Dignity Health

Move It, Baby:


The Benefits of Postpartum Workouts


by Vaun Thygerson
Staff writer and mother of three

moveitbaby
After the birth of your baby, life revolves around your new bundle of joy.  But, let’s face it, you also desire to get your pre-baby body back.  Postpartum workouts not only help you achieve your physical goal, but exercising can help stave off baby blues.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), most women can return to an exercise routine within four to six weeks postpartum, once they are cleared physically and medically by their doctor.  However, every woman’s road back to the gym is different.  This guideline varies from one individual to another, with some women able to resume exercising within days of delivery.  

A return to physical activity can not only help new moms lose their unwanted baby weight, but it can also help decrease their incidence of postpartum depression.  Dr. Mark Root, Chief Medical Officer at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, says an estimated 25 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression, and exercise may help some of them.  “Probably, most of the benefit is secondary to the endorphin-release triggered by exercise,” says Root. “But, other related reasons include increased mobility, socialization, as well as other psychosocial issues.”

Leigh Pozas, owner and trainer at Total Woman Fitness & Training, agrees that exercise releases “feel-good” endorphins that help to lower a new mom’s stress.  “The positive effects of exercise on a person are unbelievable.  Exercise has been shown to be equally or even more effective at treating depression than therapy or medication,” she says.  “Postpartum depression is incredibly common and can be serious.  A lot has changed in a new mom’s life.  Mom must take care of herself, so that she can take care of baby!”

After having a baby, you should start getting back into the exercise groove slowly and gradually, according to Pozas.  She recommends a good combination of a cardio and a strength-training program.  “Starting with moderate walking, low-impact aerobics, or pool training, and some simple strength training is a great combination,” she says.  “The body has been through a lot and needs to heal.  The joints are vulnerable due to the laxity that occurred during pregnancy, so leave the heavy weights and extreme cardio for later.”

For mothers who are breastfeeding, Pozas says that moderate exercise does not have an effect on the breast milk or the quality of it.  “If Mom is breastfeeding, it is recommended that she either pump the breast or breastfeed within 30 minutes before exercising to reduce the discomfort of full breasts,” she says.  “Wearing a good supportive bra would be a good idea as well.”   

Total Woman Fitness & Training offers many classes and equipment appropriate for the new mom.  Some classes for postpartum workouts include Stretch & Strengthen, a gentle strength-training class; Body Flow, a class that combines Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates; and numerous water aerobic classes in the fitness center’s indoor, heated pool.  As far as Total Woman’s daycare options:  Pozas says, “We are the only gym that will take babies as young as Mom is comfortable leaving, usual four to six weeks.”   

If you want to break a sweat during strength training and cardio drills without leaving baby with a sitter, Bakersfield Adventure Boot Camp Stroller Fitness allows moms to work out alongside their newborn babies.  Lisa Cooper, CPT, Owner and Adventure Fitness Coach, says her stroller Boot Camp is open to women of all ages and fitness levels.  Babies must be six weeks old to accompany moms.  The group meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9:00 a.m. at Mondavi Park.  

Cooper says that when Mom brings her little ones to Boot Camp, it is not only convenient, but it’s also teaching their children the importance of a healthy lifestyle. “A lot of the toddlers who come to camp mimic their moms doing exercises at home,” she says. “It is a great way to role model an active lifestyle. The moms also learn exercises that they can do on their own with their strollers, so no excuses – they can work out with baby in tow!”

The exercise routine done at this Boot Camp varies with each workout, but it always focuses on strengthening the total body.  Cooper says they do a lot of combo strength moves and interval training to train efficiently and maximize results.  Each workout also includes a warm-up and a cool-down with core, balance, and flexibility training.  “It is very important to do functional exercises that moms use in their everyday lives, for example:  lifting car seats and putting them into a car or loading a stroller into the back of an SUV,” she says.  

Many campers enjoy exercising outdoors and relieving their stress with other moms. “It feels good to be outside in the morning, and the babies and toddlers enjoy it too,” Cooper says.  “The moms also enjoy having a chance to bond with the other moms who swap stories and offer advice.  They motivate and inspire each other and ultimately share the same goal of living a healthy lifestyle.”

For more information about Total Woman Fitness & Training, please visit www.twfitness.com. For Adventure Boot Camp, check out www.bakersfieldbootcamp.com. To find postpartum workout guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), log onto www.acog.org. ;

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Tags: Featured Story, Health, Infant & Baby, Maternity

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