For most new moms, one of their primary goals (after getting a full night’s sleep again) is to get back to something close to their pre-pregnancy exercise routines. Finding the time (and energy) to resume a fitness routine may seem overwhelming, but it can be done – just not too soon. Several doctors and fitness experts have shared a few tips to get back in shape without endangering a mom’s health.
Regain Your Pre-Pregnancy Fitness Levels
Take it slowly
Dr. Laura Riley, MD, an expert in high-risk pregnancy, believes that it takes time for a woman’s energy levels to get back to normal, with much energy already being spent caring for a baby. Breastfeeding often creates even more fatigue due to the nutritional demands on the mother. Each woman is different, so don’t worry about timetables.
Forget about crash dieting for the first few months, say experts
This is especially true if breastfeeding. According to nutritionist and author Elizabeth Somer, RD, breastfeeding moms need closer to 1,800 – 2,000 calories daily. To consume significantly less is to shortchange both mom and baby’s nutritional needs.
A balanced diet needs to include adequate protein, minerals and vitamins. Nursing women in particular may suffer from nutritional depletions of calcium and other essential minerals. Most doctors recommend continuing taking prenatal vitamins to supplement a regular diet for breastfeeding mothers.
Experts find that exercise has additional benefits for new moms
A number of groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have not only approved exercise for new mothers but cite increasing evidence that it may stave off post-partum depression.
Get a doctor’s approval before resuming a formal exercise routine
Find out when is the best time to resume exercising, especially if a C-section or other delivery and post-partum complications are involved. It takes time for bodies to heal after surgery and there’s just no rushing the process.
Beware of these warning signs:
- Excessive bleeding, especially if sudden
- Pelvic or other abdominal pain
- Extreme breathlessness, especially if sudden
- Extreme exhaustion, even after mild exercise
- Muscle pain that continues even after a couple of days
Experiencing any of the above symptoms is cause to seek medical attention without delay.
Before birth, women produce a hormone called relaxin, which helps the joints to relax in order to allow the pelvis to permit birth. Relaxin is still present in the body for days afterward, so any activity which puts stress on joints, such as jogging or jumping, may cause significant injury.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends Belly Breathing, Pelvic Tilt and Abdominal Bracing to help recover slack muscle tone. These and yoga exercises, such as the Dolphin Plank on a ball, Yoga Side Plank and Yoga Boat can gently stretch, tone and strengthen muscles and tendons without as much risk of injury.
Finally some simple exercises to improve core fitness for beginners can include Kegels, which help strengthen the pelvic muscles. Floor Bridges, targeting hamstring and glutes, are recommended for beginner’s, while the Forearm Plank is a good Intermediate level exercise that tones and strengthens abdominals, obliques, thighs and flutes. Wide Stance Deadlifts (with a doctor’s blessing and once recovered) may give faster results for Advanced fitness practitioners. Just keep the weights a bit lighter and work up gradually.