It sure would be nice if after giving birth we could head home in our pre-pregnancy jeans—but sadly, it just doesn’t work like that. And once you get home, there are a few things that get in the way of you getting back into your workout routine: your postpartum recovery, a serious lack of sleep, 5 billion diapers changes a day and a constant fear of screwing up your kid, to name a few. But before you say, “I just can’t think about exercising for another six months,” we’d like to let you in on a little secret: There’s actually no better time to start getting back in shape. Fitness expert Tracey Mallett, author of Super-Fit Mama, breaks down six compelling reasons to exercise after baby arrives:
Exhausted? Sleep isn’t the only thing that gets your motor running—a lap around the block has been known to fight fatigue too. “Yes, it seems weird to exert more energy to get more energy, but it absolutely works,” Mallett says. “Try adding a morning stroller walk or jog into your routine.” Other moms agree. “I’m not one of those people who enjoys working out, but I feel so energized and good now,” says one Bumpie about jumping on the workout bandwagon.
Not only does exercise get your heart pumping, it may put you in a better state of mind. “Exercise releases stress at one of the most stressful times in a mom’s life,” Mallett explains. In fact, a 2017 study found that even low-intensity exercise, such as walking with a baby stroller, can lower the likelihood of postpartum depression in new moms.
Moms are in constant demand, and many feel bad taking time for themselves. Workouts give you a chance to step away and clear your head, and since being in a better mood and having more energy also benefit your partner and baby, you can lose the guilt. “I absolutely adore my daughter, but being a stay-at-home mom I need some time to myself, and getting to the gym does wonders!” says another Bumpie. Can’t get a sitter? “Stroller fitness classes are a fabulous way to work out with other moms and get out of the house and exercise with your baby,” Mallett says.
Should you work out just so you’ll feel prettier? Maybe. Body image is super-important, and many of us tend to hit a big mental slump if we aren’t happy with our physical state. “My motivation to exercise is so that I can feel comfortable enough in my skin again to have sex with my poor husband,” says another Bumpie. Will exercise make you feel instantly attractive? Probably not, but it’s definitely a good start. Just remember to cut yourself some slack—your body just went through nine months of morphing. According to Mallett, you should allow for at least a good nine months of recovery.
It may feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day, but exercise doesn’t have to be a big time-suck. “No one needs an hour a day to look good and keep in shape,” Mallett says. So how much time do you need to set aside for an effective workout? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that postpartum women get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, which comes out to about 20 minutes a day—but you don’t need to get it all in during one session. As long as you’re consistent and efficient, Mallett says 10 minutes here and there will work just fine. Is it easy to spend your extra pockets of time doing lunges instead of watching baby watch Elmo? Or zoning out on your lunch break? Actually, yes—once you get in the habit.
There’s no denying it: Your healthy habits are great for baby. Not only will you be in a better state to care for your child, you’ll also be setting a great example early on. Squeeze in some crunches while you’re down on the floor playing with her, or help baby learn her numbers as you count leg lifts. “This not only demonstrates to your child that exercise is fun, but you’re entertaining your baby and getting in some valuable exercise time,” Mallett says.
Updated January 2018
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