If you just came home with your newborn and haven’t even been able to find time for a shower, you’re not alone. Making time for yourself can seem like a luxury when you’re responsible for taking care of another life. Ask for support from a family member or friend and do something for yourself by scheduling post-partum fitness into your day.
Getting active helps fight post-partum depression and manage stress, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). While post-partum exercise can also help you lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy, this is less about your appearance and more about your overall wellness and recovery. Take this first step to prioritize your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Daily walks and pelvic floor exercises are a great place to start before advancing to more strenuous workouts. Here are some other tips to guide you:
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Benefits of Post-Partum Exercise
When your mind and body are cared for, your baby’s will be too! Staying active can positively impact your mental state and help you get through some sleepless nights. It’ll also help as your little one grows so you can physically keep up with an energetic toddler later on. Here are more ways post-partum exercise benefits you:
- jump-starting your energy (you’ll need plenty of it!)
- getting your blood flowing and keeping your heart healthy
- warding off postpartum depression and keeping your spirit as high as your energy
- relieving stress so you can rest easy at night
- toning your core and pelvic floor to speed up your post-partum recovery
When It’s Safe to Work Out After Giving Birth
Many new moms can begin exercising soon after they arrive home with their baby in tow. But every pregnancy is different, so it’s always best to follow the personal advice of your healthcare provider. If you had a C-section or experienced other pregnancy complications, give it a few days or weeks before you get started.
Once you get sign-off from your doctor, start slow with light activities like neighborhood strolls, stretching, and pelvic floor exercises. That last one is especially important since it will help you regain bladder control while healing your pelvic floor. You’ll also want to focus on core exercises that’ll help you recover abdominal strength after childbirth.
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Guidelines to Follow When Starting a Post-Partum Fitness Routine
The recommended time for post-partum exercise is roughly 2.5 hours or more of workouts each week. Break this into smaller increments of 10 or 30-minute intervals, focusing on the core muscles in your back and abdominal. Step up the intensity as the weeks progress until you reach a level you’re comfortable with. And be sure to listen to your body – it will let you know when to slow down or stop. Just remember these key factors when exercising:
- if there’s a fullness, breastfeed or pump before exercising
- drink lots of water to stay hydrated
- wear a supportive bra that fits well, not too loose or tight
- be gradual and intentional with your fitness routine
- listen to your body’s signals for when it’s time to stop
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Focus on Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor strengthening will help you regain core control postpartum so you get back into your everyday routine without the worry of potential incontinence. You’re probably already familiar with one of the most common pelvic floor exercises: Kegels. So, that’s an excellent place to start. Don’t be shy about asking your doctor for help too. They can even recommend physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor exercises.
Don’t Restrict Your Diet
You might want to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight right away but focus on developing a healthy routine instead. If breastfeeding, your little one relies on your milk supply for these critical first few months. Any major dietary changes can wipe out your milk supply, so it’s best to aim for gradual changes.
Enjoy this time bonding with your newborn, and try to put any worries about weight gain or appearance aside. You just gave birth and are now an incredible Mama, so that’s a lot to be proud of!
Give Yourself Enough Time to Recover
Moms have a lot on their plates, especially these days. You might feel like the only way to get ahead is to keep going full-steam, but sometimes you need to take a break and re-energize. Don’t buy into an unrealistic celebrity and social media-driven push to get your body back in 30 days or less. Giving birth is a lot, and your body and mind need time to recover. So try not to rush the process.
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Listen to Your Body & Don’t Push Too Much
Your body will signal when it’s time to slow down. Take a break if you are feeling more exhausted than energized, sore, shaky, or if your resting heart rate is elevated.
Keep an eye out for these warning signs, pause your routine, and get in touch with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- your abs are bulging and could be a sign of diastasis recti
- vaginal discharge becomes heavier or appears bright red
- exercise is very painful in your muscles or joints
- bleeding starts again right after it seems to be over
Give These Post-Partum Workouts a Try
When it comes to rebuilding your core strength, several tried and true exercises and routines can help your post-partum recovery. Here are some of our favorite workouts for you to try:
1. Core Breathing
You might not consider breathing an exercise, but learning this technique can help stretch your spine and strengthen your core. Best of all, you can take this essential first step and apply it to all your workout routines.
These can be performed while sitting, standing, or lying down. Start with your spine straight and take a deep breath from your diaphragm. Engage your core and feel your rib cage open up.
Then exhale, lift your pelvic floor, tighten your core and hold for five seconds. Do about five to ten of these a day. You know you are ready for more when you can contract and relax your abdominal muscles while keeping your spine straight.
2. Pelvic Tilts
Sometimes subtle movements can lead to big results. That's definitely the case here! Here's how to do a pelvic tilt: lie back on a yoga mat with your knees bent.
Tilt your pelvis slightly, tuck your hips toward your ribcage, engage your abdominal muscles, and press your lower back to the floor. Hold this position for ten seconds and repeat. You should feel your pelvic muscles gently rocking back to front as you continue this routine.
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3. Single-Arm Rows
Start with a lightweight resistance band or dumbbell. Pull your shoulder blade back and engage your core while keeping your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Retract and do about ten repetitions before switching to the other arm. This is a great upper back routine to work your biceps and triceps.
4. Leg Lifts
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your side. Engage your abs with the core breathing technique, then raise your leg so your knee aligns with your hip and your shin is parallel to the floor.
On the inhale, extend your leg out to the floor slowly. Exhale and return to the bent position. Aim to make these motions without arching your back. Do 10-20 repetitions and then switch legs.
This yoga pose is a great beginner move to strengthen your core, reduce back pain, and boost your energy. Come to all fours on your mat in a bridge-like position. Face down toward the floor with your wrists over your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
Take a deep breath, round your spine toward the ceiling on the exhale and move your head toward your belly button. Hold in this “cat” position for two seconds. Then inhale, lift your tailbone and relax your belly while you raise your head high toward the ceiling. Hold this “cow” position for another two seconds and repeat.
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6. Postpartum Planks
Planks are some of the best core workouts, strengthening your upper body and glutes when doing a standard plank. But if you had pregnancy complications, you might want to skip this one. Depending on how you are feeling, feel free to modify this pose with your knees bent.
Get started by lying your stomach down toward your mat. Press your forearms to the floor with your elbows bent underneath your shoulders. Flex your feet, so your toes touch the mat. Engage your abdominal muscles and glutes, and lift your body, so only your toes and forearms are touching the floor.
Keep your body straight, tighten your buttocks, and tuck your belly button toward your spine. Begin by holding this pose for 30 seconds, then increase the time gradually as you progress with repetitions.
By adding these workouts to your postpartum fitness routine, you will definitely feel the positive difference it makes. Most of these require only a mat and weights, so it’s easy to do them at home with your newborn. You can also stream other postpartum routines from companies like the Daily Burn or Peloton at home.
If you prefer working out in a more social atmosphere, look for new mom exercise groups at your local gym, recreation center, or yoga studio. Making time for yourself has never felt so good!