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Fitness vocab: diastasis recti

Prevent the postpartum condition with this exercise.

Consider this Furthermore series further education for fitness. Here, we help define the terms that all athletes should know.

TERM: Diastasis recti

DEFINITION: Diastasis recti is the separation of the ab muscles, caused by the uterus’ expansion during pregnancy. It results in an abnormally wide space between the two sides of the muscles. The condition, which affects 35 percent of pregnant women, may cause a bulge in the center of the abdomen that becomes pronounced when the muscles are tense, and it persists postpartum. (Physical therapy can help reverse it.)

There's no proven link between diastasis recti and factors like age, method of delivery, or weight during and pre-pregnancy. However, one study found that women who exercised regularly during pregnancy were less likely to get a moderate or severe diagnosis than those who didn't.

If you’re expecting, walk or do another form of exercise at least twice a week and avoid going from lying down to sitting up: “One of the ways to minimize the risk of diastasis recti is to avoid crunching motions,” says Carolyn Appel, CSCS, author of the forthcoming book The Little Book for Big Bellies. Instead, practice rolling to the side, then push yourself up with your arms. This takes the strain off the belly.

Do the motion below whenever you go from lying down to sitting up (in bed, at the beach), or use it as a sit-up alternative. In that case, complete 8 to 12 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side for one set. Repeat for 3 sets.

Directions: Lie on your back. Bend your left knee with the left foot flat on the ground, left arm at your side, and right arm flat and extended at shoulder height. Use the left foot to push you toward your right side so that your shoulders are vertically stacked. Now push with your arms to get your trunk vertical. If using this move as a sit-up alternative, reverse the motion to return to start. That's one rep.