After giving birth, we moms are ready for some much-needed exercise so we can shed some baby weight and gain confidence. The good news is that exercise is an excellent way to minimize and alleviate issues like postpartum incontinence, too. Of course, it probably goes without saying, but you can’t just pick up where you left off and sign up for a 5K.
In other words, when it comes to postpartum exercises, you need to be cautious and take it slow. Also, talk to your doctor first. They might advise you to wait a few weeks, but once you get the green light, take it easy with these nine safety tips and allow your body the time it needs to recover, physically and hormonally, from giving birth.
1) Start with Light Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, offer lots of benefits. For starters, these slight movements can gradually strengthen the pelvic floor, which helps minimize urine leakage and pelvic organ prolapse. Not to mention pelvic floor exercises can improve your sex life (when you’re ready for that, too). Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to help choose a set of Kegel balls and learn a few Kegel ball exercises to try out at home while multitasking.
2) Take It Slow with Low-Impact Exercises
Whatever you decide to do and whenever your doctor approves it, take it slow and steady. Even if you were doing strenuous workouts before you got pregnant, your body has undergone a lot of changes in the past nine months, so remember to be patient.
Jumping back into an old routine could prove dangerous and result in an injury or worse. Instead, start with more minor, lighter activities like a 20-minute walk down the street pushing the baby in a stroller, bodyweight squats, or calisthenics. A light restorative yoga routine is also a wonderful exercise starter. Testing your body’s capabilities is a great place to start and can help you build strength and tone the body. From there, you can build your stamina, as well as your duration and intensity.
3) Let Instructors Know
If you choose to take a class, seek out exercise classes tailored for new moms, avoiding stretches and movements that could potentially cause injuries. However, if you can’t find a postpartum-oriented class, at the very least, don’t be shy. Let your instructor know you recently had a child. Even yoga and spin classes can be turned down into a less intense workout, especially with the guidance and advice of a professional instructor. They might tell you to skip poses or invite you to slow down.
4) Wear a Supportive Bra
Wear a supportive bra when performing your postpartum exercises. A sports bra can help offer the support and comfortability you need, whether you’re slipping into a yoga pose or a light gait on a walk. In addition, by choosing the right bra when your breasts are sore due to nursing and irritable skin, you can focus on the exercise. Also, be sure to select a bra that isn’t tight or rough against the skin.
5) Find an Exercise Friend
Another safety tip? Look for postpartum yoga classes in your neighborhood. These classes are generally instructor-led and can even allow you to bring your baby to incorporate them into the fitness class. Simply find a friend who will accompany you during your postpartum exercise routine. It doesn’t even have to be another new mom! Plus, it offers time to catch up, talk, and spend time with one another. You can even make your new bundle of joy holds you accountable.
6) Slowly Add Weighted Exercises to Your Routine
As you take it slow and start with low-impact exercises, slowly add weight exercises to your routine. During your pregnancy, hormones cause muscles to become looser and weaker, which can create back and joint problems, among other things. So along with low-impact yoga, swimming, or aerobics, work in some weighted exercises such as push-ups and bodyweight squats. Deadlifts and shoulder presses can help tone your arms and back muscles, too, offering relief from back pain. Start with bodyweight exercises, including five push-ups, five squats, and five pull-ups, gradually increasing the set. If you find you can’t quite perform a push-up or pull-up, feel free to modify the exercise to your range of movement, working up from there.
7) Perform Gentle Ab Exercises
As a whole, perform gentler exercises when it comes to your ab region. While this might be the first area you want to shake off and tone up, they are weaker and have stretched significantly while growing a baby inside. Sometimes, women can develop what’s known as diastasis recti, where the abdominal muscles cannot fully close after delivery. While the gap is normal and nothing to worry about, you should still be extra cautious with your abs. So, skip the traditional sit-ups and crunches and try planks instead – although here too you need to be careful if the split is too wide!
8) Eat Well and Hydrate
While this tip isn’t exercise-specific, it does pay to stay hydrated and eat healthily. Eating well and staying hydrated plays a significant role in your overall health and helps to lose your postpartum weight, so don’t neglect this vital step.
Breastfeeding mothers especially should follow a healthy diet, including lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Plus, it’s essential to take in at least 16 cups of water each day as a nursing mother.
9) Take Breaks as Needed
This means not only breaks between your low-impact exercise routine but taking days off here and there. If you wake up one morning with little energy, listen to your body and cut it some slack — it just brought life into the world, after all. Basically, don’t take on too much too fast and too soon. It could lead to exhaustion, prolonged soreness, shakiness, and an increased heart rate. Instead, take a break or even choose a lighter exercise routine.
Yes, we moms want to feel and look like we did pre-baby, but that just isn’t going to happen – especially not right away! Hug your baby and appreciate your body for the wonderful life it brought into the world – and then take it slowly. You and your baby deserve the love!