Contributor: Carly Day, MD
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Having a baby is wonderful, but it significantly changes our bodies and temporarily halts our fitness regimen.
Once the newborn has arrived and the family settles in at home, a mother often worries about returning to her preferred fitness routine or sport activity and losing the pregnancy weight. This is not an easy feat, but it is an important one.
Postpartum exercise not only aids in weight loss, but also improves cardiovascular fitness and energy levels and decreases mood disturbances.
Listen to your body
The return to exercise may vary a little and will depend on whether you had any delivery complications or a cesarean section. Your obstetrician can provide guidance for when your body is ready for exercise.
Some new mothers can exercise within days of giving birth, while others may require more time to get back into their routine. Although new moms have no strict guidelines on returning to a sport or fitness routine, it’s important to listen to your body.
You can play sports and exercise once your doctor clears you for exercise and you feel that you have enough endurance.
Regardless of timing, a new mother should gradually increase activity to avoid overuse injuries. A good mantra is start low and go slow. Getting back in shape and building your endurance should be a long-term goal.
Eat right and drink plenty of fluids
Breast-feeding mothers should pay extra attention to maintaining hydration and an appropriate caloric intake to avoid fatigue.
You can monitor how well hydrated you are by checking the color of your urine. Dark yellow urine likely means you aren’t drinking enough; if it is faint yellow, you are well-hydrated.
It is not recommended that a new mother diet in a restrictive way, but rather eat healthy foods in appropriate portions.
Under the guidance of a physician or dietitian, a new mother can safely restrict her caloric intake to promote weight loss without limiting her breast milk supply.
Many new mothers often have logistical issues with returning to exercise. It may be difficult to find dedicated time to exercise with a newborn, but programs that include babies are great options. Such programs include stroller walking groups and yoga classes.
These group exercises bring new mothers together, which provides psychological benefits as well.
In addition to cardiovascular exercise, postpartum women should consider gentle strength training and pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor issues are often seen in postpartum women. This condition often improves after working with experts
As with any workout program, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise, and always listen to your body – don’t push your limit. Patience and persistence are key to successful weight loss.
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