While pregnancy is an amazing experience — complete with a valuable bonus at the end – it definitely takes its toll on a woman’s body. After a long season carrying and then delivering a baby, many moms are eager to get their former body back. Active women who exercise before and throughout their pregnancies are particularly ready to take on post-baby body workouts.
Each woman’s experience is different, so the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends consulting with your physician to determine when it is safe for you to begin exercise postpartum. If you experienced a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery without complications, your doctor likely will approve lower intensity exercise within a few weeks of delivery. If you had a cesarean section or difficult delivery, you may need to wait about six weeks before resuming workouts.
Generally, it is easier to begin with non-impact or low-impact workouts at first, with more intense routines gradually following as moms shed pregnancy weight and regain energy and strength. Postpartum, ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly.
Post-baby body workouts deliver multiple benefits, including:
- Contributes to weight loss and weight management
- Strengthens abdominals and core
- Relieves stress
- Increases energy and boosts stamina
- Provides important “me” time for mom
- Promotes better sleep
- Can help prevent post-partum depression
- Reduces constipation
- Decreases leg cramps
Postpartum exercise regimens can be the same as those performed during pregnancy, with intensity adjustments and progressions along the way as moms regain pre-pregnancy fitness levels.
- Walking – Get a good stroller and take your baby along for a change of scenery and some fresh air.
- Jogging – If you feel up to it and were a runner previously, jogging is a great stress reliever. Invest in a quality jogging stroller so you have more freedom to take off when you want.
- Bicycling – In the first few months after your baby is born, it may be best to stick to indoor rides on a stationary bike or in a class. As your baby grows, you can use a bike trailer or carrier seat to ride together.
- Mommy and me classes – Designed specifically for new moms, these classes let you bring your baby, nurse if necessary, follow structured workouts and offer an instant support group.
- Swimming or aqua exercise – Buoyancy feels great and you benefit from a total-body workout without overheating.
- Yoga and Pilates – These disciplines emphasize strength, core power, flexibility and balance, all of which are critical for postpartum exercisers. Plus, the mind-body connection can provide a welcome escape for fatigued moms.
- Strength training – Working with weights or resistance equipment tones muscles and boosts metabolism, so you regain your pre-pregnancy shape faster. Stronger muscles will make it easier to carry the baby, car seat, diaper bag, gear and more!
- Cardio equipment – Great low-impact options include cross trainers and ellipticals that work your entire body, stairclimbers for an invigorating challenge and rowing machines or recumbent ellipticals for a seated session.
- Zumba – This popular dance class not only gets you moving, but is a lot of fun!
While it can be difficult to carve out time for workouts, enlist the help of friends and family to watch the baby, create a library of DVDs or use online workouts, set up a home gym that you can use while the baby naps or plays nearby or find a gym that offers child care. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do the best you can! Remember, any exercise is better than none at all!