Exercise Postpartum – 12 weeks & beyond

Aug 1, 2023 | Physio, Pilates

Week 12 – Returning to High Impact Exercise Postpartum

High impact sports and activities include running, road cycling, mountain biking, football, netball, bootcamp, to name a few. If you plan to return to a higher impact sport and exercise postpartum; then a check in with your Physio at Week 12 is advised to ensure your core and pelvic floor are ready for the higher impact loading.

The body can take up to 12 months to fully recover from childbirth and pregnancy, especially when breastfeeding. You should be mindful of this lengthy healing time when progressing exercise. Your body will be the first to tell you if it is happy or not, listen to it.

Returning to sports

All return to sports should begin with a graded plan over the course of 8-10 weeks (at a minimum). Graded return to sport plans include short periods of easy paced activity with intermittent walking/rest breaks. Over 8-12 weeks the period of activity and intensity is increased (approx 10% each week) until the target distance or time is achieved. For example the ‘Couch to 5k’ running

In addition to Apps and online programs, you can consult a Physio or Sport coach to help you with a tailored plan to suit your goals.

Around 6 months postpartum is roughly when you should start thinking about entering your first non-competitive event or when you begin more competitive exercise training.

Strength training

The focus from Week 12 postpartum is less of the pelvic floor and core muscles working in isolation. We now focus on how you move and control your body as a whole. Strength training should focus on exercises specific to your sport or form of activity you prefer.  You should continue to challenge the difficulty and complexity of your movement patterns on a weekly basis.

Strength exercises specific to PFM training can be reduced to 2-3 times a week and integrated into exercises that place load on the PFM, such as a heavy squats, leg presses, adductor squeezes in table top.

From 6 months onwards you should find that you have a balance of both low impact and higher impact exercise. Examples of this balance include pilates classes (reformer core & jump), aerobics classes (body conditioning & bootcamp), gym work (weights & plyometrics).

Just remember…

In saying all the above, not everything goes to plan (that’s life!). Try not beat yourself up for not quite fitting into the above mapped out return to exercise guidelines. It is just that, a guideline. There are many outside factors that can add some speed bumps; lack of sleep, fatigue, breastfeeding, returning to work, family demands, lack of a set routine, only to name a few.

It’s important to step back and view the bigger picture of the return to exercise journey. No one reaches the top of the mountain in one big jump, it’s a bunch of smaller steps one after the other, maybe some slips along the way too. You will get there. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a couple of weeks longer than you hoped it would.

At the end of the day, your body is an absolute powerhouse for carrying you through the demands of pregnancy, childbirth and now taking care of a beautiful baby. It’s all quite the miracle isn’t it – and so are you! Keep going, you’ve got this!

There is so much more that goes into getting back into a consistent exercise routine postpartum. For more content on a variety of topics please follow our Postnatal Return to Exercise series for more valuable guidelines on getting yourself moving again.