It’s no surprise that postpartum exercise often feels like a catch-22. Of course you want to look and feel great, but you are likely exhausted and may even feel self-conscious. That said, it’s good to keep in mind the benefits of exercise after having a baby are two-fold: mental and physical.
Physically, exercising even 150 minutes a week (that’s just over 20 minutes a day – for those of us that are a little sleep deprived) helps to:
- Strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
- Boosts energy (yes please!)
- Increases flexibility
- Decreases risk for future chronic health conditions
Mentally, postpartum exercise helps to:
- Improve mood
- Provide social interaction (great excuse to see your friends, or to get out for a coffee…)
- Relieve stress and help prevent postpartum depression and anxiety
- Promote better sleep (yassss!)
With the wide-ranging benefits of postpartum exercise in mind, know that there is no right or wrong way to approach exercise after having a baby.
“There is no right of wrong way to approach exercise after having a baby.“
Talk with your health provider and ask for their their recommendations for when to start incorporating exercise into your routine and how vigorous you can get. After you receive the green light from your health care provider, ask yourself if you feel ready.
It is also important to keep in mind your regular activity level before you became pregnant. If you were exercising every day and throughout your pregnancy, you can start with more vigorous exercises sooner. If you were less active before or during your pregnancy, try incorporating just 10-30 minutes of activity. Work on stretching and strengthening abdominal and back muscles to start.
Walking is our favorite starting point for postpartum exercise. You can bring your baby with you in a stroller and benefit from the added resistance. This is also a great activity to do with other moms or friends. Exercising is an excellent excuse for socialization and we highly encourage you to find activities to do with other people. Having a workout buddy also holds you accountable to get out and stay active.
If it’s cold or rainy, or you have other little ones at home, try some fun online workout videos that even include your baby in the routine (some of our favs: 18 Minute Mommy and Me Workout, Mommy and Baby Pilates, and Postpartum Yoga). There are also numerous postpartum workout apps that are either free or cost very little. Check below for a few of our favorite free apps.
Our Favorite Free Exercise Apps
What about working out and breastfeeding? Trust us, breastfeeding is a common concern for moms who are interested in getting back into working out. We recommend breastfeeding before working out to avoid any discomfort. Also, try to wear a supportive sports or athletic bra that fits well and gives plenty of support. Make sure to stay hydrated, too!
There is no right or wrong way to get back into exercise after having a baby and we won’t lie; it is hard. Above all, it is important to prioritize time each week for light activity once you have been cleared by your doctor. This can help you get into a routine, have some much needed ‘me time’, decrease stress and make the time you do spend with your child more meaningful. Our best advice: start slow and small and know your way is the best way.
Written by: Carolyn Jackson