You did it—you delivered your baby! What an extraordinary accomplishment and proof of just how strong your body is. If you’re feeling out of shape, achy, and fatigued, that’s completely normal and okay. You just brought another human into this world, after all!
Between sleep deprivation, diaper changes, and constant feedings, being a new mom can feel overwhelming, to say the least. However, even with so many responsibilities, many new moms are eager to start exercising again to gain back some strength and fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans. Those aren’t the only benefits of postpartum exercise though. Reestablishing a fitness routine helps new moms regain energy, strengthen their abdominal muscles, relieve stress, sleep better, and reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.
Hopefully, you’re getting excited about moving your body again, but before you hop on a treadmill, let’s go over some important tips to ensure a safe and effective postpartum fitness journey.
1. Start moving again, but very slowly
First things first, it’s always important to get approval from your doctor that it’s okay to start moving. Once you’ve been given the green light, it’s beneficial to add a brief walk to your day as soon as you feel able. Walking is especially important for those that had a C-section as it boosts circulation and reduces the risk of blood clots.
Studies have shown that new mothers who engage in light exercise after birth tend to heal more quickly and feel better faster than their less-active counterparts.
2. Focus on low-impact exercises
When you can return to a more regular fitness routine depends greatly on how active you were before and during pregnancy and if you had any complications during birth. Generally speaking, most new moms can return to a light fitness routine between 2 and 4 weeks postpartum—but again, the green light should always come from your doctor.
Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, ease back into movement with low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, and walking (stroller fitness anyone?!). Swimming in particular is an amazing postpartum exercise because it’s gentle on the joints and pelvic floor, and is excellent for strengthening the core and back muscles.
For people who were more active before and during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated delivery, you can most likely resume high-intensity exercises, such as running, whenever you feel ready and bleeding has stopped, usually around the 4 to 6-week mark.
3. Do exercises using just your body weight
You don’t need any fancy equipment to start building your body back up after birth. You can start doing Kegel exercises the day after your baby is born. To do a kegel, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold for 3 to 5 seconds, and then relax the muscles for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this sequence 10 times, 3 times a day. You might need to work your way up to doing the full amount.
Squats, floor bridges, forearm planks, and modified push-ups are all great to do post-pregnancy, as long as you’re feeling well enough to do so. As always, it’s important to listen to your body—which brings me to the last, but most important tip!
4. Pay attention to your body
Keep in mind that your body is still going through a lot of adjustments and healing. Be very mindful of not going overboard. How will you know if you’re taking it too far? Watch out for these signs:
Other fluid leakages (i.e. urine or feces)
A feeling of heaviness in your pelvic region
You’ll naturally have some light bleeding and discomfort after giving birth, but these things shouldn’t change or increase much. If you notice that your bleeding or pain is increasing during or after exercise, you need to scale back your movement. Start with twenty to thirty minutes of movement a day, and evaluate how it’s going from there.
So remember: ease back into it, take it slow, stay well hydrated and nourished, and go at a pace that suits you. The internet is full of good advice, but you know yourself the best!
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