Having a baby can take a toll on your body, but establishing or resuming a fitness routine can make it faster and easier to start feeling like yourself again.
Having a baby is a unique experience for every woman, but there are some things that are universal about pregnancy and the days and weeks following birth. The fact that you have grown and carried another human being inside of you for nine months is an amazing thing, but pregnancy and birth create particular stresses on the mother’s body.
How your body bounces back ― or doesn’t ― will in part depend on things like your pre-pregnancy fitness, how much weight you gained, and whether you were active during your pregnancy. But whatever your physical conditioning, if you’ve recently had a baby, you can reap the many health benefits associated with weight loss through diet and exercise just like the rest of the population. Not only will exercise help you lose baby weight, it can also improve your mood, relieve stress, and improve sleep.
Even if you weren’t active before or during your pregnancy, starting regular exercise afterward can help establish good lifelong habits in you and your child.
Being active while pregnant is your best strategy
Engaging in regular activity while you are pregnant may be one of the best things you can do to ensure you lose all of the weight you gain. If you’re cesarean delivery.
What kind of birth did you have?
Whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section will somewhat determine how soon you can start being active. A C-section is major abdominal surgery, but vaginal birth is no walk in the park either for most women. Everyone is unique. Your level of activity and how soon you’re able to get started should be determined by you and your healthcare provider.
If you were in good shape before, stayed active during your pregnancy, and had an uncomplicated delivery, you could be ready to start light exercise as soon as a few days after giving birth. If you had a C-section, typically it will be 4 to 6 weeks before you can start a gentle exercise routine.
Start out slowly
Postpartum exercise recommendations are the same as they are for the rest of the population ― 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, and strengthening exercises on two or more days per week that include all major muscle groups. Once you get the green light to start exercising, make sure you listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard, too soon. If you ever feel pain, stop. Be especially mindful when doing any kind of abdominal exercises, especially if you’ve had a C-section. That said, the muscles of your core and pelvis likely need the most attention after having a baby. Some simple exercises can start you on the path to rebuilding and strengthening those muscles.
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels are performed by contracting your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine midstream. Contract the muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Wait several seconds and contract the muscles again for a set of 10. Work your way up to 3 sets of 10.
Pelvic tilt exercises strengthen your deep abdominal muscles. The move can be built upon as you gain strength. Lie on your back on a yoga mat or other soft surface with your legs bent and your arms at your sides. While exhaling, contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your back on the floor while rolling your hips forward. Tighten your glutes and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Work your way up to 3 sets of 10. When you become stronger, this move can progress to a bridge by pushing your hips up off the floor.
Push-ups are a tried and true way to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and core. Being a mother means lots of lifting, which is made easier by having a strong upper body. If you can’t do a full push up, do them from your knees at first. Do as many as you can, working your way up to 3 sets of 10.
Walking with your newborn in a stroller is an easy but effective way to start getting aerobic exercise. If you don’t have a lot of energy at first, even just 10-minutes of walking can deliver significant benefits. When you feel stronger, try incorporating intervals. For example, walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slow to a normal pace to recover, and repeat. As your walks get longer, incorporate more and longer intervals and recovery periods.
Body weight moves can also be added to your walks to strengthen your lower body. Using the stroller for stability, try adding some lunges and squats for your glutes and thighs, and some heel raises for your calves. Stock your stroller with some light free weights and stop periodically to do some bicep curls and shoulder presses.
Find a group
Most people agree it’s easier to stick to an exercise routine if you have someone to do it with. Consider starting or finding a moms’ walking group in your neighborhood. You can find groups online. You can also download apps to guide you through a “stroller workout” and join communities of like-minded moms.
Give yourself permission to try a variety of things. If you had a workout routine before you got pregnant that is too daunting at first, find another activity or dial back what you were doing before. As you become more active, make sure you’re eating enough high-quality calories, especially if you’re nursing. Be sure to also drink plenty of water, again, especially important if you’re nursing.
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t immediately able to do what you could before. Getting back in shape after pregnancy isn’t something that will happen overnight. It took nine months for your body to be reshaped to accommodate a baby, and it could take at least that long before you’re back to “normal.” Accept that your body may never look like it did before you had your baby. Embrace the changes and be open to the possibility that with dedication to eating right and regular exercise, your post-baby body can be better than ever.
December 12, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN