By Lisa Westlake: Physiotherapist and fitness instructor
It is understandable that mums are keen to get their bodies back in shape. Appropriate postnatal exercise provides numerous physical and emotional benefits, but too much exercise too soon can lead to regrets. Allowing your body to recover and progressing your exercise gradually and wisely will provide you with a happy, healthy body in the long run plus plenty of time and energy to enjoy your new bundle of joy.
When, what and how much exercise is right for you, varies considerably from mum to mum. Your pregnancy activity levels, labour and delivery are just a few of the individual considerations involved in determining a safe, sensible post natal fitness plan.
For all mums, whether they have babies, toddlers or teenagers, finding time to exercise can be challenging. Fitting in short bursts of exercise, in the comfort of your home, may be more realistic than getting to the gym.
Never underestimate the benefits of 10 to 15 minutes here and there for boosting your mood, fitness and energy levels.
Here is simple total body, mum specific, 15 minute workout that you can do at home to increase your body’s ability to burn fat.
The 15 minute workout
Table top core control
To strengthen your core and back muscles start kneeling on all fours, engage your deep abdominals by gently drawing your lower abdomen towards your lower back. Keeping your back straight and stable raise one arm upwards and forward. Hold your arm extended at ear level, by your ear for 3 to 5 slow breaths. Slowly lower and repeat raising the second arm.
Perform 5 on each side.
To progress this exercise, slowly raise one leg then the other and for further challenge combine arm and opposite leg raise
Warm ups and low impact cardiovascular fitness
Low impact cardio exercise is the ideal choice for mums, who are looking to enhance their energy levels whilst avoiding stress on vulnerable pelvic floor muscles and joints.
Take a walk with your pram or perform a minute or two of a variety of standing low impact moves such as the heel dig.
Keeping your back straight, squat down and up as you tap alternating heels in front, reaching your arms forward and back.
Cardio toning: Row and Raise
Boost your fitness and tone your arms and thighs with slower moves combining squatting plus simultaneous leg and arm actions. As your fitness improves you may like to add light hand weights to increase the intensity.
Engage your core and pelvic floor. Step forward, then keeping that knee bent, extend your other leg straight behind you, squeezing your buttocks . Simultaneously reach both arms forward.
Step back and draw your elbows back and inwards, then repeat on the other side. Continuing alternating legs,10 – 15 on each side
The following moves are examples of safe, effective strengthening options. Aim to perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions of each. Naturally if they feel difficult cut back and repeat a 3rd set if they are too easy. Remember quality not quantity and listen to your body
For all upper body strengthening exercises you have the option to sit on a fitball, kneel or stand. Sitting on a fitball provides increased core training, especially if you add alternating leg raises, which you would only do if able to maintain good form and a straight, stable spine.
Light to medium hand weights or resistance bands provide increased challenge as your strength improves.
Standing, or sitting on a fitball, with your elbows bent by your sides.
Lengthen your spine and engage your core and pelvic floor. Raise your elbows to shoulder height then lower them back by your side.
Avoid the temptation to shrug your shoulders
To increase the challenge, if sitting on a ball, raise and lower alternating legs as you work your shoulders, keeping the ball still and your back long and strong.
Strengthen your chest and arms while to train your core control.
Starting (148) on your hands and knees Engage your core and pelvic floor and draw your shoulder blades towards your tail bone. (149) Flexing at the hips, slowly bend your elbows outwards to lower your chest towards the floor
For a convenient variation perform a push up at the wall with your hands at shoulder height.
To increase the challenge keep your hips straight and your legs in line with your neck and spine.
Upper back strength for perfect, pain free posture
Hold a resistance band on slight tension, raised forward at shoulder height. Engage your core and pelvic floor and set your shoulder blades downwards. Bend your elbows to draw your hands backwards and stretch the band wide. Release slowly.
This exercise can be performed effectively without the band by using “self resistance” and working as though you are holding a band.
Strengthen your quads for toned thighs
Standing with your feet hip width apart, arms by side engage your core and pelvic floor. Bend your knees and sit back into your heels to squat down. Keep the weight in your heels and your back straight as you stand back up.
Using light to medium weights add bicep curls to increase the workout as you become stronger
Tighten and strengthen your butt
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart
Engage your core and pelvic floor. Drive your heels into the ground and squeeze your gluteals / glutes/ butt as you raise your hips off the ground. Lower slowly.
Prone back extension
Strengthen your back for perfect posture
Lie on your front with your hands under your chin and neck in line with spine. Raise your chest and arms slightly and extend your arms outwards.
Bring your hands back to your chin and lower your chest to the floor
Stretch and relax
Enjoy some slow relaxing breaths as you stretch your body and take a few moments of time out for you. There are a range of mobility moves and stretches on offer , here are just two examples
Open your heart
Standing , kneeling or sitting with your fingers behind your ears elongate your spine and draw your elbows backwards as you gently lift your sternum to the sky. Hold for three slow breaths and relax
Stretch your back butt and hips
From kneeling on all fours sit back on your heels and breathe as you stretch from your fingers to your hips
Try Our Exercise DVD
The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD has been created to help mums fit exercise at home into their busy day and can be done in bite sized chunks when time permits and is available here
The DVD provides 6 safe, effective 10 – 15 minute workouts, each targeting a specific areas of a woman’s body, to strengthen and tone as well as helping to improve fitness levels and energy levels.
The DVD’s instructor, Lisa Westlake, is a leading physiotherapist and postnatal fitness instructor and one of the most awarded fitness professionals in Australia. With her extensive physiotherapy experience, Lisa has ensured the workouts are safe, pelvic floor friendly and include options for women with post natal concerns and different fitness levels.
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The Workout Summary
- 15 Minute Low Impact cardio workout – The Low Impact Cardio routine will improve your fitness and energy levels, as well as burning calories, while avoiding stress on your body – in particular, your vulnerable pelvic floor. This workout will put you on the path to being a fitter, leaner and more energetic version of you.
- 15 Minute toning cardio workout – By combining a low impact cardio conditioning routine with light resistance training, this energetic workout will make your heart and lungs stronger while burning calories and toning your arms, legs and butt. This is a great addition to the low impact routine, or as a stand-alone cardio option with the added bonus of arm and leg toning.
- 10 Minute upper Body workout – Conditioning your upper body will not only have you feeling and looking stronger, it will provide postural strengthening to combat stress on your upper back. You will also benefit from increased muscle stamina and definition, allowing you to keep up with your little ones.
- 10 Minute Lower Body workout – Hone in on your butt and legs with this lower body strengthening workout. It will have you looking and feeling strong, toned and energised.
- 10 Minute Abs, Back & core workout – The abdominal, back and core muscles are at the centre of a healthy body. With these safe and effective exercises, you will improve your posture, help alleviate back pain and strengthen your pelvic floor while you regain your waist and condition your abs and back.
- 10 Minute Stretch & Relax- Lengthen your muscles and relax your mind and body as you calmly and quietly stretch your body, top to toe.