Benefits of Exercising for Postpartum Recovery
by Adrienne Poullas
Giving birth is one of the most physically and mentally strenuous things you can put your body through. And recovering from that, whether you had a C-section or a vaginal delivery, is another process in and of itself.
A woman’s body goes through numerous changes during pregnancy. Once the baby is born, those changes do not immediately return to the way they were pre-pregnancy. It can be a slow process for our bodies and minds to begin to feel like our own again.
After the birth of my second son, the only thing that could ease my postpartum anxiety was to sweat. And because I was not cleared to get back in the water for 6 weeks, I walked. I spent most every evening pushing a stroller and getting my heart and blood pumping.
But exercise, in any form, can help with multiple areas of postpartum recovery. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggest that, as long as you had a normal vaginal delivery, you can resume low to moderate aerobic exercise just a few days after giving birth. Those who had a cesarean birth should consult with their doctor before jumping back into any kind of exercise.
Below are ways that regular exercise can help move your recovery along.
Strengthens Abdominal Muscles
During pregnancy, a woman’s growing uterus puts pressure on the rectus abdominis muscles, causing them to stretch and become less effective. Getting back into an exercise routine shortly after giving birth will help those muscles to return back to their function of effectively supporting the spine.
Any time you exercise and get your heart rate up and your blood flowing, you’re enabling the body to release endorphins. Endorphins act as a natural “energy boost” as well as a mood improver.
Help Manage Postpartum Depression/Anxiety
According to postpartumdepression.org, around 600,000 women will experience postpartum depression in the year following the birth of a child. The endorphins released during exercise play a large role in helping manage or combat postpartum depression or anxiety. If you are exercising with a group, simply feeling a part of something other than taking care of your newborn can help lift your spirits. Plus, it is helpful to be around other women who may understand what you’re going through.
Promotes Better Sleep
Anyone who has ever had a newborn baby knows that sleep isn’t something you’re getting a lot of after they make their debut. Regular, moderate, aerobic exercise has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and, stay asleep for longer periods…should your new baby allow it!
Again, exercise produces endorphins, which are proving to be tantamount in improving mood, energy levels, and…stress relief! In addition to the release of endorphins to lower stress, the Mayo Clinic credits entering a meditation in movement mindset. When you’re so busy focusing on moving your body through the motions of whatever exercise you’re doing, you tend to forget about the things that are causing you stress. Therefore, you give your mind a break and remain calmer and more relaxed.
Exercise can assist in shedding excess body weight - including some or all of the weight gained during pregnancy. Regular exercise, combined with a balanced diet is the best way to lose those extra pounds.
Even if you’re only taking a walk around the block or practicing low-impact movement, such as yoga, getting your body moving, your blood flowing, and your heart pumping can assist in your postpartum recovery in more ways than one.
Get in touch with your fitness professional if you’d like any guidance for the above areas. If you feel like you may be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, reach out to your doctor or medical professional. Below are some additional resources, should you need them.
· Postpartum Support International - 1.800.944.4773
· PPD Moms - 1.800.PPD.MOMS or firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrienne Poullas is an AEA and ACE certified aquatic fitness instructor at the Hubbard Community Pool in Ohio. Adrienne’s love for the water began when she was a participant and quickly turned into a passion she’s molding into a career. When she’s not at the pool, she spends time with her husband and two small sons.