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5 exercise tips after pregnancy

During pregnancy the body undergoes many changes. Women often come to me after childbirth expressing a sense of disconnect to their body, like they can’t quite contract their muscles the same way. It can take time to rebuild these mind-body connections and pilates is a great way to do this safely. Jumping into high impact exercise and throwing yourself into tummy crunches may put you at risk of injury, incontinence, or increase abdominal separation (diastasis recti). The joints are unstable, the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles have stretched and may be weakened, and your upper back and shoulders may feel tight and rigid. Here are 5 ways Pilates can help you after child birth:

1. Pilates can heal diastases recti
During pregnancy the two sides of the abdominal wall separate and for some women there still remains a space where the two sides connect. This can happen anywhere from below the sternum down to the pubic bone. Doing improper loaded sit ups/crunches can actually increase this separation. Specific breathing techniques and pre-pilates exercises help you fuse these two sides back together safely, while regaining a flat tummy and core strength.

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2. Strengthen Pelvic floor muscles
One of the main principles in pilates is engaging the pelvic floor muscles. When we engage our pelvic floor we also engage our deep core muscles. The pelvic floor can become weaker during pregnancy due to the increased pressure from the uterus and baby being placed on its walls. Many women struggle to feel their pelvic floor after birth, but through special verbal cues, exercises, and breathing techniques pilates will help you re-find and strengthen your pelvic floor which can stop incontinence problems, increase sexual pleasure, and activate your deep core muscles.

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3. Stabilise your joints
During pregnancy a hormone called relaxin is released through the body. In preparation for childbirth it relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix, which can cause the joints to be unstable. With precise movement and optimal alignment, pilates focuses on isolating some body parts while not moving others. This is how pilates helps to strengthen all the small muscles around the joints without risking injury that many high impact weight-training exercise can do.

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4. Re- align your body and posture
During pregnancy the body’s centre of gravity changes, this affects biomechanical movement and alters the posture. The shoulders can be protracted forward and feel tight. The lower back is overly arched, and often the head pokes forward. The very purpose of Pilates is to reposition the body to its optimal alignment where all the joints are working properly again, and unnecessary tension is removed from the muscles. This eliminates postural related aches and pain, especially in the hips and back.

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It s usually safe to resume exercise 6 weeks after birth, and start pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel pain free. Just get clearance from your GP. Ask us about our post-natal mums+ bubs classes and how we can help you build strength safely as a new mum.

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