If you’ve just had a baby, exercise might not be at the top of your to-do list. With a brand new job title (mom!) and a serious lack of sleep, taking time to yourself might feel tough, but if you can set aside 30 minutes a few times a week, your mind and body will thank you. Once you get the okay from your healthcare professional, it’s time to sweat! Read on for our favorite postpartum exercises.
Whether it’s solo, with a stroller, or while wearing your baby in a carrier, walking is one of the best exercises for new moms. And with your doctor’s approval, you can usually begin easy walks shortly after birth. Try to meet up with other mom friends if possible - the social interaction can do wonders for your mood.
In fact, studies have shown that walking (specifically, walking with a stroller) might help treat or prevent postpartum depression. Outside walking will give you a dose of fresh air, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, consider logging steps on the treadmill or at the mall.
Running with a baby jogger
Once your little one is 6 months old and has good head and neck control, they might be ready for a few miles in the jogging stroller. If you’re lucky, your little one might even nap on the go! Since running is an intense exercise, make sure that you and your little one are truly ready before hitting the pavement.
Gentle yoga and stretching
In the hazy, exhausting days of new motherhood, you may not feel up for intense exercise. Yoga poses and stretches are something you can do at home, any time you have a chance.
Focus on relaxation poses (e.g. child’s pose, savasana) and stretches (cobra pose) that relieve tension in your shoulders, neck, and upper back. These areas can become tight and overworked as you get used to feeding and holding your baby. Make sure to give them a little extra attention!
Mommy & baby classes
From postnatal yoga to stroller fit classes, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise with your little one - no babysitter required. Check with your local YMCA, gym, or doctor’s office for local offerings.
Body weight exercises
To build strength and muscle, try incorporating lunges, squats, planks, and push-ups into your daily routine. But before you jump into to abdominal work like sit-ups and crunches, check in with your doctor. If you have diastasis recti (a separation of ab muscles common after childbirth), these moves might make it worse.
Getting in the water is a great way to work out without putting stress on your joints. This low-impact exercise also strengthens your upper body - super important now that you’re lifting and carrying your little one (and all of his/her gear!). If you’re not a top notch swimmer, try walking in the shallow end or treading water instead.
Your favorite workout video
Whether it's Zumba, a barre workout, or Pilates, a workout DVD will allow you to work up a sweat from the comfort of your own home. And bonus - baby will probably love watching you move around!
House and yard work
If you're not quite up for traditional exercise, every day activities can still count as physical activity. Weeding the garden, raking leaves, mopping the floor, vacuuming, and washing dishes are all good ways to get off the couch. If it’s safe, try doing activities while wearing your baby to burn a few extra calories.
Working up a sweat can help lower stress levels and get you back into your pre-pregnancy jeans, but remember to take things slow and steady. As a new parent, you’ve got a lot on your plate, so make sure your exercise goals are manageable and most importantly, fun!
Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.
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