Q: It’s hard enough to get myself fed now that I have a new baby. How do I fit in regular exercise?
A: We know that learning to take care of basic necessities like showering, preparing and eating food, and getting errands done can be challenging in the early months. It’s no wonder that exercise and self-care falls to the wayside. But just like eating and showering, regular exercise provides important benefits to you AND your baby. I’d like to see it placed toward the top of a new mother’s priority list.
To answer your question of “how,” I’ve turned to some of my clients who have mastered making exercise a part of their lives after having a baby – or babies in this case.
“After having my twins, much of my life seemed out of control. Exercise was a great way for me to regain control of my body and my health,” says Leslie Fox, a mom of three in Cary. “It was also an integral part of getting over the baby blues.”
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Leslie said getting outside for even 15 minutes a day made a big difference in her emotional health. “It’s so important to fill your own tank so that you’re not running on empty,” she said.
Leslie, already a runner before having her babies, started with walks between one or two miles when the babies were newborns. She would put them in a stroller (with a sling on hand in case they got fussy and she needed to wear them) and head out for fresh air and sunshine. “I loved it and the babies loved it,” she said. And fresh air and sunshine helps regulate babies’ circadian rhythms – a step toward creating healthy sleep habits.
Another client said getting exercise after bringing home a new baby helped her feel like she was taking time out to do something healthy for herself. “Initially I thought I’d only be able to get any kind of decent exercise without the baby with me,” said Andi Weiss, mom of 1-year-old Zoey. She started walking almost daily with Zoey either in the stroller or in a baby carrier.
Both Andi and Leslie started off walking, but little by little worked up to jogging with their little ones. They both found their jogging strollers to be a valuable investment.
Andi learned to incorporate her baby into her exercise. “I’ve used my baby as an actual weight. I do squats while holding her, which is great exercise, especially as she gets bigger and heavier! I feel the benefits of it the next day, and she loves going up and down over and over again.”
Now that Leslie’s family has grown, she had to come up with new ways to get her exercise. One solution was by investing in a treadmill. “Now I can walk or run while all the kids are napping because running with three kids under four just seemed like way too much,” she said.
Both Andi and Leslie take advantage of gym workouts, too. Leslie said finding a gym with great child care on site was life-changing: “It’s so nice to be able to drop off the little ones at the child care center (without feeling guilty because they actually LIKE it) and I can go get a workout, sit in the sauna, and take a shower (or even just hide in the locker room and read a book or answer emails). It has been a godsend.”
Other exercise options
Leslie points out that there are other at-home exercise options besides walking and jogging. Moms can find plenty of free yoga and exercise websites and shows that can be recorded, as well as other workouts for purchase.
If motivation is an issue, join a new-mom group that schedules regular walks. In this area, we are fortunate to have Stroller Strides, a fitness program that offers moms an opportunity to get in shape, meet other moms and have fun with their babies. It’s been a wonderful resource for many of my clients, some of whom were not exercisers before baby arrived. Not only did they get fit but they made new friends in the process.
I like to say: Take care of the mama so she can take care of the baby. Regular exercise is one way to do that for yourself. Not only are you providing important health benefits for yourself and your baby, but you are also modeling healthy behavior to your children right from the start.