After giving birth, exercise may be the last thing on your mind as a new mom. There’s just so many things to do for the baby, and if ever you find time for yourself, you’d rather get some shuteye.
But, according to experts from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), exercise is essential. They recommend for those who had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery to start exercising again soon after the baby is born, say in a few days’ time or when you feel ready.
However, if you had a Cesarean section delivery or experienced other childbirth complications, it’s best to ask your doctor when it’s safe for you to start exercising again.
Benefits of exercise after giving birth
A lot of new moms think of exercise only as a way to get rid of the extra weight they gained while pregnant. It actually offers a lot more benefits, such as:
- Making your body strong and toning your abdominal muscles
- Boosting your energy level
- Keeping postpartum depression at bay
- Promoting better sleep
- Relieving stress
Experts suggest for new moms to aim staying active for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Maybe you can start with simple postpartum exercises that target the major muscle groups, like abdominal and back muscles. Then bit by bit, add moderate-intensity aerobic activities that can raise your heart rate and make you sweat.
If you’ve always been active before getting pregnant or you’re a competitive athlete, you can go for vigorous-intensity exercise. Meaning, you can hardly talk while moving without pausing for breath. But stop at once when you feel pain in your body.
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Yoga teacher and mother of two Johnna Villaviray Giolagon shares a few ways that can help new moms become physically active while looking after their babies.
House chores and daily activities
Doing house chores and going about your daily activities are good ways to burn calories, says Johnna. And the list is seemingly endless: Sweep and mop the floor. Scrub the walls. Go out in the garden. Go out to the garden and take care of the plants.
She also suggests to walk around the house to get what you need instead of asking someone to get it for you. Moving around throughout the day, she explains, is even better than a burst of activity and then being sedentary the rest of the day.
Johnna says she walks or runs for 30 minutes in the morning because that’s all the time she can spare between preparing the kids for distance school and her one-hour yoga practice or class, and the daily grind that starts around 10 a.m.
In that time, her half hour is equivalent to 3-4 km. She says she can run farther by running faster but she doesn't go beyond her allotted time. This allows her to manage her day and have enough time for everything that she needs to do.
If you have nowhere to walk, she recommends looking for videos you can follow online for walking and running in place.
Yoga poses or asanas have modifications for every body type, she says. But postpartum, maybe you can consider adding non-asana yoga practices to your practice like more breathing or pranayama exercises or meditation or mindfulness practices.
She cites Yoga Nidra as a good yoga practice, and explains that recovering from giving birth is a good jump off point for yoga’s non-physical practices.
She admits skipping rope is definitely more difficult than walking or running. It gets your heartrate up faster but it is also more demanding on the joints. Just take extra precautions and start slow (read here).
Zumba or dancing
If Zumba or dancing is a regular activity before the baby, Johnna says consider dialing it down a notch until your body gets used to the movements and the demands on the body. Don’t rush in trying to return to your level too fast. The goal is for you to regularly exercise after giving birth.