Pregnancy, birth and caring for a baby mean significant changes to your body and your life. When you become a mother, how you get back into shape needs to take into account all these changes.
Exercise to improve fat loss postpartum for new mothers should be gradual, steady and specific to be safe for your body and easy to fit into your new busy life. Your time is now limited, you’ll feel exhausted and you may be feeling frustrated about the post pregnancy ‘pooch’. These tips make toning up and losing fat for new mums and moms more simple without spending hours in the gym.
10 simple ways to get back in shape after having a baby.
1. Buggy or stroller walks.
Walking is one of the easiest, safest ways to exercise after birth and is loaded with health and fitness benefits. Taking brisk walks with your baby in a buggy or stroller will keep your muscles working, particularly the bottom and backs of the legs. Being outside in fresh air will also help lift your emotions plus give you more energy to help feelings of overwhelm, stress or tiredness.
Aim for 10,000 steps per day which you can measure with a fitness tracker or pedometer. Break these steps up into chunks of 15 to 20 minute walks and wear trainers for comfort.
2. Exercises for the tummy and pelvic floor.
Prioritising core and pelvic floor exercises will help you get a smaller waist again but avoid doing sit-ups, crunches and bicycle crunches. These kinds of stomach exercises and other movements that contract the upper abdominals will further stretch the muscle and make any abdominal separation worse leaving you with more of a pregnancy pooch.
Isometric stomach exercises with kegels to strengthen the deep stomach muscles, the connective tissue over the muscles and the pelvic floor muscle are far more effective. These exercises heal and strengthen your whole mid-section; the stomach muscles, the pelvic floor and your back. That way you’ll reunite the stomach muscles, reduce back ache and flatten the muscles faster. Plus you’ll be less likely to have unwanted moments of wee-ing yourself.
3. Eat to nourish your body.
It’s likely you’ll be exhausted from being up during the night and have cravings for starchy, sugary foods. However, eating these foods will play havoc with your hormones and spike your blood sugar levels to make losing body fat more difficult. in addition they lack the vitamins and nutrients you need to nourish the body and also help your babies development if you are breastfeeding.
Foods rich in lean protein, essential ‘good’ fats (omega 3’s) and vitamin C, D, B12 and iron are all important. Lean protein sources are chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, soya, quinoa or lentils. Good fat and vitamin D sources are oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. For iron and vitamin C eat dark green leafy vegetables and some unprocessed red meat or eggs. Berries are rich in vitamin C and seafood and chicken are good for vitamin B12. Eat fewer starchy carbs to keep your insulin levels down and instead choose wholegrain carbohydrates with fibre to help regulate hormones.
One research study found that people who eat wholegrain soluble fibre instead of starchy white varieties gain less fat around the tummy than others over 5 years. Eating just 10 grams of soluble fibre a day made the difference. That’s two small apples or a cup of green peas.
Always avoid dieting or following any diets, cutting calories or eating erratically as any of these will reduce your metabolism. Eat regularly with 3 main meals and 2 small snacks to keep your energy levels stable and support the fat loss process.
4. Lifting gentle weights.
By doing the correct safe strength exercises for the muscles that weakened during pregnancy, you’ll strengthen and improve your muscle tone and boost your metabolism. Start by doing 10-20 squats with a pelvic floor lift which will help tone the legs. Aim for a total of 3 sets of these during the day, while the baby is in the room with you or when you’ve put your baby to sleep.
When you feel ready gradually doing more strength exercises using weights or your own body will help tone up the rest of your muscles. However, avoid lifting too heavy weights which would put too much pressure on your pelvic floor and don’t do anything crazy, too intense or high impact as this may cause injury and back pain. Be mindful of your stomach and pelvic floor muscles that have been stretched and weakened and the effect of the pregnancy and birth hormones mean your joints are more lax.
Start with your own body weight or a resistance band and then a weight that is the same as your baby, always breath correctly, exhaling on the challenging part of the exercise and draw your belly button towards your spine.
Arm and leg exercises without any jumping and with support of a wall to help with stability will keep it safe. You can also use your buggy to hold whilst you do squats or use a resistance band around the handlebars (brake on!) to do arm rows.
5. Go up and down the stairs.
Walking up and down the stairs helps improve muscle tone in the legs to make them leaner and slimmer and will improve your overall fitness. It will also help increase your activity and help you move your body during those long periods when you feel like you have been nursing or feeding your baby all day.
6. Create a home workout space.
Life with a new baby life is unpredictable so exercising at home means you’ll be far more consistent as you don’t need to travel to a gym, park or find childcare. Create a home gym; you only need about 2 square feet and minimal equipment. An exercise mat, set of dumb-bells and a resistance band are all you need at first. Plus some stairs to walk up and down and increase the number of daily steps you take.
7. Use an online postnatal workout program.
An online program means you can exercise anytime and anywhere; whilst your baby is napping or when they go down at night. Plus you have guidance and instruction so you know you are doing the right kind of exercises and will avoid injury or causing harm to the stomach muscles.
You may find you are often interrupted - to pick up the baby and you may want to stop or get frustrated! Keep going - you may get more breaks (which may be welcome) and it take a little longer, but finish anyway.
In my Mummy Tummy Transformation program I've devised a whole 12 weeks worth of eating plans and exercises that are specially designed and safe for postnatal mums and moms.
8. Get help and team up with your partner.
Get your partner to help with the cooking and also go for walks with you; when doing an exercise video at home, get them to join in. It’s great for support and encouragement.
9. Balance your hormones.
Low oestrogen or estrogen levels makes long duration cardiovascular less effective and high cortisol levels will make intense exercise have the reverse effect. An imbalance of hormones also makes fat loss for new mothers more difficult.
Exercise (but not challenging exercise which you want to avoid) helps reduce the stress hormone, cortisol and will release endorphins, the hormones that make you feel positive and reduce pain.
When you’ve had a baby, power walking, low impact strength exercises and eating protein with vegetables or salads will stabilise your hormones. Postnatal yoga or simply taking a 10 minute rest away from your baby in complete peace is great for helping regulate the hormones and balancing emotions.
10. Get some rest.
You may go into motherhood already exhausted from lack of sleep and comfort during pregnancy or the trauma of the birthing process. Plus you may be having aches, pains and feelings of overwhelm and stress. Rest is vital and so is getting as much sleep as you can.
Try to ‘brain’ nap for 5, 10 or 20 minutes when your baby naps which is particularly important if you are solely nursing your baby doing the night and you are the one who gets up. This means ‘zoning out’ without your phone, music or any other distraction so you can quiet the mind and de-stress. Just be present.
To improve your sleep go to bed early if you know you will be up at night, the hours between 10pm and 12am is when the body restores itself. Try taking it in turns with your partner to get up at night with the baby. Rest and sleep is super important for the healing process and to help build resilience to stress.
Now you’ve become a mum or mom, it is the time to give back to yourself, look after and nurture your own amazing body. One that has brought another body into the world.
As with any exercise program, always make sure to wait until you have clearance from your doctor, OB or healthcare provider before exercising. Starting up with exercise to soon after birth may lead to injury and discomfort.
These 10 simple ways will help you take control of your fitness and health after having a baby. Follow these tips and you'll soon be on the way to feeling fitter, in shape and more body confident. Start steady, remember your pelvic floor and stomach muscles need attention and divide your exercise up into small chunks to make it more achievable.
I’m running a 5 day Mummy Tummy Kick Start Challenge for mums and moms who are ready to flatten their tummy, strengthen their core and pelvic floor and feel more confident. The 5 day Kick Start is a sample of my Mummy Tummy 12 week online program and gets your mind and body ready to start the right kind of exercises in just 10 minutes a day for great results. It’s totally free to join and we start 18 September.
About the Author: Vicky Warr
Vicky Warr is a certified pregnancy and postpartum fitness specialist and creator of The Beez Kneez method and her signature 'Mummy Tummy Transformation Program'. Vicky is also a speaker and contributor to Gurgle Magazine, one of the leading baby publications in the UK and a mother of 2 children. Her method 'The Beez Kneez' has medical endorsement from Doctors and Women's Health Physiotherapists. Connect with Vicky and The Beez Kneez Mamas Fitness on Linkedin, engage on Facebook or tweet on Twitter.