Consult your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program. In general it is safe to resume regular exercise once you receive clearance from your healthcare provider after giving birth, normally at 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for a cesarean-section delivery.
It is never selfish to do something for yourself. You will find it easier to meet the challenges of motherhood when you are fit and healthy. When you are happy, the whole family benefits.
Start slowly and build gradually, especially if you did not exercise during all or part of your pregnancy. You are less likely to continue with a fitness program if you overdo it in the beginning.
Drink plenty of water, at least 64 ounces a day - more if you are exercising - and even more if you are nursing. Water is critical to keeping you hydrated during this important time, when your body is still in recovery mode from the hard work of developing (and if you are nursing, sustaining) a baby.
Continue to take prenatal vitamins if you are nursing, and if you are not, a good vitamin/mineral supplement is advised.
After you have a baby you may want to start with a very low-impact form of exercise, for lots of reasons. Your body is returning to its pre-pregnancy shape and size, and therefore is in a state of transition: your ligaments are still loose from the pregnancy hormones, you may experience incontinence until you rebuild the strength in your pelvic floor muscles, and your breasts may be enlarged and sore if you are nursing.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise, and one you can do with your baby in a stroller (at any age). As with other forms of exercise, start slowly and build gradually. An added benefit of any outdoor exercise is that being outside gives you a new perspective on things and aids in stress release.
It is not important what type of exercise you participate in. The key is to find something you enjoy and will stick with. Consistency is the important factor. Your options are endless: you can hike, bike, do aerobics, yoga, pilates, swim, or walk.
This is not a time for rigid dieting and rapid weight loss. Choose a well-balanced, nutritious eating lifestyle. It may take many months - as many as nine - to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy and to tone up. Your body may never completely return to its pre-pregnancy shape. Some women's bodies simply change permanently with pregnancy. Try not to think of this change as negative; consider what you have gained in exchange.
If you are nursing, you will need approximately 500 additional calories per day to support lactation. Take it easy and be sure to get plenty of rest.
An ideal fitness program includes cardiovascular training, toning/muscle strengthening, and flexibility or stretching, three to four times per week for about one hour.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Motherhood is challenging; you may not be able to exercise as often, or get into shape as quickly as you would like. Do what you can, and enjoy this precious time with your little bundle of joy!
Run The Planet thanks the website StrollerTime (www.strollertime.com) for the permission to reprint the article "Tips for Getting Back in Shape After You Have a Baby" by Tara Smith. Tara Smith, B.S. in Exercise Science, M.B.A., is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and has 12 years' experience. Tara is an IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer, and fitness is her passion. She has specialized training in biomechanics, balance training, body alignment, and pre- and post-natal exercise design. She is instructs and co-produced "Strollertime: A Complete Workout With Baby in Tow" CD/DVD set. For information, and other articles written by Smith, please visit www.strollertime.com.