Postpartum Exercise for New Moms
How soon after giving birth can I start exercising?
The healthcare professionals at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say you can resume mild exercise as soon as you feel up to it. However, your personal physician may recommend waiting until after your six-week postpartum checkup.
Your doctor will want to check for Diastasis Recti before you begin performing any abdominal exercises. Diastasis Recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominus muscle which covers the front surface of your belly area. Tension on the abdominal wall during pregnancy can sometimes cause this condition and multiple births or repeated pregnancies are known to increase the risk.
Since individual deliveries, conditions and recovery times can vary, we strongly recommend consulting your physician before beginning this or any postpartum exercise program
What precautions should I take when exercising?
Your ligaments and joints become much looser during pregnancy and it takes several months for them to return to their normal state. For this reason, you have to keep several things in mind once you start exercising again.
- lt's common for a baby to make sudden jerks that may cause you to lose your grip, so support him/her with both arms.
- Be sure to wear breast support during exercise. This is particularly important if you are nursing.
- If you experience bleeding, dizziness, shortness of breath, pain in your back or pelvis, difficulty walking, faintness, rapid pulse or palpitations, stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor.
- Don’t push yourself to exhaustion. There are many benefits to performing postpartum exercises but it is wise to remember that taking care of a baby takes a lot of energy. Burning yourself out trying to do too much too soon is not good for you or your baby.
- After an exercise session you should feel energized. If you suddenly lose your appetite, become extremely irritable or feel exhausted, reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts until these conditions improve.
When is the best time to add walking or running to my exercise routine?
In most cases, you can begin walking within two weeks after childbirth. Start slowly with 5 to 10 minutes per day and gradually increase to 20 minutes. Once you are comfortable with 20 minute walks, gradually increase your walking time up to 30 minutes.
It is important to remember that your ligaments and joints remain loose for several months after your baby is born. If you feel any unusual pains or strains, cut back on your walking. If these symptoms persist, contact your doctor’s office. Trying to walk through the pain may cause damage to your joints and ligaments
If you’d like to add running to your exercise routine, build up to brisk walks and jogging first. Once you start running, pay particular attention to unusual pains and strains. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, your ligaments and joints remain loose for several months after childbirth. Caution is highly recommended to avoid damage which will not only delay your progress but will make it more difficult for you to take care of your baby
How can I begin to get active again and still spend time with my baby?
Walking is one of the most pleasant ways for you to get some exercise and enjoy time with your infant. Babies enjoy the activity and stimulation of riding in a stroller while you rebuild your stamina and strength. In time, you may choose to include your baby in some of the exercises you’ll find in the MommySlim® Easy 8 below.
Is including my baby in exercises safe?
Sharing some of your exercise time with your baby can be a safe and rewarding experience. The MommySlim® Easy 8 exercise program below includes several exercises specifically designed to help you tone your body while bonding with your baby. It is, however, important to remember to pay close attention to your child at all times when you are exercising.We also strongly advise following these simple safety tips:
- Always support your baby with both arms. Otherwise, you may lose your grip when the child jerks or squirms.
- If you start to get tired during an exercise, stop immediately. Fatigue can cause you to lose control of your baby.
- Do not lift your baby high into the air.
- Avoid jostling or bouncing the baby too much.
- Swinging movements that build momentum should be avoided.
- Your baby should have full head and neck control before you attempt any motions that would leave the child unsupported.
- Make sure you fully understand the exercise before incorporating your baby into the routine.
The following exercises are a great place to begin your postpartum exercise routine. Remember to check with your physician prior to beginning these or any physical activities.
MommySlim® Easy 8: A total body workout for New Moms
This series of exercises should be done about 3 to 5 times a week. Experience has shown exercising early in the day is the best way to fit this activity into your difficult new schedule..
Several of the exercises below have options to include your baby. This is not mandatory. You should first master these exercises without incorporating your baby. Only when you are totally confident in your ability to perform all the motions included in the exercise should you consider adding your baby to the mix to increase the difficulty factor. Never place your baby or yourself in a compromising position. If you are not totally confident or comfortable performing the exercise, do not attempt it with your child. If you choose to substitute weights for your baby in the advanced versions of these exercises, use weights that will let you complete 10 repetitions per set without straining. Do not attempt to do too much too soon; slow and steady wins the race to a better toned body..
Key Stretches - Warm Up and Cool Down
Begin and end each workout with a 5 to 7 minute warm-up/cool-down session to avoid minor injuries and make your exercise time go smoother. We suggest marching in place for a minute or two to start. While marching, move your arms and shoulders up and down and in small circles. Then you can begin the following stretches:
Please note that each of the following stretches should be held for about 15 seconds and repeated twice.
- Head Stretch - Tilt your head to the right and hold. Then, tilt your head to the left and hold. Continue this stretch by moving your head back and forth.
- Hamstrings and Glutes Stretch - Stretch out on the floor and stare at the ceiling. Now, bend your knee and pull it up to your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat this routine with your other leg.
- Thigh Stretch - OK, it is now time to stand up again. In a standing position, bend your left leg until your heel touches your glutes. Hold this pose for 15 seconds and then repeat the motion and the hold with your right leg.
- Back Stretch - Go ahead, hug yourself. Seriously, wrap your arms around your body as if you were hugging yourself and squeeze. This works wonders for stretching those achy back muscles.
- Kegel Exercises - Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and are often essential during and after pregnancy. Since some women have difficulty locating this muscle group, we suggest contacting your doctor’s office for instructions.
1. Plie Squat Variations: The plie squat is a lower-body exercise that can help you increase muscular strength in your leg and glute muscles. Over time, this can make lifting and carrying a lot easier.
- Stand up straight with your feet wider than hip distance apart and your toes pointing out.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips towards the ground. Keep lowering until your hips are approximately a foot to a foot and a half off the ground (depending on comfort level). If you manage a full bend, your knees should be over your heels.
- Now, ever so slowly straighten your legs while squeezing your glute muscles. Work to make sure your knees are pressed out as you rise. Complete 10 repetitions.
- Gradually work your way up to 15 and then 20 repetitions.
If you’re not comfortable exercising with your baby, you can use a bag of groceries for weight. If you choose to use your baby in this exercise, hold the child securely with both arms. Always make sure your baby’s head is supported while doing this squat.
Once you are totally comfortable doing 20 repetitions, you can consider adding your baby to the routine for added weight.
2. Detergent Container Rowing: This simple exercise strengthens your back and arms. This is a great way to regain your posture and reverse the effects of the rounded position you may be in when feeding your baby. You’ll need a laundry detergent container with a handle for this exercise. A 100 fl oz container filled with water weighs about 7 lbs, while a 50 fl oz container filled with water weighs about 4 lbs.
- Grasp the container with both hands.
- Stand with your legs wide apart.
- Keeping your back straight, bend forward from your hips.
- Move the container to your right hand.
- Bend your right elbow up.
- Slowly lower your arm.
- Complete ten repetitions and then repeat with your left arm.
When you are comfortable performing 10 repetitions, increase to 15 and gradually work your way up to 20. Once you’ve mastered 20 repetitions, increase the weight and size of the container
3. Baby Kiss Downs: This quick exercise is fun for you and your baby. As an added bonus, it strengthens your chest and arms. This added strength makes it easier to lower your baby into the crib and to pick the child up.
- Gently place your baby on the carpet.
- Get down on your hands and knees facing your baby’s feet
- Bend your arms to lower yourself to a position where you can give your baby a kiss.
- Deliver the kiss.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
Due to the added body weight you have to push in these positions having your baby directly under you is NOT recommended.
When you are comfortable with 10 repetitions, advance to 15 and gradually to 20. If you start to feel this exercise is too easy, you can advance to a modified push up position; either on the tops of your knees or on your toes.
4. Baby Kiss Ups: More kissing and more fun with mommy adds up to one great deal for your baby, For your part, you also get to strengthen your abs and neck which improves your posture, muscle tone and back support.
- Make sure your baby has good neck control before beginning this exercise.
- Maintain a firm hold of the child with both hands.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles as you lift your head and shoulders to kiss your baby’s head. Exhale during the lift.
- Very slowly lower your head and shoulders back to the floor.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
When you feel ready, increase your repetitions to 15 and later move up to 20.
5. Basic Pelvic Tilt: You won’t be using your baby for this exercise but you’ll be happy to know that this move strengthens your abdominal muscles, tones your glute muscles, improves your posture and, perhaps most important, decreases lower back strain.
- Stretch out on the floor and stare at the ceiling.
- Bend your knees while you place your feet flat on the floor.
- Start with your tailbone and slowly raise your hips off the floor one vertebra at a time.
- When your waist is off the floor, hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Very slowly ease yourself back into your starting position.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
When you are comfortable doing 10 repetitions, move up to 15 and then eventually to 20. When you’ve become comfortable with 20 repetitions, increase the lift until your knees and shoulders form a straight line. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and avoid arching your back. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
6. Posture Pulls: This simple move strengthens your arms and your back to help restore your posture.
- Lay down on your belly facing the carpet.
- Either turn your head to one side (right or left doesn’t matter) or place forehead on the carpet.
- Stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms facing the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your extended arms about six inches from the floor while making sure you keep your shoulders pressed down.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds and then lower your arms.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
When you feel ready, increase to 15 repetitions and gradually work your way up to 20 reps.
7. Clamshell: Pregnancy often weakens the glute muscles and hips. This exercise rebuilds your strength in those areas.
- Lie on your right side with your hips slightly bent.
- Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle.
- Rest your weight on your lower arm and keep your abdominal muscles tight.
- Squeeze your glutes and lift your top knee 45 degrees. You can let your top foot press into your bottom foot as your legs open.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
- Switch to your left side and perform 10 repetitions on this side.
When comfortable with 10 repetitions on each side, increase to 15 and gradually to 20.
8. Heel Sliders: This final exercise is wonderful for reducing that annoying lower back strain and getting the strength back in your abdominal muscles.
- Lie down on the floor and face the ceiling.
- Bend your knees while placing your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your abs as you slide your right leg straight out on the floor.
- Keep your abs tight as you slide your right leg back into your start position.
- Repeat this move with your left leg.
- Remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight while sliding.
- Complete 10 repetitions with each leg.
Later, of course, you’ll want to move up to 15 repetitions and in time, 20 repetitions.