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.
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.
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