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What every postpartum mama needs to know about working out

What are the best exercises to start with?

What every postpartum mama needs to know about working out

As a Pilates instructor and personal trainer for over a decade, I have worked with dozens of women looking to get back in shape after having a baby. After being cleared for exercise by your medical professional, there is usually limited guidance and information about how to properly rehabilitate your postpartum body. This leaves many women anxious and nervous about what their new body can handle, and how to enter back into an exercise routine.


Here are my top tips to help women understand how and when they should transition back to exercise postpartum:

When can I start exercising?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that for non-complicated vaginal deliveries women can begin exercising within a few days or weeks postpartum. For C-sections or complicated deliveries, it's usually recommended to wait until your six-week postpartum visit with your medical professional to obtain clearance for exercise.

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This is also one of those times when you need to listen to your body. Just because you can exercise doesn't mean you necessarily need to start right away. Make sure you feel ready to move, and if you experience dizziness, light-headedness, abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain that you cease exercise until you speak with your doctor.

What are the best exercises to start with?

The key to properly rehabilitating your body postpartum is a combination of two things. The first being low impact cardiovascular exercise.

Low impact cardio includes walking, cycling, ellipticals, swimming and light aerobics.

Relaxin, a hormone that loosens the ligaments and joints in your pelvic floor to aid in delivery can stay elevated for months postpartum, raising your injury risk and creating a shift in your balance and posture. If you enter back into high impact exercises, (running, jumping, kickboxing) too quickly, you run this risk of long-term muscle damage and pain.

Many women find they have limited bladder control in the first few months postpartum and this is completely normal! High impact exercise can aggravate this issue, creating an uncomfortable postpartum experience.

The second focus for post-delivery exercise should be pelvic floor and core work that does NOT build abdominal pressure.

Your pelvic floor does not "self-heal" and there are simple exercises you can do to ensure a stronger postpartum body. Recti diastasis (separation of the abdominal muscles) occurs in nearly two-thirds of pregnancies and can linger long after you give birth. If you do too many traditional abdominal exercises like crunches and planks postpartum, you can make recti worse, increasing the likelihood of the "mom pooch," lower-back and bladder issues.

The best exercises for your core and pelvic floor focus on your transverse abdominals, obliques and lower back. Pelvic tilts, reverse marching, bridges, bird dogs and the dead bug crunch are some of my favorites for entering into a postpartum exercise journey.

You can start with 10 reps of each exercise and build up to one minute.

How long do I need to exercise each day?

I'm a firm believer in all exercise being good for your body, and when you have a baby to take care of, every minute counts! You can start by alternating between 10-15 minutes of low impact cardiovascular exercise to raise your heart rate and burn calories, and 10 minutes of stretching and body weight core work for your body.

Take advantage of the days when you have more time but when you don't, remember that in just a few minutes a day you can start to rebuild your core, improve your posture, lessen joint and lower back pain and feel stronger.

If you need more motivation to exercise, one study showed pilates based exercises were beneficial for reducing maternal fatigue in the first few months postpartum, something every mom struggles with!

What else can I do to feel "normal" again after delivery?

It will take time for your hormones to regulate, and with irregular sleep habits, you may find yourself feeling off for a while after delivery. In addition to exercise, healthy nutrition and nutrient-dense foods, plus plenty of fluids, are so important. They will provide energy, better sleep, improved muscle repair and weight loss during the first six to 12 months postpartum.

If you're not yet cleared for exercise or you're having a day where you just don't feel like moving, breathing exercises and meditation can help lower your heart rate, blood pressure and reduce symptoms of postpartum anxiety.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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