After-Baby Exercise

Photo Credit: Robert Whitehead CC-BY-2.0

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that women who exercised before and during pregnancy should be able to return to their pre-pregnancy level of fitness training after about 6 weeks. The changes that occurred in a woman’s body during pregnancy will persist for as long as 6 weeks, sometimes longer. Women who have had a Cesarean section delivery may need to wait a few additional weeks to begin fitness training again, because a C-section delivery is major surgery. Every woman’s body responds differently to the dramatic physical and hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that physical exercise has been associated with a lower risk of postpartum depression. Your doctor can tell you when it’s safe to begin exercising again.When a new mother is ready to begin exercise again, start slowly and focus on core strength, muscle strength training and low-impact aerobic exercise for cardiovascular conditioning. 
Pelvic tilts are an excellent, low-impact exercise that helps to strengthen the muscles of the lower back and the abdominal muscles. The movement of the pelvic tilt is subtle, but effective. To perform the pelvic tilt exercise, lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your hands at your sides palms down. Inhale and then gently, and slowly, lift your pelvis back toward your abdomen until your lower back presses against the floor. Do not allow your buttocks to lift off the floor. Hold the lift for 5 to 10 seconds. Exhale and lower your pelvis back to the beginning, relaxed position. Try to do 10 pelvic tilts each day. Increase the length of time you hold the tilt. 
Aerobic exercise gets your heart pumping and your body sweating. It is a great way to condition your heart and lungs while burning calories to lose weight. After delivery of a baby, return to aerobic exercises slowly. Don’t try to run 2 miles after having a baby, even if you did so before you were pregnant. Walking is a perfect way to get a low-impact, cardiovascular workout for your whole body. Put baby in a stroller and go for a long walk in the park every other day. Swimming and bicycling are ideal, low-impact aerobic exercises. Remember to start slowly, exercising 10 to 15 minutes at a time and gradually increase the amount of time doing aerobic exercise until you return to your pre-pregnancy condition.  
When you think you are ready to return to the gym, avoid high-impact activities or lifting heavy weights. Strength training does not have to include lifting weights. Isometric exercises using your own body weight or resistance bands can help increase your muscle strength and burn fat. For example, push-ups strengthen your abs, chest, arms and upper back muscles. Exercise balls are great to help increase your strength and improve balance. Balance ball squats can help increase leg and abdominal strength. Stand up straight with your back to the wall and an exercise ball between your lower back and the wall. Lean against the ball slightly and slowly lower your body to a sitting position by bending you knees and rolling the ball up your back. You may be able to only lower your body to a half-sitting position the first few times you do this exercise after having your baby, but soon you will be able to do a full squat. Do 10 to 15 repetitions, if you can. Increase the number of repetitions as your strength returns.
Prop the ball against a wall and position it behind your lower-mid back.  Walk the feet out a bit so that you’re leaning against the ball, feet about hip-distance apart.  Bend the knees and lower into a squat, going as low as you can (no lower than 90 degrees) and keeping the knees behind the toes.  Push through the heels to come back up and repeat for 15 reps.

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