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How to exercise after pregnancy – Postnatal Exercise Progression

I designed the Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP) to simplify safely returning to exercise after pregnancy, whether you have had a natural birth or a c-section. Obviously every women and pregnancy is different but it can be used to guide you back to moving and exercising as normal.

There are three stages and the idea is the each phase builds on the previous one so you gradually increase the amount of movement until you are back to full strength.

Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP)

  • 1st phase – from birth until around 6-8 weeks pp.
    Includes walking, 360 breathing, core exercises including kegels and gentle stretching.
    Initially walking will just be getting up and moving around the hospital ward but this includes going for proper walks as soon as you feel up to it.
  • 2nd phase – from the end of phase 1 until 3-6 months pp.
    Includes the exercises from the first phase plus low impact bodyweight exercises, swimming and brisk walking.
  • 3rd phase – from 3-6 months pp onwards.
    Includes exercises from the first and second phase exercises plus high impact exercise including running.

The Mama Plan has all three phases built in to it and you can start it from as soon as you feel ready to after giving birth.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should hold off from progressing on to the next phase of the Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP).

  • If your scar is weeping or showing signs of infection, seek medical help.
  • Heaviness/pressure/bulge/dragging in the pelvic area.
  • Pelvic or lower back pain.
  • Urinary and/or faecal incontinence
  • Ongoing or increased blood loss beyond 8 weeks postnatal, seek medical help.

The key with returning to exercise is to listen to your body. If any scar tissue hurts when you try a new exercise, it is too soon, that is your body saying you are not ready yet so take it back a phase.

Building a routine that works for you

Whether you like doing a workout with your baby in the sling or exercising is your ‘me’ time, whether you like working out in a nice gym or in your pjs at home, the most important thing is to find what works for you so that you actually do it. For me its a a 20 minute workout each morning while my husband is on breakfast duty with the boys!

Think about whether you like a super structured routine so you always workout at 12pm before lunch, or if you like more of a rhythm/flow so you put the child(ren) to bed, put the supper in the oven and then do a workout. Either one of these can work very well because they include habit stacking. Once your little one has arrived, incorporating a workout routine into an already hectic schedule can seem daunting. However, the concept of habit stacking offers a practical and efficient approach to seamlessly integrate exercise into daily activities.

Begin by identifying existing habits or routines that are already part of your day, such as your morning routine or baby’s naptime. Next, strategically stack your workout onto these established habits. For instance, if you regularly make a cup of coffee in the morning, use that time to do a quick set of bodyweight exercises or yoga stretches. Alternatively, during your baby’s naptime, designate a specific area in your home for a mini-workout session. By connecting your workout to existing habits, you create a natural flow that makes exercise feel less like an additional task and more like an extension of your daily routine. This approach allows you to prioritise self-care without overwhelm, and to foster a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.

I hope the PEP helps clear up any concerns you have about getting back into exercise after giving birth, but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me here.

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