Your life changes in many wonderful ways when you have a baby – your home becomes filled with the laughter of a young child, your finances adjust to rising child care expenses, and of course, your body goes through the wonderful journey of nurturing and giving birth to your child. Now that you have welcomed your little bundle of joy, focusing on your postpartum health is even more important. Self-care and exercise for new mothers are important for both her own physical health and in helping her feel good in her postpartum body. Yet with a young one in tow and an overload of information out there, getting started with postpartum fitness and exercise can often leave you confused. The best way to begin? By focusing on a few core postpartum exercises and building from there at your own pace.

Core Exercises Are A Must

Changes to your core and pelvic floor are two of the most common changes women go through during pregnancy. As your baby grows, the increasing pressure can restrict your diaphragm and pelvic floor. This, in turn, can affect your muscle function and lead to pain, incontinence and, in some cases, diastasis recti. It is estimated that almost 60 percent of women get diastasis recti six weeks after giving birth.

Because of the drastic changes your core experiences in the nine months of pregnancy, including exercises that target your core can help rebuild your pelvic floor and core strength. Core exercises for new moms do not have to be complicated to be effective either. Start with simple belly breathing techniques or abdominal bracing movements, which are ideal for early on in recovery.

Once you have increased your comfort level and fitness, you can graduate onto other core exercises such as side planks and double leg lowers for up to 20 repetitions. If you notice any back pain during your sets, take a minute to breathe and return to a less strenuous exercise. This may be your body’s way of letting you know it is not quite ready for such intensity.

Start Slow And Add In High-Intensity Workouts

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that new moms aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio weekly and strength training twice a week. However, getting back into running, CrossFit and other high impact exercises after pregnancy requires preparation, including a pelvic floor conditioning program. To ease yourself back in, start with a run/walk program. Begin with going for 20 minutes walks daily with your baby before slowly progressing to light jogs and, eventually, running.

Alternatively, you can stick with similar paced gym programs such as HIT or CrossFit. Exercises like squats can impact your pelvic floor, so you must start gradually and take the time to strengthen your core first. However, it is a great way to improve muscle mobility and strength. It is also important that you eat to support your high-intensity regime and the repair of your muscles. This includes consuming adequate macronutrients and meeting your caloric needs.

Take It Slow: Relax And Meditate

Recent research has shown that the stress levels of American mothers are amongst the highest in the world. A good way to combat this is with the use of yoga and meditation. New moms can start with gentle yoga poses such as the kegel exercises (child’s pose), warrior I with shoulder bind, or the popular bridge pose. The Bridge pose is a great beginner pose that helps with anxiety and with alignment in your lower back. For mothers with sore backs or lower back pain, the supine twist and other related yoga poses can help ease back pain.

Above all, take your time, and return to exercise at your own pace. As a new mom, it is important that you take some time for yourself, and getting back into exercise is just one example of self-care. However, no two journeys are the same. Find a routine that works for you and your baby. After all, fitness is as much about happiness as it is about health.

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