Postpartum Exercise: Fitness Tips for New Moms
Having a baby is one of the most beautiful things in the world. Something that new mothers are both excited about and possibly dreading is the ability to exercise. It’s a big relief when you finally get to exercise after having a baby, but eating for two can make exercise feel a little dreadful when you have some work cut out for you.
That’s why it is important to understand limits and boundaries as a new mother and knowing how to pace yourself. Postpartum exercise is important to keep in mind, and having the right knowledge and tips to support your journey back is key.
That’s why we have this ultimate guide of great fitness tips for new moms.
Importance of Postpartum Exercise
Postpartum exercise is often interchanged with postnatal exercise. Regardless of the name, postpartum exercise is incredibly important to start after having a baby. In general, exercise has many benefits, but learning to retrain the muscles in your body that haven’t been used in quite some time is important.
Also, because your fitness levels are decreasing, your heart rate may be higher than normal doing specific activities. To better regulate your body and heart rate through exercise makes for a healthier mom.
This directly can affect your endorphins and your energy levels. You may be thinking like a mom who just gave birth that you are way too tired to exercise, but the reality becomes that when you are exercising you give yourself the chance to redeem some of that energy.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
The benefits that come from postpartum exercise seem to be endless. Anything that you would get from doing regular exercise will remain true for postpartum exercise. Having said that, there are numerous other benefits as you make your journey back to pre-[pregnancy.
Let’s talk about all the amazing benefits when you exercise postnatally.
- The most obvious benefit that you get from exercising after having a baby is weight loss. It is perfectly normal and healthy to have gained a little or a lot of extra weight after feeding two people for the last nine months. It can be upsetting to think about the process back, but if you make the exercise fun you can reap the benefits of gradual weight loss.
- Restoring your muscles is the next thing. Many muscles become weak when you are pregnant because they are not used regularly if you are not exercising while pregnant. This is actually why it can be beneficial to participate in some exercise if you are cleared. Bringing strength back to muscles can reduce your chance of injury.
- Improving the condition of your heart and cardiovascular system is incredibly important. It can be difficult to put that much stress on your body and lungs while pregnant, which is why when you are working back to the desired level, you pace yourself to not overdo it. A healthy heart is important.
- Mental health is something that a lot of mothers can suffer within the immediate aftermath of the baby. That’s why getting back to the gym and exercise can be an incredible boost to your mood and relieve some of the stress that may come with having a baby.
When to Start Postpartum Exercises
We’ve already mentioned a few times about pacing yourself and not jumping full speed into exercising as if you are going to participate in spartan races. The reason being is that it can be dangerous to push yourself too far too soon. That’s why understanding even when to start postpartum exercises can be critical.
Some women are going to have different conditions and recovery times depending on how the labor and pregnancy went. Here are a few pointers and tips for when starting postpartum exercise is a good idea.
- Generally speaking, walking at a moderate pace in good conditions can be done rather soon after birth, as long as the mother is feeling up for it.
- A little more advanced exercise for a healthy pregnancy delivered through the birth canal can be as soon as a few days after the birth of the baby.
- If there was a cesarean delivery, it is more likely for a few weeks without exercise to occur. This is because the recovery time is longer.
- Typically, your doctor can give you a good sense of when your body will feel OK to exercise again. This is something that can be discussed with your provider or surgeon in the aftermath of labor once everyone is settled.
Keep in mind that these are general conditions for pregnancy, and they are subject to change based on unique circumstances and women based on their pregnancy.
Best Postpartum Exercises
The great news is that even if you are a gym junkie, there are so many different exercises that are approved for postpartum exercise that can benefit women. This is what keeps the motivation going to continue your weight loss and health journey after having a baby.
- Running (build-up)
- Weight Lifting
- Aerobic Classes
- Water Aerobics
- Dance Classes
- Meditation (mental health)
Really anything that gets your heart rate going a little and something that you enjoy is great. It’s important to remember that muscle-building activities are great.
Postpartum Exercise Tips
Some women don’t know exactly where to start when it comes to exercises, which is why we piled together the best tips on moderating and starting your exercise. These tips can always be confirmed and checked with a health professional to ensure your utmost safety.
- The first tip is to really talk to your doctor and make sure you are cleared for exercise. On the contrary, some women are fearful of exercise and your doctor may be the first one to tell you that it is OK.
- Understand what low intensity is. Sometimes for athletes or ambitious people, it is easy to try and go full throttle. It is recommended to start with the most basic exercise like walking and small strength training to the abdominal and back muscle groups.
- Stay super hydrated. If you haven’t been able to exercise much because of your specific pregnancy, it is easy to forget to drink enough water. Especially while caring for a newborn. Staying hydrated leads to better workouts and safer conditions.
- Know when to push and when to back off. Some things won’t feel right. If you are starting out in a dance class, it’s good to let your instructor know your recent condition. This is because if you feel like your hips are bothering you, it’s safer to have an instructor and yourself look out and judge the situation than just you.
- Maintaining a healthy diet is also important. If you are going to do the hard work of getting in shape and working on your body, eating the right foods can help get you there faster. They also can play a major role in mental health and energy levels. Eating good proteins, vegetables, and enough carbs to recover is crucial.
Which Postpartum Exercises Should I Avoid?
Some exercises shouldn’t be approached at first. This is because the risk of injury and other health complications could arise should you pursue certain sports and fitness. Here is what you should avoid after giving birth recently.
- Following pregnancy immediately, your abdominals need time to heal. This is why high-intensity exercises like crunches, planks, sit-ups, and more are not a good idea to pursue. This holds even more true for any c-section delivery.
- Push-ups are also a high-intensity movement that you should not pursue. This also engages your abs too and can put you in a dangerous position with bad posture.
- The upward dog is a yoga pose that works to stretch out the abdominal, as well as a cobra. Stretching the abdominal during postpartum is not safe for new mothers to pursue immediately after.
- Any weights that are to be lifted should be no heavier than 15-20 pounds, as this puts a lot of strain on underused muscles such as the back and abdomen.
Postpartum Exercise FAQs
This can feel like a lot of overwhelming information at once, on top of having a newborn baby. It’s normal, which is why this section is strictly dedicated to the most frequently asked questions. If none of your questions appear here, then the next best solution is to speak with your doctor.
Are the risks really that bad if you start working out too soon after giving birth?
There are quite a few risks actually that can affect a mother’s health if they begin exercising too fast. Some on the injury side include hurting their muscles such as their abdominal and their back muscles from working out too aggressively. The back is stiff, and the abs are stretched, so they need time to heal.
On a more serious scale, the mother can also risk bleeding, infection, among other things that can send them back to the hospital if they are not careful. This is why low intensity is important in the beginning.
What are some of the best ways to get motivated for mothers who aren’t into exercise?
There are a variety of ways to get exercise back into your life, even if you don’t love it. The best way to stay motivated is to have an accountability partner. This means someone who is willing to work out with you and go through the same process to a degree. It may be another mom recovering through pregnancy, or it may be your significant other. Accountability partners keep us in check to make sure we are doing our workouts when we need to be.
Group workouts are another great thing. Many classes will offer group dance, group aerobics, and more, which keeps new mothers accountable as well.
How will I know to start increasing my intensity?
Working with a trainer or at least checking in with your doctor is a good thing to do when monitoring your intensity early on. Only you can listen to your body and understand if there are more aches and pain than usual. Because it is a gradual increase, you should feel comfortable for the first few weeks and not like you are training for a marathon.
Having said that, even getting out of bed some days may feel like a marathon, so listening to your body and understanding your mind is important in this process. From there you can gradually increase your load.
Work At It
For some of our fitness warriors, it can be exciting to finally be able to get out there and start working at it. For others, it may seem like the most dreadful thing on the planet. And that’s fine, postpartum exercise can be both. But understanding the benefits of incorporating it into your life to maintain being a healthy mom is important. No new mother should start right out the gates trying to conquer the world.
They should be in contact with their doctor, making sure they are cleared to take on light exercise and gradually increase. Remember to make it fun, whether it is through water aerobics, light dance class, or a simple walk with the baby.
It can be a mental reliever alongside physical relief. To reap full benefits, mothers should be super hydrated and trying to eat clean to double down. While the short-term Netflix and junk food may feel good, the long-term health benefits are what will keep you going.