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How Soon Can I Workout After Giving Birth?

After months in maternity wear, your old clothes are calling your name. Losing your baby weight, though, is about more than just shedding pounds. Working out can tighten your muscles, boost your mental health and help you feel less tired, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But don't sign up for a marathon just yet. Your body has just performed an incredible feat, and it needs time to recover.

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Getting the Go Ahead

In the past, doctors advised women to wait six weeks after delivery before beginning to exercise, says the Mayo Clinic. That waiting period is still appropriate for women who have had a complicated delivery, including a cesarean section. Otherwise, generally you can trust your body to tell you when you’re ready to start working out. While pushing your stroller around the block is safe enough, ask for your doctor to sign off on returning to the gym or any vigorous activity such as running.

Taking First Steps

Whether you were a marathoner or a world-class couch potato nine months ago, start off slowly with post-pregnancy exercise. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends starting by walking. You can take your baby along, and a daily walk should help you deal with the stress of new motherhood. Swimming and yoga are also ideal exercises for regaining your strength and building the endurance you need for midnight feedings. If you enjoy lifting weights, start out with light hand weights and gradually build up over a few weeks.

Targeting Your Belly

Crunches alone won't flatten your post-baby belly. Try a few of the exercises that certified postnatal exercise specialist Erin Denton shares with "Redbook." Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet and palms flat against the floor, and lift your bottom so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for two seconds and lower your bottom back to the floor. Or try the "Flat-Belly Fly": Lying on your back, lift your bent legs off the floor so your calves are parallel to the floor. Open your legs as far as you can while keeping your stomach flat, then close them again. Do 10 of each of these exercises per day at first, then work up to more reps.

RELATED: Postpartum Exercise: Is Your Body Ready?

Setting Up for Success

If you breastfeed you'll shed pounds faster than you would otherwise, but it also affects your workout schedule. Dr. William Sears suggests nursing right before working out and drinking plenty of water throughout and after your workout to support your milk supply. Invest in supportive sports bras and don't let yourself become overheated. Stop and call your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding during exercise. Don’t expect immediate results. Your goal should be to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, says the Cleveland Clinic, so returning to your pre-baby weight might take as long as a year.

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