Our 28 postnatal workouts are designed to be moderate intensity and low cardio. You’ll have quality, 28-minute workout options every day, but they won’t contain any jumping or crunching movements that could put you at risk while your body is still recovering.

Can you go for walks after giving birth?

Walking is an ideal exercise to enjoy after giving birth. It’s low impact, you don’t need any special equipment, and you can do it anywhere! Just pop your bub in the pram, load up everything you need and head out the door.

It varies a little for everyone, but often you’ll feel ready to head out about 5 or so days post delivery. It may be longer, depending on whether you had a straightforward vaginal delivery or not. You shouldn’t feel any pain, or any “heaviness” in your vagina / perineal region. If you do, it’s best to wait a little longer and allow some more time to recover.

When you feel ready to head out for a little walk, aim for 5-10 minutes or so to begin with. Set yourself a small goal, like heading up to the local café. Enjoy being outside, amongst nature and getting out and about in your community.

Aim to gradually build up your walking distance over time, and you can pick up the pace or add in some hills if you feel like getting your heart pumping a little more.

Walking is low impact, but if your pelvic floor muscles still feel like they need a little more recovery time, or you feel a heaviness or dragging feeling in your vagina when you walk, then drop back on the distance or give yourself another week or so of rest, focussing on gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy work before trying again.

Every body is different, every pregnancy is different, and every recovery is different. After my first baby, I wasn’t ready to head out walking until about 3 weeks post delivery. My tummy was sore, my scar was a little infected, and I was exhausted. I had imagined I would be out strolling the streets with my fancy new pram on the day I got home from hospital, but my body had other ideas! However, after my second and third babies were born, I felt like I could easily manage walking up to the local café pushing a double pram. You just never know. Even if you have exercised throughout your pregnancy and you’re fit and healthy, your recovery can be unpredictable, as there are many other factors which influence your rate of recovery.

Please don’t push yourself. There is no rush! Mother nature and time have a big part to play, so listen to your body and do what feels right. If you have any concerns, check in with your pelvic floor physio, Doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse.

Listen to your intuition, do what feels right (even if that means doing very little) and enjoy the incredible rollercoaster of the early weeks of being a mum.

I promised just 3 top tips but of course you may need to prioritise rest in this critical first 6 week period, as your body needs time to heal and repair. Let go of your expectations (don’t worry, I get it, this was very difficult for me too), and do what feels right for you. You just grew a human in your belly, no wonder it takes some time for your body to heal!

What exercises can I do immediately after birth?

Here are my top 3 exercises that are safe to get you off to a great start with your recovery.

Start with gentle pelvic floor squeezes.

Before you start thinking “is she for real?” understand that gentle contraction of the pelvic floor muscles is great to get going with early after delivery, because even if it feels like nothing is happening, the ‘thinking about squeezing’ will help to wake up the pathways from your brain to these muscles. Ideally, you have been doing your pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy, as it will give you a much better idea of how a normal pelvic floor squeeze feels. And if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present!

You can usually safely start gentle squeezes 24 hours after a vaginal delivery, or 48 hours after a caesarean delivery. Of course if you have any concerns or pain, check with your Doctor or midwife first.

All squeezes should be pain free, and if you can’t feel anything, don’t worry. Your sensation starts improving rapidly in the days after delivery, once the initial swelling begins to resolve. It’s often easiest to feel something happening if you start practising while you are lying on your side, so there’s less gravity for the muscles to work against.

Pelvic floor exercises can help to promote faster recovery because the muscles act as a pump to help reduce swelling in the perineal area. Gentle squeezes start restoring the function of these important muscles, which may have been stretched and strained during pregnancy and delivery.

Gentle tummy muscle exercises

You can start gentle stomach muscle exercises can start in the first few days after delivery. I am not talking about sit ups or crunches, I am talking about the gentle drawing in of the lower tummy muscles, to activate the deeper layers of the abdominal muscles which have an important role in supporting your spine and pelvic joints.

The abdominal muscles have been progressively stretched during pregnancy, and it takes time for them to gradually strengthen and tone up after giving birth.

Often there is some separation of the superficial abdominal muscles “the 6-pack” or rectus abdominis, and this will slowly start to recover with time. Gentle deep tummy exercises will help, as will avoiding too much strain on your healing muscles.

Think of gently drawing in the area below your belly button towards your spine. This should happen smoothly and slowly, and as your pelvic floor muscle exercises get easier you may find that the pelvic floor lift and deep tummy drawing in happens together.

So you can practice slowly drawing in your lower tummy while gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles, hold for a few seconds and then slowly release. There should be no discomfort, and it should feel like minimal effort.

You can do these exercises while you are lying down, sitting down when feeding, or standing up, like when you are in the shower.

Walking

Walking is the best exercise to start with once you are home from hospital, once you feel ready to get out of the house.

Often after about 5-7 days post delivery, you might feel ready to head out for a little walk, just 5-10 minutes or so to begin with. You will gradually build up your distance over time, and you can pick up the pace if you feel like getting your heart pumping a little more.

Walking is low impact, but if your pelvic floor muscles still feel like they need a little more recovery time, or you feel a heaviness or dragging feeling in your vagina when you walk, then drop back on the distance or give yourself another week or so of rest, focussing on gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy work before trying again.

Every body is different, every pregnancy is different, and every recovery is different.

After my first baby, I wasn’t ready to head out walking until about 3 weeks post delivery. My tummy was sore, my scar was a little infected, and I was exhausted. I had imagined I would be out strolling the streets with my fancy new pram on the day I got home from hospital, but my body had other ideas! However, after my second and third babies were born, I felt like I could easily manage walking up to the local café pushing a double pram. You just never know. Even if you have exercised throughout your pregnancy and you’re fit and healthy, your recovery can be unpredictable, as there are many other factors which influence your rate of recovery.

I had imagined I would be out strolling the streets with my fancy new pram on the day I got home from hospital, but my body had other ideas!

Please don’t push yourself. There is no rush! Mother nature and time have a big part to play, so listen to your body and do what feels right. If you have any concerns, check in with your pelvic floor physio, Doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse.

I promised just 3 top tips but of course you may need to prioritise rest in this critical first 6 week period, as your body needs time to heal and repair. Let go of your expectations (don’t worry, I get it, this was very difficult for me too), and do what feels right for you. You just grew a human in your belly, no wonder it takes some time for your body to heal!

Listen to your intuition, do what feels right (even if that means doing very little) and enjoy the incredible rollercoaster of the early weeks of being a mum.

When to start exercising after a vaginal delivery

You can start gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy exercises soon after delivery, usually after 24 hours. In fact, we recommend getting started with your pelvic floor exercises this early, even if you don’t really feel like it, as it helps with recovery.

Then it’s up to you to listen to your body, and when you feel ready, start with some gently walking. If you are pain free, which means no pain in your bottom or perineum, then you can start walking. For most mums, this is after about day 4 or 5. It could be longer if you had more intervention (such as ventouse or forceps) during your delivery.

Low impact exercise is key. Your pelvic floor and tummy muscles have had a big stretch and need time to gently recover without additional impact. Build up slowly, gradually increasing the time you are out walking.

After you have had your 6-week check up with your Doctor or midwife, and received the all clear, then you can start to add some variety in your exercise routine. 

Our 28 by Sam Wood program ticks all the boxes!

When to start exercising after a caesarean section delivery

Usually after a C/S, you can start gentle pelvic floor exercises as soon as your catheter is removed, usually 24-48 hours post-delivery. Then you can also add some tummy muscle exercises, such as gentle lower tummy squeezes, provided you have no pain.

You will likely be taking some pain killers in the first few days post C/S, which is an important part of your recovery, and you should make sure that you don’t aggravate your pain by doing too much too soon.

Once you are home from hospital, you may like to wait until about 10 days post-delivery to try out a short walk around the block. If you had an emergency C/S, you may need to wait a few extra days.

After you’ve been home from hospital for 3 weeks or so, you might be walking for up to 15 minutes, gradually building up the time if it feels good. Keep up your daily pelvic floor exercises too.

Your abdominal incision takes AT LEAST 6 weeks to heal, so it’s important to avoid straining your tummy while healing is occurring. Take care to roll out of bed rather than sitting straight up, and avoid heavy lifting. Of course that’s easier said than done if you already have a toddler!

After you have had your 6-week check up with your Doctor or midwife, and received the all clear, then you can start to add some variety in your exercise routine. Start slowly and build up gradually, listening to your body. If you have any pain, back off and wait a few days before trying again.

Our 28 by Sam Wood program is safe and effective. Gentle enough when you are just getting started but tough enough to give you great results!

Posted by Chloe Lorback

Chloe graduated as a physiotherapist (with Honours) from Melbourne University in 1997 and completed her Masters in Women’s Health in 2010. Chloe consults as a senior physiotherapist at St Vincent's Private Maternity on the postnatal ward, and is involved in the St Vincent's antenatal education program. She also runs her own pregnancy pilates studio in Brighton, Melbourne called Fit To Deliver. Chloe has three young boys and enjoys the balance of being able to teach Pilates, do physio and be a mum. She hopes to help you discover that exercise is enjoyable and fun!