Article | June 2016

Exercising as a New Mom

Activate the inner you.

Exercise routine as a new mom

Before you had a baby, working out was like brushing your teeth or watching your favorite show — it was a given. You went for a run or met a friend at a spinning class regularly, without much thought.

With your new bundle of joy out in the world, things may be a bit different. Perhaps it sometimes feels like the only given is that you'll be changing another diaper soon. Despite your desire to get back to your active self, even life's joys can make that challenging. Like all women who have babies, your body has changed and at times you may not even feel like the person you were before you became a mom. There may be times that you feel tired, unmotivated, and have lost the energy you once thought was endless. You still expect a lot from yourself, and your struggle to meet certain expectations may be difficult, or make you even feel...well...bad.

These feelings are all normal. Having a baby is one of the most beautiful, meaningful, and courageous things you will ever do. It takes a lot out of you however, and may leave you a little off-kilter and frustrated. After all, your life is no longer just about you.

Once your doctor approves, getting back to regular activity is important — physically and mentally. Working out provides a break from baby time, and getting your blood pumping helps your mind and body cope with the stress that comes with being a new mom. It can also improve your energy levels and help you begin the process of losing the weight you may have gained during your pregnancy.

Remember to listen to your body when adding activity to your routine and maintain a proper balance of nutrition and hydration. Let's take a closer look at some simple ways you can stay active after baby arrives and feel good about yourself.

Give yourself an "atta girl"

Carrying a baby for nine months, going through the birthing process, and redefining your life around baby is not easy. Give yourself credit for all your hard work by writing down three things you're proud of each day and hang them up where you can see them.

Reach out for support

Call on your team of friends and family to watch your baby so you can squeeze in some “me” time. Start small and be realistic, but know that you deserve it.

Embrace a new frame of mind

It is hard to anticipate all the changes a new baby brings. Figuring out a new exercise routine may seem like a shock, and even disappointing or frustrating. Take a step back and reset your expectations based on your new life. Accept where you are and plot out simple, realistic goals.

Focus on progress, not perfection

Make a short list of activities you'd like to plug into your week or day. Set a realistic time frame, depending on baby's schedule, of course. This will minimize feelings of defeat if baby wakes up from a nap early and you only get in 10 or 15 minutes of your workout.

Define your "why"

Ask yourself why being active is important to you? This will enable you to clearly define your goals in the context of your new circumstances.

For example:

Before baby: "I want to increase my speed for my upcoming 5K race."

After baby: "I want to increase my energy and mobility."

This doesn't mean your objectives can't be similar to what they were before and after baby, but it may mean taking different steps and setting a different timeline.

Remember, every little bit counts

With or without baby, walk for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Build on this as you see fit, and be realistic about the support and time you have.

Count your steps

Wear a pedometer and track the steps you take while running around taking care of your baby. You'll be surprised to see how far you walk in a day — and maybe even motivated to walk more. Set small goals to progressively increase your weekly steps.

Integrate baby into your activity

Maybe setting aside alone time just doesn't work yet, or you want to make some of your time with baby an active opportunity. Check out these three exercises from WebMD's "Mommy & Baby Workout Tips."

  • Baby glider: Hold your baby close to your chest and do a forward lunge (take a big step forward and bend your knee). Don't let your toes go past your knee. Then return to starting position and lunge with the opposite leg. This will help strengthen your legs, back muscles and core. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side.
  • Baby bouncer: Step to the side and do a squat (reach back with your behind as if you're sitting in a chair, keeping your knees over your ankles). Repeat 8 to 10 times to each side.
  • Rock-a-baby squats and curls: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Hold your baby tight and close to your chest and squat, allowing your baby's feet to touch the floor. As you rise, bring the baby closer to your chest. Repeat 15 times. (Note: You should do this exercise only when your baby is at least 10 to 12 weeks old.)

Mom teaching child how to ride bike

Exercise During Pregnancy, American College of Sports Medicine, accessed June 2016, Impact of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum on Chronic Disease Risk.pdf

8 Get-Your-Body-Back Moves for New Moms, WebMD, reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, May 12, 2016, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/6-exercises-for-new-moms

Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Activity, American Heart Association, updated June 23, 2015, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Physical-Activity_UCM_307388_Article.jsp#.V3QT7vkwgdU

Positive Emotions and Your Health, Developing a Brighter Outlook, NIH News in Health, National Institutes of Health, August, 2015.

The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate health advice and guidance, including prior to starting a new diet or exercise program.