Exercising after having a baby might be the last thing new moms want to do with all the feedings, changes and adjustments they are making in their daily lives. However, there are many benefits to exercising after moms deliver their bundle of joy. Postpartum exercise can help elevate mood and energy, promote weight loss, improve cardiovascular fitness, relieve stress and restore strength in core muscles. Here are tips on core strengthening after giving birth and how to get your pre-baby belly back.
There are three layers of abdominal muscles. The outermost layer is the rectus abdominis. It is comprised of two halves held together with connective tissue. This muscle is responsible for flexing or curling the trunk. The middle layer is the oblique muscles. They run diagonally, and are responsible for rotation of the trunk. The innermost layer is the transverse abdominis muscle. This muscle runs around the trunk like a corset. It is responsible for supporting the abdominal wall and when contracted causes a compressive action.
During pregnancy, moms may have developed diastasis recti which is a separation of the outmost layer of the abdominals. As a result of the uterus growing and stretching abdominal muscles, the connective tissue holding the two halves of the rectus abdominus can become overstretched and in some cases, torn. Why is this important? Abdominals support internal organs and the pelvic floor. If abdominals are weak, it can contribute to chronic back pain and decrease support for organs and the pelvic floor. This can lead to hernias and pelvic floor dysfunction. Cosmetically, this separation can look like the infamous “pooch” that doesn’t go away.
How to Check for a Diastasis
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your head up slightly off the floor. If you see a “football” shape that forms in your belly, you have a separation. Some people will experience pain or sensitivity at their belly button.
Contractions – Sit comfortably with your back supported. Take a breath into your nose, expanding your belly. As you exhale, make the “sshhhhhh” sound until you run out of air. This will ensure you are contracting your transverse abdominis, as if you are bringing your belly button to your spine. Do this 10 times.
Holds – Sit comfortably with your back supported. Take a breath into your nose expanding your belly. As you exhale, make the “sshhhhhh” sound until you run out of air. Hold your belly button to your spine and COUNT OUT LOUD to 10. Counting out loud ensures that you are breathing. Make sure to squeeze and hold your belly button to your spine, and don’t let go until you get to 10. Work your way up to holding for 30 seconds. Do this 10 times.
DO NOT DO SIT UPS! This will make your diastasis/separation worse.
Walking – Go out and get fresh air. In the cold weather, bundle up in layers and walk for 30-45 minutes. This will help with circulation, energy, and cardiovascular health. As you walk, take breaths into your nose and exhale bringing your belly button to your spine.
Participate in a Mommy-Baby exercise class or a Stroller Fitness class where you can meet other moms. Your biggest support can be someone who is going through the exact same thing you are. Group classes are fun, filled with energy and a great way to get in shape. Make sure the instructor knows you have a diastasis so they can modify the exercises for you.
Core Connection Mommy-Baby classes can be found in Huntington, NY. For more information, please call 631-629-5507 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read other posts from Long Island Mamas on pregnancy and prenatal services:
By Rachelle Bojer
Guest Contributor and Owner of Lotus Physical Therapy, PC