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Exercising after pregnancy

Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body and produces an assortment of biological changes. After confronting and managing those changes for nine months and ultimately giving birth, it’s not uncommon for women to look for ways to feel how they did prior to becoming pregnant. One such way is through exercise, though it’s important that women avoid rushing into new fitness regimens after giving birth.

Why exercise after pregnancy?

Infants require round-the-clock attention, and women tend to be their primary caregivers in the first few months. That’s especially so for women who intend to breastfeed. Nightly wakeup calls in the middle of the night are just one of the challenges associated with caring for infants, and given the extent of those challenges, it’s easy to put exercise on the back burner. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cites a host of benefits of exercise for postpartum women. Exercise strengthens and tones abdominal muscles, helps improve energy levels and can even help to relieve the stress that comes with caring for an infant.

In addition, the American Psychological Association notes that exercising after pregnancy, once women get the green light to do so from their physicians, may help women avoid or reduce the severity of postpartum depression, or PPD. The APA estimates that PPD affects as many as one in seven women and notes that it won’t go away on its own, making exercise a valuable tool in the fight against PPD.

How much exercise do I need after giving birth?

No two women are the same, so it’s imperative that women discuss how they feel with their physicians after giving birth. Some women are ready to exercise the day after giving birth, while others may need more recovery time. The ACOG recommends that women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Various 10-minute sessions throughout the day can help women meet that recommendation without making them feel overtaxed. However, women should not begin exercising after childbirth without first getting the go-ahead from their physicians.

What is moderate-intensity aerobic activity?

The ACOG notes that brisk walking and riding a bicycle on level ground qualify as moderate-intensity aerobic activity. So a brisk, half-hour walk with baby in stroller can help women meet the daily recommended amounts of exercise.

What about breastfeeding and exercise?

Women should still be able to exercise even if they’re breastfeeding. The ACOG recommends that mothers feed their babies or express their milk prior to working out so they can avoid any discomfort that may result from engorged breasts. When exercising, make a concerted effort to stay hydrated and wear a well-fitting bra that provides ample support and protection to the breasts.

Exercising after pregnancy can benefit mothers in myriad ways. More information can be found at www.acog.org.

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