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Fitness for Recovery After Pregnancy
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"Finding easy exercise programs for new mothers"

Having a baby in the house disrupts all your routines, including when you sleep, eat, think even when and if you exercise. But the first year after delivery is also a great time to get back in shape as well as to spend precious time with your baby. Taking care of an infant is tiring, and you may not feel like you can make space for yourself to work out. And you may be concerned about being out of shape, overweight and how exercise will affect breastfeeding. But getting out there is as good for you as it is for the baby. Exercising helps your baby to get exercise and fresh air, nurtures your parent-child bond, encourages early learning and exploration, and helps establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime. When you see how much your baby enjoys exercising with you, you'll get in the groove.

A Healthy Stroll

The last 10 years have revolutionized strollers. Even the most basic stroller has durable rubber wheels that can handle long urban walks. If you've invested in a "runner" or a "sport utility" stroller, you can take your baby jogging, go hiking off pavement onto park roads (like unpaved fire roads), or even try in-line skating along a scenic path. These weight-bearing exercises also help you build bone strength and improve posture. Aim to run, walk or skate for a half-hour at a time, at least three times a week. If you're in the market for a stroller, choose one that will protect your infant from the elements. Warmth, shade, rain shelter and a smooth ride are essential components if you will be exercising together regularly.

Pedalling for Fitness

Biking is an activity that the entire family can enjoy. Siblings can ride alongside or join older babies in the bike trailer. Biking works your legs and tones the back muscles, which you rely on when picking up your kids. To get a good aerobic workout (and get your heart and lungs in shape), go up a few hills and break a sweat. Pulling the trailer increases your resistance as well. Even if you relish a meander through the park, try to get your heart pumping (you'll notice your breathing speed up, too) for at least 20 minutes straight, then cool down for 10 minutes on level ground.

Water Fun

Babies love water probably because they emerge from the watery uterus and are born with a "dive reflex" that helps them hold their breath underwater (it is automatic until about 6 months of age). Warm water is comfortable and supported paddling is good exercise for the little one some babies even learn to swim before they crawl. Baby and Mom/Dad swim classes are a terrific way to encourage your child to explore the environment.

Water aerobics is a good low-impact workout for you, too, since the water offers resistance without straining your joints. Water exercise also helps tone pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that control the flow of urine) to prevent long-term problems with incontinence (leaking urine), improves circulation and prevents varicose veins.

Grab the Backpack

Don't hesitate to head into the wilderness with your baby. The birds, butterflies and sounds of the forest are a rich experience for an infant. Baby carriers are designed for comfort for parent and child. As you build your stamina, you'll be able to enjoy long hikes, camping trips and even a backpacking excursion, if you're up for it. Heading into the backcountry or even into the neighborhood park system on a trail relieves stress and takes you away from it all. It's also a healthy way to spend time with your loved ones, catch up on conversation and reaffirm the relationships that support you.

Keep in mind that depression is common after delivery. Having a strong support network, getting out of the house and doing things you truly enjoy are key to preventing mood swings. Regular exercise which may allow your mind to get that perspective and your body to release those feel-good endorphins has been shown to improve mood as well.

Hit the Mat

Yoga, Pilates and a creative array of "exercise with Baby" classes can give you a guided workout. Having a scheduled class helps maintain motivation and the "mommy group" atmosphere is supportive and fun. Plus, indoor classes beat the winter blues. Holding Baby through a range of stretching and toning activities pushes your body a little further, and that cute face helps the hour fly by. And you can do these basic exercises at home, too:

Chest Presses

Lying on your back, hold your baby straight in front of you and gently lower down with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Push out and repeat 10 times. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions.

Abdominal Curls

Lie on your back with your baby sitting on your stomach with your knees bent. Contract your abdominals and lift your shoulders and head off the ground. Keep your spine and neck in line and contract your belly to lift your upper body. Hold for a count of five seconds, then release your head and shoulders back to the ground. Repeat 10 times. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions. Exercising with Baby is easy and fun and will help you meet your fitness goals while involving your child in your healthy habits. Down the road, your child will appreciate exercise as an essential and enjoyable part of the day, just like you do.

Need Some Motivation?

You'll be surprised at how good you feel when you start exercising again. This is because pregnancy builds stamina. So, though you may retain some extra weight early on, your heart and lungs are probably more fit than before pregnancy. Lots of women athletes have felt this advantage. One study of German champion women athletes showed that most made objective improvements in performance after pregnancy and childbirth. Let the statistics motivate you: 70 percent of women who exercise postpartum are more fit a year after delivery than they were before pregnancy!

Exercise is an important part of getting back in shape, especially in the first year after delivery. Women who combine a healthy diet with moderate exercise lose more weight than women who diet after delivery. Exercise does a lot more than burn fat it also tones your muscles, jump starts your metabolism and builds lean body mass (which makes your body burn more calories even when you're not working out).

Breastfeeding and Exercise

Good news! A regular moderate workout will not interfere with your ability to breastfeed. Initially, you may notice that you produce a little less milk after exercising. This is because you are dehydrated. Remember to drink for two at least 1 liter of water per hour of exercise.

After an intense workout, some lactic acid may make breast milk taste funny temporarily. It is safe for Baby to drink, but if your child doesn't like it, breastfeed before exercising. You may want to breastfeed before a workout anyway so your breasts are not uncomfortably full. Nursing pads will help protect nipples from unpleasant abrasion with exercise.

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