After your pregnancy, it can be tough to ease back into exercise, especially since your body probably isn’t up to doing your favorite working mom workouts. And if you have time to do things like go walking, cycling, and swimming, those would be excellent for your postpartum health.
But if you are a busy new mom trying to juggle multiple responsibilities after your pregnancy, you may not have the time for longer, more involved workouts. So, if you only have a couple of minutes you can snatch to workout, here are some light exercises you can do to help you recover postpartum.
1. Hip Raises
To do this exercise, you will want to lie down on your back—preferably on a yoga mat or other non-slip surface. Position yourself so that your arms are flat along your side (palms down) and your knees are bent with the bottom of your feet flat on the ground.
From this position, squeeze your core and behind as you press your hips upwards. Your body should look like a right-angle triangle. As you hold your hips in the raised position, flex your Kegels—the muscles in your pelvis—and keep them engaged as you sink back down to the floor.
Doing at least 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions can help you strengthen your core, pelvic muscles, and help to relieve lower back pain.
2. Kegel Squats
Unlike a traditional squat, to do this one, you will start from a seated position. Sit on the edge of a non-rolling chair with your feet planted shoulder-width apart. With your arms extended out in front of you for balance, contract your Kegels and lift yourself off of your seat.
Hold the lifted position a few inches off of your seat while keeping your pelvic muscles flexed. Count to 10, then lower yourself back onto your seat. Try doing 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions to maximize this exercise.
By doing concentrated pelvic floor strengthening exercises, you can take control of any postpartum incontinence and lingering pain from weakened muscles. Also, this exercise can help strengthen your lower body’s joints, which may still feel loose after your child’s birth.
3. Partial Crunch
Rather than take on a full crunch while your abdominals are recovering, you can build up to it with a partial crunch. Lay flat on the floor, with your arms and legs extended.
Once in position, raise your arms and legs to 45-degree angles, making sure to lift your shoulders off the floor. As you hold this position, you can cross one foot over the other 5-8 times then release back into the prone position.
This exercise engages your whole body, and by doing 1-3 sets—with at least 10 reps every set—you can strengthen your entire trunk while keeping your legs and arms involved.
4. Bird Dog
To do this exercise, you need to get on your hands and knees. Once in position, extend your right arm and left leg fully, then draw them back in until your elbow touches your knee. Repeat the movement, then switch sides.
Doing two full sets of 10 on both sides will help shape up your core, as this movement works the abdominal muscles, obliques, and pelvic muscles.
5. Squatting Wide Row
You can opt for hand weights for this exercise or not, though it is best if you have at least 2-5 lb weights you can use. With your weights in hand, sink into a squat with your feet planted shoulder-width apart, arms held in front of you, your knees are bent to a 90-degree angle, and your back held straight.
From this position, bring your arms to your chest in a rowing motion, then lower them back down. Repeat the rowing movement until you have reached 10-15 reps.
This exercise works to engage both the lower and upper body. It can be especially useful for moms who are looking to build up strength for all the crouching and picking up they need to do with their new babies.
Why Bother With Exercise After Pregnancy
Even equipped with the above exercises, it can be tough to find the energy and motivation to exercise when you need to take care of your baby as well as your other responsibilities. So, if you need a little more motivation than getting your pre-pregnancy body back, here are some of the best reasons why you should exercise after pregnancy.
Naturally Boost Energy Levels
I know saying exercise boost energy levels can sound counterintuitive—how does expending energy to exercise give you more energy? But instead of thinking of your energy as a finite thing, consider your energy levels to be more like a muscle.
If you want to grow stronger, you would lift the right amount of weight steadily to build up your strength. Energy levels work similarly. By exercising regularly, even if all you can do to start is five minutes, you can build up more stamina and endurance. And as your stamina grows, you will have more energy for all the things that require your attention, from your family to your work.
Helps To Stabilize Your Moods
As awareness of postpartum depression (PPD) grows, more women are looking into how to manage this debilitating issue. But PPD isn’t the only issue mothers face post-pregnancy. There is a good deal of leftover hormones that can impact a new mother’s emotions and moods, as well as the stress of taking care of an infant.
Luckily, research has shown that exercise can help level out the many mood swings that can impact women post-pregnancy. Women who made time to exercise at least three times a week found they had fewer mood disturbances, as well as an increase in positive energy.
Rebuilds Muscle Strength And Tone
Without incorporating exercise, recovering from the physical toll of pregnancy and childbirth can be very difficult. There is often muscle damage, and remaining fit throughout pregnancy isn’t always possible, especially if bedrest or other medical issues prohibit exercise.
To help speed up your postpartum recovery, exercise is essential. While targeted weight loss isn’t a real thing, you can target and tone up different muscle groups with the exercise I talked about above.
Raises Sleep Quality
While parenthood can be exhausting, sometimes being tired isn’t enough to get quality sleep. Often, with mothers on the go, their energy may be expended, but without the mental and emotional release that exercising can provide, it may be difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep.
But by taking the time to do self-care and exercise, you are allowing yourself time to decompress and focus on simply moving. So, instead of lying awake with stress, with exercise, you can drop off to sleep—at least, until the baby gets you up.
So, when you aren’t spending quality bonding time with your baby, try and see if you can fit in some of these post-pregnancy exercises. That way, you can start rebuilding your strength as soon as possible.