New mothers tend to fall into one of two categories: those who cannot wait to return to exercising and those who may or may not have exercised prior to pregnancy but have little desire to do so now that they are busy with a newborn.
Regardless where you stand, exercise is healthy after pregnancy, as long as you clear it with your doctor and ease into a program. Working out helps you lose those extra pregnancy pounds, it restores muscle strength, improves heart health, relieves stress, and helps prevent postpartum depression.
Perhaps most important for new moms, exercise boosts energy, which you need a lot of with a newborn.
What are the best workouts for after pregnancy? You have several options. You can even combine exercises to create a variety of complete workouts. These 5 exercises should be a part of must-do workout routines for after pregnancy:
Pelvic Floor Exercises
One of the most important parts of your body to focus on following childbirth are pelvic floor muscles. These support your pelvic organs and work with your abdomen and lower back to support the spine and keep the pelvis aligned.
Pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken these muscles, increasing your risk for urinary incontinence and other problems. According to researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway, exercise is one of the most effective methods for improving pelvic girdle pain following pregnancy.
There are several pelvic floor exercises you can do to re-strengthen these muscles, including supine hip lifts, supine pelvic tilts, and abdominal curls. Each involves lying on the floor on your back and lifting the corresponding part of your body.
Whether you participated in cardio workouts prior to childbirth or not it is important to ease into a cardio routine after pregnancy. Walking is a great way to boost your cardio strength without putting your body at risk. Go for brisk walks and increase the distance each day.
You can also multi-task on walks if you bring baby along in a stroller. Speak with your doctor about moving from walking to jogging, if you so desire. Walking or jogging is merely a personal preference because both provide great cardio fitness.
This exercise is designed to strengthen the muscles in the body’s core. On your back, bend your knees and raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders in a diagonal line. Focus on tightening your abdominal muscles during the lift. Hold the position for several seconds and release.
Toe Touches and Other Flexibility Boosters
Post-pregnancy, you may find you spend a lot of time sitting. Flexibility might be an issue, so it is important to include stretching workouts in your daily routine. There are several benefits of stretching including boosting circulation and energy and is gentle enough that anyone can do it.
Start with traditional toe touches. Stand with your feet together and raise your hands above your head. Gently bend at the waist and reach your fingers toward your toes. Without straining, reach until you feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs and thighs.
In addition to toe touches, you might also consider a yoga program designed for post-pregnancy. This not only helps with flexibility, it also eases the stress of new motherhood.
Swimming is another great option, if you have access to a pool. There are even “mommy and me” swimming classes that allow you to participate with baby. Swimming is gentle and achieves several fitness goals, including strength building and cardiovascular improvements.
When to Begin Working Out
Some doctors still recommend new mothers wait at least six weeks before exercising, but others believe it is safe to return to exercise within days of a healthy vaginal delivery. Everyone’s body is different, so it is important to speak to your doctor about your desire to exercise and how you can do so safely.
Women who exercised before childbirth are more likely to spring back to their previous fitness regimens quicker, but it is still important to ease into the routine. If you delivered via C-section or you had a complicated vaginal birth, your doctor will likely recommend waiting until your body has healed.