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Exercise might be the last thing on
your mind after you give birth, but
it’s worthwhile. In fact, exercise after
pregnancy might be one of the best things
you can do for yourself. Follow these tips
to keep exercise after pregnancy safe.
Benefits of exercise after
pregnancy
Regular exercise after pregnancy can:
• Promote weight loss
• Improve your cardiovascular fitness
• Restore muscle strength
• Condition your abdominal muscles
• Boost your energy level
• Improve your mood
• Relieve stress
• Help prevent and promote recovery
from postpartum depression
Better yet, including physical activity in
your daily routine helps you set a positive
example for your child now and in the
years to come.
Exercise and breast-
feeding
Exercise isn’t thought to have any
adverse effects on breast milk volume or
composition, nor is it thought to affect a
nursing infant’s growth. Some research,
however, suggests that high-intensity
physical activity can cause lactic acid to
accumulate in breast milk and produce a
sour taste a baby might not like. If you’re
breast-feeding, you can prevent this
potential problem by sticking to moderate
physical activity and drinking plenty of
fluids during and after your workout.
If vigorous activity is a priority during the
first few months of breast-feeding, consider
feeding your baby or pumping before your
workout - which can also help you stay
comfortable while you’re exercising - or
discarding any milk produced 30 minutes
afterward. After months four to five of
breast-feeding, physical activity has less of
an impact on your milk since your body
produces most milk at feeding time.
When to start
In the past, health care providers often
instructed women to wait at least six weeks
after giving birth to begin exercising. The
waiting game may be over, however. If
you exercised during pregnancy and had
an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s
generally safe to begin exercising within
days of delivery - or as soon as you feel
ready. If you had a C-section, extensive
vaginal repair or a complicated birth, talk
to your health care provider about when to
start an exercise program.
Physical activity goals
For most healthy women, the Department
of Health and Human Services
recommends at least 150 minutes a week
of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- preferably spread throughout the week -
after pregnancy. Consider these guidelines:
• Take time to warm up and cool down.
• Begin slowly and increase your pace
gradually.
• Avoid excessive fatigue.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Wear a supportive bra.
• Stop exercising if you feel pain.
• Stop exercising and seek medical help
if you have bright red vaginal bleeding
that’s heavier than a period.
Activities to try
• Bridge exercise
• Pelvic tilt exercise
When you’re ready to exercise, start with
something simple - such as a daily walk
or laps in a local pool. If you’re looking
for camaraderie, check out a postpartum
exercise class at a local fitness club or
community center. With your health care
provider’s OK, also consider these specific
exercises:
Bridge.
To strengthen your core
muscles, lie on your back with your knees
bent. Keep your back in a neutral position,
not arched and not pressed into the floor.
Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise
your hips off the floor until your hips are
aligned with your knees and shoulders.
Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the
starting position and repeat.
Pelvic tilt.
Try the pelvic tilt a few
times a day to strengthen your abdominal
muscles. Lie on your back on the floor with
your knees bent. Flatten your back against
the floor by tightening your abdominal
muscles and bending your pelvis up
slightly. Hold for up to 10 seconds.
Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20
repetitions.
Kegel exercise.
Use this exercise
to tone your pelvic floor muscles, which
can help control bladder leaks, heal your
perineum and tighten your vagina. Contract
the muscle you use to stop your urine flow.
Hold for up to 10 seconds and release.
Repeat 10 times at least three times a day.
Overcoming barriers
When you’re caring for a newborn,
finding time for physical activity can
be challenging. Hormonal changes can
make you emotional, which might lead
to sedentary behavior. And some days
you might simply feel too tired for a full
workout. That doesn’t mean that you
should put physical activity on the back
burner, however. Instead, do what you can.
Seek the support of your partner, family
and friends. Schedule time for physical
activity. Exercise with a friend to stay
motivated. Include your baby, either in
a stroller while you walk or lying next to
you on the floor while you do abdominal
exercises.
Remember, exercise after pregnancy
might not be easy - but it can do wonders
for your well-being, as well as give you
the energy you need to care for your
newborn.
H