- Exercise after birth
- The first one to two weeks after birth
- Kegel exercises
- An early postpartum exercise routine
- From three to six weeks after birth
- 3 Exercises You Must Do Immediately Post Pregnancy
- 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise (and Probably Don’t)
- 1. Your core will be stretched-or even separated.
- 2. Every labor and healing experience is different.
- 3. You’ll experience brand-new aches and pains.
- 4. There are emotional challenges, too.
- 5. Sleep is as important as ever.
- 6. It takes a village.
- 7. Jogging strollers come with caveats.
- 8. Breastfeeding burns calories, but it’s not a workout.
- 9. Take it easy and know it’s worth the effort.
- When to start
- Pelvic floor strengthener (Kegels)
- Head and shoulder raises
- Pelvic tilt
- Building up your workout
- When to stop
- Postpartum Fitness
- Postpartum Exercise: Easing Into a Fitness Routine After Birth
Exercise after birth
The first one to two weeks after birth
Limit your activity to caring for yourself and your baby.
If you had an exercise routine during pregnancy, ask your health care provider when you can begin again. You can start the gentle postpartum exercise routine described below the day after you give birth.
If you have concerns about your postpartum weight loss, talk with your health care provider.
If you had a Cesarean birth:
- Try not to lift anything heavier than your baby.
- If you have other children who want to be held, sit down and have them climb into your lap rather than lifting them.
- Limit your trips up and down stairs. Take the stairs slowly.
You can start doing Kegel exercises the day after your baby is born. You may need to build up to the number of Kegels you were doing before your baby’s birth.
Start with regular Kegels and build up to doing super Kegels.
An early postpartum exercise routine
You can start this exercise routine the first day after your baby is born. Start with doing each exercise two times a day. Each day do one more repetition per set until you are doing 10 of each exercise two times a day.
Deep breathing with abdominal wall tightening
Position: Lying on your back or side with knees bent.
- Take a deep breath through your nose. Let your abdominal wall expand upward.
- With your lips slightly parted, blow air out through your mouth while tightening your abdominal wall.
- Keep blowing until you have emptied your lungs.
- Don’t take too many deep breaths in a row or you might get dizzy.
Position: Sitting or lying.
- Pull your toes toward you as far as you can.
- Point your foot downward.
- Rest before continuing. If pointing your toes downward causes cramps: pull up your toes and relax.
Foot and ankle circles
Position: Sitting or lying.
- Make large, slow circles with each foot, first to the right, then to the left. This is an excellent exercise to improve the circulation in your legs.
Position: Lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your fleet flat on the bed or floor.
- Tilt your pelvis back by flattening your lower back against the bed or floor.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and your bottom.
This exercise strengthens your abdominal muscles and helps relieve backache.
From three to six weeks after birth
- Gradually return to normal activities. If something feels like it’s too much to do, don’t do it.
- Bend your knees whenever you lift anything, including older children, to help prevent injuring your back muscles.
- Avoid heavy lifting and vacuuming for at least six weeks.
- Wait at least six weeks before starting exercises like running, sit-ups or leg lifts unless your health care provider says you can start earlier.
- Before you start doing sit-ups or leg lifts, check to see if your abdominal muscles have separated:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Reach one arm toward your knees as you tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your head and shoulders.
- Put the fingers of your other hand just below your navel. You will feel your muscles tighten. If there is a separation between the two halves of your abdominal muscles that is three or more finger widths, you will need to do a special exercise to reduce this separation. This exercise is described next.
- Exercise to reduce abdominal muscle separation:
- Lie on your back with knees bent and 12 to 16 inches apart.
- Cross your hands over your abdomen so that you will be able to support your abdominal muscles.
- Breathe in deeply. As you exhale, raise your head toward your chest and gently pull the separated muscles toward each other.
- At the end of the exhale, lie back and relax.
- Do a set of these exercise two times a day.
- Start with two repetitions and add one repetition a day. Work up to a set of 10 repetitions twice a day. When the separation is less than two finger widths, you can start abdominal strengthening exercises, such as curl-ups and sit-ups.
3 Exercises You Must Do Immediately Post Pregnancy
As a new mom it’s important to take time after welcoming your baby into the world to focus on loving, bonding, and healing. Getting back to your pre-baby workouts — or a new routine altogether — could take some time. And that’s OK.
However, there are some exercises that can and should be done immediately postpartum to help your body heal well.
I advise postpartum mamas to follow my 4R Post-Pregnancy Protocol.
What are the 4 Rs?
These are all important steps to feeling more comfortable in your body, allowing your body to truly heal itself from the inside out, and getting back to the gym in a strong, safe manner in due time.
Today, we’ll touch on the rehab portion of this series.
3 exercises to help your body regain optimal function after baby
Regaining function of the body is really where your focus post-pregnancy should be, or you can get into the tricky territory of struggling with core and pelvic floor issues for much longer than necessary.
You can do Exercises 1 and 2 from the first few days postpartum. Add Exercise 3 after the first 10 days or 2 weeks postpartum, if you’re feeling comfortable.
Exercise #1 — Core + Floor Connection Breath
What to do?
- As you inhale, it should feel like your ribcage, belly and the base of your pelvis (think: around the vagina and anus) are gently filling up with air.
- As you exhale, breathe the air out of the ribcage, the belly, and the base of your pelvis.
- Do 2 sets of 10 breaths daily. You can do the breaths in any position: sitting, side lying, standing, or lying on your back. Of these four position, it should feel easiest in the lying or side-lying position. Sitting will be slightly more challenging, and standing will be the most difficult of the four positions.
Why do it?
- It will help you regain tone throughout your entire core. In my opinion, the core in a postpartum body = the Core + Floor Five (the diaphragm, the abdominals, the muscles that support the spine, the pelvic floor muscles, and the glutes).
- Doing a million crunches or contractions of the pelvic floor (e.g. kegels) will not help you train the whole core.
- You will learn how to gain and release tension in the abdominals and pelvic floor.
- Your inhale breath will help to release tension, and your exhale breath will help to gain tension in those muscles and connective tissues.
Exercise #2 — Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch with Overhead Reach
What to do?
- Get into a short lunge stance on the floor, with both knees at a 90 degree angle
- Place your weight evenly on both legs, or more so slightly on your back leg
- Squeeze your back leg’s glutes tightly, so you feel a stretch along the front, through the hip flexors and the quadriceps
- Whichever knee is on the floor, reach that arm up in the air. Stretch your finger tips up towards the ceiling, and then take a gentle side stretch over the front leg side. You will feel a nice openness through the side of the ribcage.
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps each side daily.
Why do it?
- It teaches your body stability, as the position itself is a bit unstable. You’ll really need to squeeze your glutes to feel stable over the back leg.
- It’s a really nice opening side stretch for the diaphragm and the ribcage which can become cramped and stiff through mama duties!
Exercise #3 — Squat
What to do?
- Stand tall and inhale as you prepare to sit back, into the hips.
- Think about squatting “between” your legs. Your feet will be slightly turned out, and the knees will track outwards slightly following the line of the feet.
- Squeeze your glutes and quadriceps to stand up, exhaling as you return to the standing position.
- Do 2 sets of 10 squats daily.
Why to do it?
- You will maintain good mobility and movement through your pelvis.
- You will regain core stability through the whole core by controlling the movement as you lower into the squat and stand back up from the bottom with power.
- When you use the breath to inhale down and exhale up, the abdominals and pelvic floor go through the motions of undergoing a stretch and then a contraction.
There you have it! Three must-do exercises from the Rehab part of my 4R Post-Pregnancy Protocol. If you’re a new mom, I urge you to start doing these simple exercises.
Remember, you can do Exercises 1 and 2 from the first few days postpartum, and Exercise 3 after the first 10 days or 2 weeks postpartum, if you’re feeling comfortable.
9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise (and Probably Don’t)
Photo: Blazej Lyjak /
There is no bigger wake-up call than the difference between how a woman pictures herself as a mom and the actual reality of the situation. Set aside all of the “I’ll definitely do X, Y, or Z as a parent” claims-especially when it comes to exercise.
Postpartum fitness will likely be an entirely different ball game than you anticipated. (Just look at star trainer Emily Skye, whose pregnancy journey was totally different than she planned.) Even the best-intentioned new moms may find that their fitness takes a backseat when they have a new little one in the house. Here, some need-to-know facts about postpartum exercise that may not be on your radar.
1. Your core will be stretched-or even separated.
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest differences between your pre-baby workouts and postpartum exercise lies in your core. One 2015 study suggests that virtually all women experience diastasis recti (when the right and left abdominal muscles separate) at the end of pregnancy and that up to 39 percent still have some level of separation at six months postpartum. (Related: Kelly Rowland Gets Real About Diastasis Recti)
Diastasis recti aside, “most women are surprised by just how different their core feels once baby has arrived,” says trainer Maura Shirey, a certified pregnancy fitness educator and owner of Bodies for Birth. “The core remains overstretched and the woman is left with a belly that feels very different. Women will describe feelings of vulnerability, disconnection, absence, vacancy, and nonexistence when referencing how their postpartum core feels in the early days.” Combined with a weakened pelvic floor, this can make returning to fitness quite challenging for new moms, since core strength is vital for overall health and basic fitness. Shirey recommends a focus on strengthening the transverse abdominis (the deepest muscles in your core) to regain strength and stability. (Try these abs exercises that can help heal diastasis recti or go see a physical therapist or trainer who specializes in postpartum training.)
2. Every labor and healing experience is different.
“Postpartum recovery time is different for every woman,” says Gina S. Nelson, M.D., fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and ob-gyn at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. “My impression, based on experience alone, is that your pre-pregnancy level of fitness is the biggest determinant of how you’ll do in postpartum recovery.” If you have good fitness habits and a degree of conditioning beforehand, you’ll likely have an easier transition back to fitness after giving birth. “That said, the vast majority of women will be able to resume all normal activities, including exercise, by six weeks postpartum,” she says.
There are several complications that can interfere with postpartum exercise, including “postpartum depression, c-section, postpartum hemorrhage, excess weight gain in pregnancy, pubic bone symphysis, and diastasis recti,” says Dr. Nelson, but all of these situations have solutions. A six-week post-partum check-up is the standard, but Dr. Nelson says you shouldn’t wait that long if you suspect something is wrong. “Many caregivers now are seeing patients at one or two weeks postpartum to identify problems early,” she says. Ideally, your doc will bring up the topic of exercise and give the go-ahead to get active again. But you should also have questions ready for your six-week visit and can ask specifics about returning to workouts that you may have been doing pre-baby.
Even without complications, Dr. Nelson suggests starting exercise “gradually and gently with much more mindfulness than before.” She says women should use the first three months of postpartum exercise to get their bodies used to working out again and not to make gains. For example, runners can start with walking, then walk-jogging.
3. You’ll experience brand-new aches and pains.
You hear all about relaxin (the hormone that helps loosen joints for labor) during pregnancy, but it actually stays in your system well beyond the birth of your baby. “Some sources believe that relaxin can stay in the body for up to 12 months after weaning,” says Shirey. This means your joints remain looser than usual. That lack of stability means your body is more prone to aches, pains, and injury.
Your new lifestyle could result in some aches too: “Motherhood can be a very ‘reactionary’ time, where we’re not slowing down to think about how we’re moving and positioning our bodies because there are needs that feel (and often are) more urgent (baby is crying, needs a diaper change, is hungry, etc.),” says Shirey. “You find yourself hanging out in super-uncomfortable positions until a leg or foot goes numb, with a full bladder, in an attempt to keep baby sleep.” She recommends focusing on alignment both during exercise and in everyday life.
Image zoom Photo: Fizkes /
4. There are emotional challenges, too.
Postpartum depression (PPD) has gained a lot of attention in recent years-and rightfully so, since the American Psychological Association estimates one out of every seven new mothers will experience PPD. Even women without diagnosable depression will likely experience hormonal shifts and possible mood swings as a new mom. (Emily Skye and Kate Middleton have both shared their personal experiences with the “post-baby blues.”)
“I witness this being a very emotional time for many women at some point or another,” says Shirey. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20 percent of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety, according to Postpartum Support International. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and within the first year after childbirth. (Here are some signs and symptoms of PPD to keep an eye out for.)
While PPD or general postpartum mood swings may lead to a lack of interest in exercise, Dr. Nelson says working out will help improve your mood and boost confidence-which is especially important when you’re bombarded with crazy expectations of what your post-baby body and fitness should look like.
“I often find that there are very unrealistic expectations about what postpartum fitness should look like,” says Shirey, “I credit this to social media and the overall lack of good information found on the internet. With a general emphasis on ‘getting your body back’ postpartum and Instagram images of celebrities in waist trainers wearing their skinny jeans with a 6-week-old in tow, it can be overwhelming to discern what’s realistic for postpartum recovery.”
5. Sleep is as important as ever.
Sure, your new little bundle of joy will sleep about 20 hours per day at first, but that happens in several increments. This means most mothers have trouble getting enough consecutive hours of sleep to feel well-rested and to feel like they have the energy to work out.
“This can be a bit of a ‘catch-22,'” says Shirey. “Exercise has the potential to provide more energy, but it also has the potential to be completely depleting-especially when you’re already sleep-deprived.” Exercise should not add to exhaustion, so listen to your body and consider less-strenuous workouts when necessary. “One day, a higher intensity walk including some hills might feel great,” she says. “On another day, when feeling particularly fatigued, some stretching and breathing work might be the right fit.”
6. It takes a village.
One potential barrier to postpartum exercise is the fact that baby needs a place to be while you work out. Your days of grabbing your gym bag and heading out the door without a second thought are history. Now, you have three options: work out with baby (which often means your workout takes a backseat), pay for childcare (some moms are not comfortable with a stranger babysitting early on), or leave baby with your partner or another trusted family member or friend. This means your support system is key. “A disorganized family life where there is inadequate help is a big barrier to resuming exercise,” says Dr. Nelson. (Take a peek at these mommy-and-me fitness classes that actually give you a solid workout.)
7. Jogging strollers come with caveats.
Before becoming a mom, most female runners probably think they’ll just load up the stroller and their annual half marathon schedule won’t need to budge a bit. But there are some things to consider. First, do your research and make sure your stroller is actually built for jogging. (Believe it or not, there are strollers that have “jogging” in the name but aren’t suitable or safe for jogging.) Just like any baby product, there are options in varying price ranges. But expect a jogging-appropriate stroller to set you back more than its non-jogging counterparts.
In addition, Shirey says you should check with your baby’s pediatrician and your jogging stroller’s manufacturer to find out when your little one can safely tag along on a run. Most babies aren’t ready until they’re 6 to 8 months old. After all of the above, “They can be surprisingly challenging to push and get used to using,” says Shirey, “so it’s best to be patient, take it easy to start and focus on alignment/core strength while working with this extra resistance.” (This Pilates stroller workout can be a great place to start.)
Image zoom Photo: Tomsickova Tatyana /
8. Breastfeeding burns calories, but it’s not a workout.
Nursing may not count as strength or cardio, but breastfeeding and making milk does demand a large amount of metabolic resources, says Dr. Nelson: “Breastfeeding requires an additional 300 calories above that required at the end of pregnancy,” she says.
Because you burn calories from breastfeeding (but it doesn’t necessarily count as exercise), you may notice the scale dropping while your clothes still don’t fit the way they did the last time you were at that weight. Shirey says that most women experience some degree of de-conditioning during pregnancy. She recommends slowly and methodically progressing resistance training to build or rebuild strength and muscle tone. (Related: This Woman’s Heartbreaking Confession About Breastfeeding Is #SoReal)
Very strenuous workouts can actually impact breast milk too, though your supply should stay intact as long as you’re eating enough and drinking enough water. Dr. Nelson recommends consuming extra calories and increasing water intake by one or two liters per day while nursing.
“Beyond sheer calories and hydration, I know of nothing about working out that diminishes milk volume,” says Dr. Nelson. Studies show that regular exercise at moderate to high intensity does not alter the quality or quantity of breast milk, but that extremely intense anaerobic exercise (read: jumping, sprinting, etc.) may alter the taste of milk due to physiological byproducts of exercise (such as lactic acid) and may impact your baby’s nursing behavior, according to a review published in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology.
9. Take it easy and know it’s worth the effort.
With all of these challenges and precautions, it’s still worth it to carve out time for exercise as a new mom. “When women resume workouts after a baby is born, they often comment on how much it means to them,” says Dr. Nelson. “The time they spend on themselves takes on a heightened importance which they cherish.”
There are so many benefits to postpartum exercise, says Dr. Nelson. “I encourage new mothers to be patient with themselves, their babies, and their families. I would like them to be self-accepting and to give themselves permission to take time for a workout once they have recovered. They should be encouraged that it will be good for them and good for their family too.”
- By Andrea Blair Cirignano
I just had my 6 week postpartum OBGYN appointment and was cleared for exercise. I was both looking forward to this but also dreading it because I no longer have an excuse for being so physically LAZY. I go through cycles of exercising/not-exercising like most of us and have always tried to fit in at least walking into my schedule. Honestly since I had Piper and was juggling 3 jobs with part-time childcare it really fell through the cracks. Fast forward to today — and for the first time I really feel the need to lose some weight. I’ve always been naturally thin and the last time I was on a diet + exercise routine was before my wedding. I don’t do well with diets most of the time but the fact that none of my clothes fit is really motivating me. I posted something on Instagram asking people for their favorite at-home workouts since I know that’s all I’ll be able to fit in (if at all!!!) right now and thought I’d share them today. What’s great about all of these is that they are QUICK so you can fit them in during a nap or after your kids go to bed. Technology has really revolutionized work outs and I’m just amazed at how many options there are available that make it easy to get a great work out at home.
BBG (Bikini Body Guide): This was by far the most suggested workout – and I’ve seen it everywhere lately from bloggers doing it to it popping up non-stop as an ad on Facebook. People love it because it WORKS – but it’s pretty hardcore. I downloaded the app SWEAT but someone also sent me the PDF and I did the first workout last night! The plan consists of 3 workouts a week (around 30 mins) and I think there is a whole diet component too. You’ll see there is a huge online community with BBG.
Tone It Up: Another popular suggestion — I’ve known about TIU for a few years since we featured the girls on Glitter Guide a while ago. They also have a strong online community, workouts and a diet plan and like BBG people rave about the results.
The Balanced Life: I’m really excited about this one because I love pilates and find it can really transform my body if I stick with it. Robin has programs you can buy but she also has some workouts on Youtube — I did an 8 minute one last night and it was great! I love that they are quick and easy — and she also has a 30 day pilates challenge!
Barre3: I love that barre studios are offering classes online! I’ve only done barre once and it was KILLER but I totally get why people get sucked into it– and I love that this one combines yoga, pilates, weight training + cardio. Its $29/month so much less than the classes.
Aaptiv: I used Aaptiv when I was pregnant and really enjoyed it. They have stroller workouts and really ANY kind of class and you can access it from your phone through their app which is convenient. The only thing I don’t like is not having a visual example for some of the harder workouts since I’m not well trained in all of the exercises. For me it’s great for walking/running and gym machines (but we aren’t members of the gym at the moment).
Fitness Blender: Hundreds of free workout videos are available on this site at all different fitness levels. They also have programs and nutrition plans that you can pay for.
Momma Strong:Really excited about this one! It’s $2/month, offers 5 different online fitness programs all geared towards women who just had babies or are currently pregnant and all workouts are 15 minutes and under!!!
When to start
For some women, exercise is the last thing on their mind during the first month postpartum. In fact, many obstetricians and midwives suggest waiting four to six weeks after you give birth before beginning to exercise. (And you may need even more time to recover if you’ve had a c-section, a bad perineal tear, or other complications.)
But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it’s okay to start exercising sooner if you feel up to it. Just get your doctor’s okay before you begin any postpartum physical activity and remember to take it easy at first. Here are a few simple exercises to start with.
Pelvic floor strengthener (Kegels)
If you had an episiotomy or if your perineum feels bruised or swollen, then doing Kegel exercises to tighten your pelvic floor muscles will improve circulation to the area and help avoid problems such as incontinence. These muscles tire easily, so it’s best to do several contractions repeatedly throughout the day rather than in one session.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten the muscles of your vagina (as if you’re trying to interrupt the flow of urine when going to the bathroom).
- Hold for a count of ten, then release. Repeat ten times. Try to work up to three or four sets about three times a day.
- Don’t tighten leg or abdominal muscles.
Push-ups are a good way to strengthen the upper body muscles needed for carrying your new baby. If you have time to do only a few exercises, make this one of them.
- Start on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back flat and your stomach in, gently bend your elbows and then straighten again. Breathe normally, and don’t lock your elbows when you straighten them. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged. (You don’t need to lower yourself all the way to the floor to benefit from this exercise.)
- Repeat ten to 12 times. Work up to three sets.
Head and shoulder raises
This exercise helps tone your abdominal muscles, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t feel the muscles working. It can take weeks to recover your strength, and progress depends on how fit you were before getting pregnant.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your head.
- Take a breath and, as you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles, flatten the small of your back against the floor, and raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Keep your core muscles tight.
- Slowly lower and repeat the entire sequence eight to ten times.
This is another good exercise for strengthening your abdominal muscles.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale and expand your abdomen.
- Exhale and lift your tailbone toward your navel, keeping your hips on the floor.
- At the top of the tilt, tighten your buttocks, then release.
- Repeat eight to ten times.
Building up your workout
In addition to these exercises, you’ll also want to do some type of cardiovascular workout, such as brisk walking. Start out with five minutes, two or three days per week, and work up to 20 minutes or more.
As you feel stronger and less sleep deprived – usually around four to six weeks postpartum – you can add sets and do more repetitions to increase the level of difficulty, or you may want to try more advanced exercises.
When to stop
If you notice your lochia becoming heavier or turning bright red, stop exercising and call your doctor. The bleeding could be a sign of a hemorrhage (though exercise doesn’t make this more likely).
Mommy and me classes, at-home workouts, and gyms with childcare: our favorite ways to get your body back after baby.
A couple months after my first baby was born, I decided it was time to get back into shape.
My 30-day Bikram Yoga Groupon was kind on my wallet, but a bitch to my ego. The giant mirror glaring back at my big ass, boobs, and belly didn’t help either. Scrawny vegan women (and men) calmly mastered the 26 grueling postures designed to tone, strengthen, and bring divine serenity.
Me? I just felt pissed off and ready to pass out.
I wasn’t a stranger to this 100-degree workout (I’d dabbled in it years ago and actually liked it), but my two-month postpartum, sleep-deprived body hated it now. There wasn’t a leaky-boob stained t-shirt in the house — this wasn’t my tribe.
And I never went back.
It took me another month (or so) to recover and fumble into my first Mommy and Me Yoga class where I finally found my peeps — and my sanity. It was the right fit, the right time, and guess what? Eventually, I found some semblance of my former waistline, which, outside of sleeping through the night, is the holy grail of motherhood.
Photo courtesy of Yoga Jai Ma in San Diego, CA
You see, half the battle of losing the weight is finding a workout that doesn’t suck the life out of you. In short, you have to find your new groove.
Time, money, nursing, sleep deprivation, and fussy babies will all play a role in working out as a new mom. So, if that literally means “tiny steps” (i.e., walking) or waiting until your lady parts stop hurting so darn much…then take all the time you need. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere without spit up on them anyway.
Vanity aside, research shows that exercise helps reduce the risk of postpartum depression – and that was good enough reason for me (hello, Irish genes). And here’s more bright and shiny news: breastfeeding alone burns 600-800 calories a day. Thanks, Mother Nature, for that little gimme.
So, does this mean you can just kick back and watch the weight drop off? Uhhh, not exactly…we live in reality and not the land of impossible dream bodies of Hollywood new moms. Seriously, Gwyneth, stop it…you’re really not helping the situation.
After giving birth, your body is working hard to repair itself. Going on a strict diet isn’t healthy, but cutting out empty calories like soda and french fries is just what the doctor ordered (fries are vegetables, right?).
A well-balanced diet will give you more energy to deal with the lack of sleep, brainpower, and, well, solitude in your new life. We all knew that when we signed the dotted line of motherhood.
Seriously, though, new motherhood can be incredibly isolating. So I highly recommend finding an exercise class, gym, or a workout buddy who forces you out of the house (or away from your desk during lunchtime).
Fortunately, there’s a growing trend of “Mommy-and-Me” classes and gyms with good (clean, safe, fun) on-site childcare.
Ok, so where do we start? Pull on those sexy maternity sweatpants and dusty sneakers — it’s time to get out the door!
According to postpartum fitness expert, Renee M. Jeffreys, M.S., “Most women’s bodies aren’t ready for serious exercise until six weeks after giving birth — longer if they’ve had a Cesarean section.”
“Start by walking around the block,” Jeffreys says. “If it feels good and doesn’t cause or exacerbate bleeding, walk a little farther the next day.”
The great thing about walking is that you and baby can both get out of the house, allowing you to explore new territory together. And hey, you may even bump into some fellow new moms you can introduce yourself to, or at least swap stories to determine who’s more sleep deprived. (You.)
If you can, walk to the store and bring your stroller to carry some groceries home. Hey – feeling useful again does something good for the inner-you, too. You might even be inspired to go home and cook something yummy (okay, let’s not get TOO carried away).
Walk up the stairs. Walk in nature. Grab an umbrella, bundle up, and walk in the rain. Put one foot in front of the other…and just go.
If you’re a runner, this is a great way to ease back into it. Much to your dismay, you may need to wear a panty liner if your bladder is a little leaky, which is oh-so-common (less common for C-Section moms). In fact, most women experience some incontinence after a vaginal delivery, especially if you had a big baby. This is due to damage to your pelvic floor muscles and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it does warrant its own newsletter.
Related: Our favorite jogging strollers
The Buddy System
As much as you love the sound of your baby’s coos, she can’t give you take-out food tips or catch you up on the latest Game of Thrones episode (which you now find too gory to watch). Find a mom buddy (or buddies) to walk, hike, dance, stretch, and (hopefully) laugh the weight off with you (and the baby you’re wearing or pushing). DIT (doing it together) can be more fun than DIY (doing it yourself).
Being accountable to someone else’s schedule and time might force you to actually do the work. It’s easy for me to blow off myself (and my workout), but less so when someone else is depending on me. Remember also that moms can be the biggest flakes in the world (not on purpose, I swear!), so be understanding when that happens too.
Photo courtesy of Fit4MOM
If you don’t have a buddy — go find someone. Ask another mom in your neighborhood or check out a group on Meetup.com or through a local mom’s group. You’re not alone in needing to stay motivated. It takes a village to raise a family, and you might need one to get back in shape too.
Fitness DVDs and Online Workouts
If you’re a loner (or you just prefer to exercise alone) — be a buddy to yourself first. Find a way to work out that fits, challenges, and elevates you.
I’m not sure why I haven’t had much luck with fitness DVDs or online exercise classes. Maybe it’s too easy for me to cheat and head to the fridge instead (or that pile of laundry, bills, or non-nappy baby). That said, there are plenty of moms who swear by them.
Some even incorporate their wee ones into their routines (baby = barbell?).
Fitness videos can be an affordable way to kick your butt and take the weight off in the comfort of your own home, all while not requiring back-up childcare (who knew it would be so hard to get away?) or a ton of planning and scheduling. There is also an incredible amount of workouts available online now, too.
Here are a few at-home courses recommended by our readers:
Note: If you have an abdominal separation, or diastasis recti, as a result of pregnancy and birth, please read up on the exercises that are no-nos (namely crunches and such).
- Barre3 ($29/month) — Barre is a very popular workout that combines Pilates, ballet, and yoga. You can purchase an online subscription and do it at home. The barre method is a great low-impact way of improving your strength and doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred ($8)— This program guides you through three 20-minute workouts featuring cardio, strength, and abs. Do this workout every day for 30 days and watch your body change. I’ve seen even the wimpiest of women turn into workout machines with Shred.
- BabyWeightTV ($13/month) — BabyWeightTV offers more than 100 health, wellness, and fitness videos for mommies. A new class is introduced every week to keep the workouts fresh. You can do cardio, focus on your core to strengthen the muscles impacted by your pregnancy and delivery, and of course, there’s yoga.
- Lindsay Brin’s Postnatal Boot Camp with Moms Into Fitness ($20) — In one DVD, you’ll have access to two hours of a warm up, ab workouts, cardio workouts, and a cool-down sesh. Challenging and fun stuff. And only about $9 for the DVD.
- Fitness Blender ($0!) — This husband/wife training team has more than 500 workout videos available to stream for free. You can search by length (classes range from 5-90 min), type of exercise, body area focus, equipment, etc. The videos are excellent no-frills routines, and if you need more direction in terms of selecting workouts, you have the option to purchase regimens that prescribe workouts for you. Highly recommended!
- Nike Training Club ($0) — This (free!) app has hundreds of different workouts ranging from yoga and boxing to HIIT and heavy lifting. You can select workouts on your own or sign up for different training plans that specify workouts for you. It’s definitely worth checking out.
- Tone It Up ($7/month) — These BFF trainers have built a little fitness empire based in SoCal. Their exercises and videos are really great (if you can stomach the chipper, can-do narration that comes with it). Access to their newest videos requires a monthly paid subscription (via their app, for $7/month), but they have a TON of old and new videos available for free on their YouTube channel.
- POPSUGAR Fitness ($0) — With an almost-overwhelming selection of classes ranging in length from a few minutes to longer-than-anyone-has-time-for, and exercise types spanning from ballet and barre to kickboxing, dance cardio, and HIIT/strength training, POPSUGAR’s fitness classes, many of which are led by peppy celebrity fitness instructors, are a fantastic option for busy moms. Plus, who doesn’t love options like the “lazy girl workout,” the “baby bulge be-gone workout,” or the “quiet at-home workout”?
- BodyFit by Amy ($0) — This mama of 2 and personal trainer offers free workout videos with a nice mix of cardio, weights, toning, etc. She has prenatal- and postnatal-specific classes, ALWAYS offers low-impact versions of every exercise, and also provides a free workout calendar if you sign up for her email at the beginning of the month. These classes are really nice because you can tailor them to where you at — you can make them as gentle or as intense as you want — and they are super reasonable time-wise.
Prove me wrong, ladies…I’m rooting you all on!
The Sweet Spot: Mommy and Me Classes
Created by and for moms, Fit4MOM is a group of local clubs and classes that incorporates toning, strengthening, power walking — and strollers! Who knows, you might walk away with a tighter tush and new friends to boot.
The Fit4Mom Stroller Strides fitness program, their most popular course, consists of hour-long workouts complete with songs and activities to keep your babes entertained too. Instructors provide interactive, diverse classes, and every location offers a free playgroup. *You will need a proper jogging stroller.
Stroller Strides photo courtesy of Fit4MOM
The Fit4Mom Body Back workout strives to help you get your old body back (assuming you had a desirable one to begin with, ha!) – whether it was three months or 20 years after your last baby. Each class features high intensity workouts in an empowering climate (it’s a killer, but in a good way). You can do it in conjunction with the “Mama Wants Her Body Back” meal plan — and you’ll have a complete exercise regimen to help you reach your fitness goals.
Note: Body Back classes are not “baby and me” which is why they are offered before and after hours…so (hopefully) you won’t have to worry about finding someone to watch your kid(s).
Body Back class photo courtesy of Fit4MOM
After my first child, I gravitated toward the mellow, stretchy, spiritual, baby-focused kind of yoga classes, where there are often one or two baby wranglers there to gently rock your little one, allowing you a moment alone to move.
Photo courtesy of Yoga Jai Ma in San Diego, CA
There’s nothing sweeter than staring down at your newborn whilst holding your best downward dog. Best of all, you’re in really good company with a room full of women equally as enamored (and a little terrified) of their exquisite creatures. For some, it becomes more about the bonding than the workout, which can be an unexpected yet pleasant surprise.
Photo courtesy of Yoga Jai Ma in San Diego, CA
For baby #2 — I found another kind of postnatal teacher who skipped the baby massage time and such, but reminded us how good it felt to sweat. And yes, I did start to see changes in my body and my mind.
Note that yoga classes are also widely available as podcasts and on YouTube now, many of which are free to download. It can take a little time to find an instructor or a station you like, but if you can tap into your inner zen at home, this is another flexible, affordable option. (One of Brit’s favorites is Fightmaster Yoga.)
I was fortunate to have a knowledgeable yoga instructor who checked me for diastasis recti, commonly known as abdominal separation. A diastasis is defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves.
I was fine with baby #1, then baby #2 decided to leave me with “mummy tummy,” as it’s not-so-affectionately called. You can get a diastasis from your first pregnancy, but it’s far more common with second and subsequent ones. It’s also quite common, just FYI — about a third of women experience it.
An umbilical hernia is a more severe form of diastasis and should also be treated with great care.
If you have a diastasis, modifications are required for your workout, lest you make the problem worse. You can learn how to check yourself for diastasis here.
With a diastasis, abdominal crunches are a no-no, as is being on all fours or any other position that puts forward or downward pressure on your rectus abdominis, where the delicate connective tissue has already been torn or damaged.
Again, you can diagnose yourself, but check with your doctor before taking on any core work.
Very recently, a joint pilot study conducted by an OB-GYN and a yoga instructor (!) found that 10 minutes a day of a specific exercise regimen designed to eliminate diastasis worked for all the women involved. Everyone — 100%! You can read about the research — and the exercise — here.
Gyms with Childcare
My experience: in San Francisco (and perhaps other expensive cities), such a thing is really hard to find.
Get a little outside of The City and (sometimes) it’s gyms-with-childcare galore! I cannot tell you how awesome it is to have a gym where you can take your baby, drop her off, and hop away for some alone time.
A confession? One time, I dropped the kids off, got a coffee, and maybe (just maybe), I sat in the locker room and caught up on Facebook and emails (i.e., no exercise took place). Certainly no shame in that either!
When looking for gyms with childcare, start your search with family-friendly organizations such as YMCAs and JCCs. In fact, I’ve never been to a Y that doesn’t have great childcare, even the little “YMCA Expresses” usually have one too. Finding a great family gym will also serve you well into the future since they usually host kids’ sports and other fun family events.
*Just a note that while JCCs and YMCAs (and such) are Judeo-Christian centered programs, all are welcome there, regardless of religious affiliation (or lack thereof). IOW – don’t feel like you have to subscribe to religion in order to join.
Most gyms will take babies starting at 6 weeks old and will charge you a nominal fee, anywhere from $2-$4 an hour (presumably subsidized by the gym) — others may incorporate childcare into your family membership.
You may feel a little angsty about leaving your baby with a stranger (i.e., the gym childcare staff), especially if it’s the first time. Totally normal.
The sooner you can get over this, the better —
(Sometimes, you just need to hear that from someone.)
I was hesitant, too, to leave my firstborn at the gym nursery. And for my second? I was counting down the days until he turned 6 weeks old. Yup! It gets easier.
Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen to your baby, but it’s normal to have first-time jitters.
Also? The sooner you get your baby used to a particular childcare setting, the better. Do it before your baby turns eight months old or so, because that’s when bad separation anxiety sets in – and it will be 10x harder to leave them. Two or three months is a great time to start; earlier is fine also, assuming everyone is healthy and up for the mission at hand.
In conclusion , it can be hard to get back into an exercise routine after being mowed down by childbirth, but doing so will help you feel like your old self again. Although your body may never be exactly the same, you will be surprised how quickly you find your new self.
Working out will give you confidence, great endorphins, and who knows? You may even meet a new mommy-friend or form a playgroup along the way.
Written by Karen Agresti
- Year 1 topics
- Newsletter Archive
See also: Best Baby Hiking Carriers
Postpartum Exercise: Easing Into a Fitness Routine After Birth
About a month before my due date, I remember chatting with a friend about my postpartum exercise routine. At that time, I was an avid morning gym goer — 6:30 am spin classes. I was under the great delusion that I would miss a couple of weeks and then be right back into my fitness regimen.
Reality struck me rather quickly after giving birth, and I realized that it would take more time to ease back into physical shape than I had estimated. My pelvic floor needed work, I was hopelessly looking for any sign that I still had core muscles, and I was downright tired and delirious from sleep deprivation. Many of the mothers I talked to experienced a similar awakening. We all had been somewhat surprised by the postpartum body compared to that of pregnancy. (Full disclosure: these women had been steady prenatal yoga students and were in very good shape during pregnancy.) The shared experience was atrophied muscles, bad posture, an achy body, and general fatigue.
To get back into a postpartum exercise routine, new mothers should always be realistic and patient. It took around 40 weeks to form the pregnant body, and it could take nearly as long to fully return to your pre-pregnancy self. No matter if your labor is quick, long, or surgical, the body undergoes a huge transformation to expel a baby.
- RELATED: 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise (and Probably Don’t)
Though you’ll need to wait until your doctor gives you the OK to start postpartum exercise, you can brainstorm your post-pregnancy workout plan now, following these nine important steps.
1. Start postpartum workouts slowly
Jumping back into your workout regimen so soon after birth is not a great idea, even for ultra-fit mamas. “ would recommend that new moms not try to exert themselves before two weeks,” says OB/GYN Kameelah Phillips, MD. “If you are recovering from a C-section, I would defer a routine until after your first post-operative check. Confirm with your doctor that the skin is properly closed, and that you are cleared for a walking routine. I usually recommend you take an ibuprofen prior to any return to activity because the uterus is still healing and can cause discomfort. Give your body a little time to heal and enjoy a leisurely walk.”
If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, then you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That, of course, does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for 6 weeks. A walk can be considered a good start to your road back! Take a 5-minute walk and then come home and see how you feel. If nothing bleeds, pulls, or aches, take a 6-minute walk tomorrow and a 7-minute walk the next day. During these first few forays out into the world, don’t carry your baby in a frontpack or push him in a stroller because the strain may be too much. After you’ve walked comfortably and safely for a week or two, build up from there, adding some gentle upper-body stretching or a postpartum exercise class.
2. Wait for the bleeding to stop
Once you do embark on some heavier activities, pay attention to signs from your body. Some women find that their bleeding that had tapered down starts to get heavier again, which is a sign that the body needs more time to heal before a post-pregnancy workout plan.
- RELATED: Exercise Tips After Baby
3. Take it easy if breastfeeding
If you’re breastfeeding, forget about weight loss until a couple of weeks postpartum when your milk supply is firmly established. Some weight will come off automatically during the first few days as your body relinquishes the stored fluids it needed during pregnancy. The rest will come off gradually as you become more active. If you’re nursing, your body needs 500 calories a day more than it needed before you conceived, so eat enough and eat healthfully.
4. Evaluate your pelvic floor
Also, if the pelvic floor is weak, putting intra-abdominal pressure (like crunches, pilates, or general ab work) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse. One of the first forms of postpartum exercise you can start to incorporate daily can be a kegel routine, restrengthening or even re-familiarizing yourself with your pelvic floor muscles.
- RELATED: Post-Pregnancy Body Changes
5. Repair diastasis
It is very common that women experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominals (aka the six-pack muscles), known as diastasis. Your care provider can check this for you when you return for your six week check up. If it is severe enough, you may need to work with a physical therapist to help draw the muscles back together. So, when easing back to an abdominal postpartum workout, be mindful not to overdo it.
6. Mind your wobbly joints
Relaxin, the hormone responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth, can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum. This can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis. Again, just be mindful that the postpartum workout you choose is not too jerky in movement.
7. Try all sorts of postpartum exercise
You do not need to attend a scheduled class to start to return to a general fitness routine. Don’t discount walking as a gentle cardiovascular exercise! At one point, I was told to avoid higher impact cardio since I was healing from some pretty severe pelvic floor issues and was instructed to try swimming. Fortunately, I have been an avid swimmer for years, so it felt like a nice welcome back to exercise and rediscovering my body. The nice thing about swimming is that it is gentle on the joints and pelvic floor, and is great for strengthening the core and back muscles.
- RELATED: Postpartum Fitness Classes
8. Stay hydrated
Once you do ease into a postpartum exercise, please remember to hydrate well, especially if you are breastfeeding. If you are out for a stroll with your baby, put your water bottle in the cup holder as a reminder to drink often.
9. Rest up
Even though many new moms hear the old saying, sleep when your baby sleeps, very few (I believe) adhere to these wise words. So, including a few moments to simply relax post-workout can really help replenish you. If you are feeling rested and restored, you will have so much more to offer to those that need you.
- RELATED: Ab Workout for New Moms
- By Debra Flashenberg, Dr. Laura Riley and Jenn Sinrich
We don’t take the term “best” lightly. And when it comes to postnatal workout DVDs, we’ve tried quite a few. From yoga to Pilates to dance to strength training, here are our five favorite postnatal workout DVDs, evah! They’re simply the best.
1. Expecting More: The 4th Trimester Workout. Sara Haley has done it again! We love the other titles in the Expecting More series and this workout DVD that focuses on life after baby (whether that’s six weeks, six months or six years ago), is a winner. With eight different workouts (plus a calendar with an idea of how to put them together if you like a more structured plan), you’ll get stronger, improve your cardio endurance and work your flexibility. With options for women who are healing a diastasis recti, as well as those recovering from a C-section, it’s a great program for pretty much any mom. Choose from Mat Core, Seated Core, Standing Core, Stretch, Cardio Flow, Cardio Drills, Cardio Sculpt, and Strengthen & Tone as workouts. All you need are some dumbbells, a hand towel and a few spare minutes to squeeze in some time for mama!
2. After Baby: Pilates-Infused Functional Workouts. Our favorite thing about this two-disc postnatal workout DVD set is that it’s Pilates-inspired, but with a functional twist. Instructor Erica Ziel takes standard Pilates moves and tailors them to new moms. You never feel like she’s pushing you to get back into shape to look good; the exercises are truly ones that will help you in your daily kid-wrangling life. The core gets a lot of attention, as do the chest, back, hips and thighs, but the multitasking moves — like squats that incorporate upper-body strength moves and twists — really do strengthen you for all the crazy bending and squatting and carrying you do on the daily as a mom.
3. Aligned and Well: “Down There” for Women. Although not a traditional postnatal “workout” DVD, this one is a must-watch for moms. Instructor Katy Bowman explains how your body’s muscles work together to function — and how throwing off one part of the machinery can have far-reaching consequences. With this “everything’s connected” mindset and approach, she takes an approach to the body and pelvic floor health by getting back to the basics. This is a super great DVD for those still feeling aches and pains once the baby arrives.
4. The Dia Method Postnatal Fitness System. This nine-disc postnatal workout DVD system is a fantastic way for a new mom to ease back into fitness, while also being enough of a challenge for moms who’ve been back in the fitness game for a while. The core (ha) of The Dia Method, developed by Leah Keller, a pre- and postnatal fitness expert, is fighting back against diastisis recti and getting your stomach muscles back where they belong. It’s full-body workout program, but you’re reminded of your core from start to finish. If you’re a new mom who needs direction in getting back into a fitness routine, The Dia Method is a great beginner/intermediate set for that. The 25-minute workouts are perfect for busy moms trying to squeeze in fitness!
5. Element: Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga. We simply love how this yoga workout DVD has both a prenatal and postnatal workout on it, allowing you to transition your routine once the baby comes. The prenatal segment is relaxing and stretches you out, while the postnatal workout focuses on gently building strength, de-stressing and building your fitness back mindfully. We love this postnatal workout so much that it’s actually one (along with walking!) that we recommend to friends as their first one to do post-baby!
Do you have a favorite postnatal workout DVD we should add to our list? Let’s hear ’em! —Jenn
As mothers, we have little time to do much of anything besides care for our children, which can make getting back to our pre-pregnancy figures seem impossible. Why not take advantage of your little one’s nap time and take a few minutes for yourself? Even if you can only commit to 10 minutes of toning while baby’s snoozing, it can do a world of wonder for your body (and mind). Here, we’ve gather five incredible YouTube workouts that deliver results, right in your living room. From a postnatal routine that is go-at-your-own-pace, to popular barre exercises and yoga, we’ve got something for everyone, that all consist of low-impact, simple, and quiet movements to help you get back in shape.
Postnatal – Workout After Childbirth. Fitness goddess Tracy Anderson leads us in a workout with traditional crunches, curls, and planks. Ideal for new moms who want to get back in shape, but don’t want to push themselves too hard. Great for beginners. This workout encourages participants to put in as much time as they can spare. 55 minutes.
Walking Workout – Belly Buns & Thighs Walk Workout. This full-length, easy indoor walking workout led by Jessica Smith TV (and her helpful assistant Peanut) proves that low impact movements can provide big, long-lasting results. Great for beginners. 42 minutes.
Yoga – Yoga Workout For The Ultimate Bikini Body. PopSugar and “yogi” Mandy Ingber team up to provide a slow-paced, strengthening workout that tones the body while relaxing the mind. Great for beginners. 33 minutes.
Barre – Get A Dancer’s Barre Body. This Barre Body workout helps tone your entire body by combining yoga, pilates, and ballet barre. It’s a workout for the body and soul. Great for beginners. 10 minutes.
Quiet Cardio – Fat Burning Cardio Low Impact. Jessica Smith TV is known for her walking workouts, but this certified instructor shows us that cardio doesn’t have to mean loud, joint-jerking movements. Great for intermediate trainees. 35 minutes.