Physical activity for the new mom

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 09:26

Postpartum exercise isn't always easy for a new mom to accomplish. As caring for a newborn takes priority, changes to daily habits, energy levels, and physiology often lead to decreased participation in structured sports and physical activity.

How and when do I get started?

  1. For the average woman, resumption of physical activity (except for light walking and/or stretching) is recommended only after four to six weeks after delivery 
  2. Women recovering from a caesarean section should wait a little longer (eight weeks). Be sure to have full medical clearance from your doctor before proceeding 
  3. Start slowly with a low impact aerobic activity, such as: walking, swimming or yoga/Pilates classes targeted for new moms. 

Benefits of postpartum exercise: 

  • Increases bone health by increasing bone mineral density (BMD) and prevents lactation-associated bone loss 
  • Improves mood, self-esteem and relieves stress. It can also help to prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression 
  • Prevents obesity 
  • Conditions your abdominal muscles 
  • Boosts energy levels 

How can I include physical activity into my busy life? 

No time? - Don't be afraid to ask for help! Call on the supportive people in your life, your partner, family or friends and ask them to care for the baby for a short time while you get a little exercise. Depending on where you live, you could also try signing up for mommy and me exercise classes.

Feeling tired? - Fatigue can positively or negatively impact your motivation to be active - 'sleep when the baby sleeps' is great advice as well as the knowledge that being active will give you an energy boost.

Self-conscious? - One of the biggest struggles new moms face are the changes to their body, as many women express the idea of 'getting their bodies back'. Giving birth fundamentally changes your body and expecting that you will be able to obtain your pre-baby body may be unrealistic. Try thinking of physical fitness as a way of increasing confidence, improving your health and setting a positive example for your new child.

Remember that it takes consistency and time to get back into good physical shape. Determining when you feel most energetic and then planning your activity during that time, can positively affect any issues with time constraints, motivation and fatigue that will enable you to achieve your fitness goals.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. DRUXMAN L, PETERSEN C. Postpartum Exercise: A targeted exercise program and proper body mechanics can help new moms deal with the physical challenges of motherhood. IDEA Fitness Journal. November 2006;3(10):34-37.
2. Kim E, Kim S, Oh D. Pelvic floor muscle exercises utilizing trunk stabilization for treating postpartum urinary incontinence: randomized controlled pilot trial of supervised versus unsupervised training. Clinical Rehabilitation. February 2012;26(2):132-141.
3. Larson-Meyer D. The effects of regular postpartum exercise on mother and child. International Sportmed Journal. November 2003;4(6):1-14.
4. McIntyre C, Rhodes R. Transitions to motherhood and its effect on physical activity. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. July 2, 2007;29:S186-S187.
5. Pivarnik J, Mudd L. Physical Activity During Pregnancy and Postpartum: What Have We Learned?. President's Council On Physical Fitness & Sports Research Digest. December 2009;10(4):1-8.
6. Siega-riz A, Evenson K, Dole N. Pregnancy-related Weight Gain--A Link to Obesity?. Nutrition Reviews. July 2, 2004;62(7):105-111.
7. Stephenson S. Is there a relationship between pre-natal exercise and postpartum depression. 1993.