By Arianne Brown, Contributing Blogger (@ariannebrown)
It was the next morning after delivering my baby boy — all 8 pounds 9 ounces of him. I had finally felt well enough to venture to the shower to clean up, and it was then when I had my first peek at my post-baby belly. No longer did it hold my baby, yet it was still very reminiscent of a pregnant body. At that moment, I wondered if my body would ever be the same again.
This scenario has repeated itself over and over again — nine times to be exact. As a mother if nine, each time I have glanced at my belly and felt the handful of gush and extra skin, I wonder what it will take to be me again. Each time is as daunting as the last. Yet, each time, I know that I need to take the time to get healthy and fit again because the future of myself, my child and my family depends on it. With each of my pregnancies, I have found many benefits of exercise postpartum, including the following.
It helps your body heal
Let’s face it. There is a lot of healing that needs to take place after having a baby, no matter how easy of a delivery you had. Things need to move back into place, and you may even have scars or other delivery-related injuries that need time to heal.
Due to this, rest is most definitely a welcomed thing — but not for too long. The fact of the matter is, moving promotes blood flow throughout the body, and blood flow promotes healing. Whether it’s going for a walk around the block, or simply taking time to be up and around the house, by allowing your body to move, your body will begin to heal.
It will help you heal emotionally
Not only is pregnancy and delivery taxing physically, but emotionally as well. Perhaps you had a difficult labor, or maybe you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with all that comes with having a new baby. These are all normal feelings that so many mothers experience, but that need to be taken care of before things get worse.
As one who has felt the effects of depression, angst and complete overwhelm after having a baby, I have found exercise to be a key component in my ability to cope with those feelings. There are the obvious endorphins that you get after exercise, but for me, it is really taking that time each day to focus on myself, that helps me put one foot in front of the other during the times when things get tough.
It helps your confidence
When I am doing what I can to have a healthy and strong body, and when I see the results of those efforts, it is empowering. It gives me confidence. And when I’m confident, it makes it that much easier to get through the tough times.
It can make you a better mom
Exercise itself does not make you a better mom, but being healthy does. When I am healthy and fit, I can get the daily tasks done that are required of me as a mother. It also allows me to take my kids on hikes, runs and bike rides because I am in shape. Taking time to exercise helps me be present and engaged as a mother, which is what my newborn all the way up to my teenagers need from me.
Now for some pro tips on how to begin an exercise regimen postpartum
1. Get a good sports bra
New motherhood is great for the bust line, but awful for exercise. Being large and uncomfortable up there does not lend itself well to doing any sort of exercise — unless you invest in a good sports bra. Having ample support and padding will make a world of difference in how you feel. Just take my word for it.
2. Set reasonable goals and be patient with yourself
Everyone would like to be back into their jeans a week after, or have that baby pouch shrunken down to nothing in a matter of a few weeks. The fact of the matter is, it took you nine months to grow a baby, and it will also take time to shrink things back to size.
For me, the goals are less to do with when I will look a certain way or be a certain size, and more about what I will do to get there. I set daily goals related to exercise and food, and as a result, the pounds do melt away, the waistline does begin to shrink, and my body does start resembling what it once did.
3. Start out easy and low impact
Running, jumping and high-impact exercises should be avoided in the first few weeks, or until you are done bleeding and when your uterus has gone down. If you start jolting things around before you have healed, you could potentially hemorrhage, or at the very least, be very uncomfortable and sore.
Walking, yoga and even some exercise videos with low impact modifications are great to get you started.
4. Listen to your body
There is really no specific date for when you should begin an exercise regimen. Only you can tell when your body is ready. For some, it’s a few days after when they can begin, and for others it’s several weeks or months. I’ve had times when I could begin a few days after, and I’ve had times when it took several weeks to feel like I was ready. You’ll know when you are ready. And when you are, make sure to enjoy the journey as a new mom doing her very best to navigate through her new world with her new baby.