Working Out After Pregnancy: Best Postpartum Workouts
Returning to exercise after having a baby may seem daunting. But when you're a new mom, the endorphins a good workout releases are priceless, and getting your strength back is worth the effort.
The postpartum period includes the time from immediately after giving birth until the physical changes from pregnancy and childbirth have subsided — typically six weeks, but it can be longer. Doing specific postpartum workouts can tone up the muscles that have been thrown for a loop during pregnancy and help your body recover faster. In this post, you'll learn exactly which exercises make a great postpartum workout.
How Long After Giving Birth Should You Wait to Workout?
You can start working out lightly just weeks or even days after giving birth once you're feeling healed enough to walk and are no longer taking pain medication.
For weight lifting workouts, you need to wait 12 weeks after giving birth. Before then, it's safe to go for walks or jogs, practice yoga, or do light aerobic exercises at home as long as you aren't in pain. However, it's perfectly fine to wait six or seven weeks after giving birth until you begin.
The risks of returning to exercise in your postpartum period are low. However, if you didn't work out during your pregnancy, returning to exercise afterward will feel demanding. Even if you did exercise during pregnancy, your abs, back, and pelvic muscles have been through quite an ordeal since then. The key to exercising after having a baby is to listen to your body and take it slow. While you may not make significant gains in losing weight until later, exercising postpartum is safe for breastfeeding women and offers several benefits.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Research shows that postpartum exercise has several health benefits, including:
- Improving aerobic fitness
- Lowering high cholesterol
- Raising metabolism and energy levels
- Increasing insulin sensitivity
- Improving your quality of sleep
- Enhancing mood and helping your psychological well-being
Getting back in shape sooner can also mean getting back to your regular activities quicker than you otherwise would and having the resilience to take care of your new baby in the process.
Best Postpartum Workouts
Experts agree the most important exercises women should do after pregnancy are aerobic exercise, stretching, and strength training exercises, including pelvic floor exercises. But what exercises can you do when working out after pregnancy?
Here are the top postpartum exercises to add to your routine:
Kegels are exercises for your pelvic floor muscles that are easy to perform in a standing or sitting position without even moving much of your body. All you need to do to perform a kegel is contract and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, and then release them.
Doing several of these a day can help your pelvic floor, and vaginal muscles recover more quickly from childbirth. Kegels tighten the muscles you use to control your bladder and bowels. They also help prevent uterine prolapse, which is the collapse of uterine tissues into the vagina from a lack of pelvic floor strength.
Abdominal contractions are a lot like kegels because all the movement requires is a muscle contraction and release. You can start doing them days after giving birth and pair your contractions with deep breaths. Abdominal contractions help you get your ab muscles working again after they've been shifted and stretched by pregnancy.
Kneeling Pelvic Tilts
After pregnancy, your back muscles are left shortened and tight, while your abs are extra loose. Kneeling pelvic tilts require you to use your abs for small pelvic movements that stretch your lower back muscles and engage the pelvic floor. They help tighten up your abs and can improve back pain.
Begin in a tabletop position, with your arms, knees, and toes touching the floor. Then, squeeze your abs as you tilt your pelvis forward. Hold for a few seconds and release with an exhale.
Going for a simple walk qualifies as a good workout when you're getting back in shape after pregnancy. Even standing in place marching as you deeply breathe can work. Walk at a comfortable pace, which you can increase as days go on. Walking your baby around in his stroller not only gives you exercise and fresh air but can help your newborn sleep.
Doing squats using just your body weight with no added weights is a great way to tone up your legs and butt after giving birth. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and bend your legs 90 degrees to lower down. Lowering yourself into a squat should also engage your core. As you keep your back flat, make sure you're lengthening your back muscles and contracting your abs. Use your butt muscles to come up from the squat.
You're spending a lot of time holding your baby, so why not exercise while you're at it? Wait until your baby is at least ten weeks old before you start doing these:
- Baby Glider - Hold your baby to your chest and step forward with one foot into a lunge, with your knee at 90 degrees. Step back to replace your foot where it was, and repeat with the other leg.
- Baby Bouncer - Holding your baby up to your chest, lunge to the side with one leg, and bend into a squat without letting your toes extend further than your knee. Return to standing and repeat on the other side.
Tips for Working Out After Pregnancy
Be sure to go easy on yourself and be gentle on your body as you return to exercise after pregnancy. If you aren't sure if it's okay to start working out yet, get it cleared by your physician before you start. Short daily exercise sessions are better than wearing yourself down with a hard workout. Once you're past the postpartum phase, you can easily build on your fitness routine with longer workouts and higher intensity.