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Getting Fit After Baby

Posted 3/30/2015 by UHBlog

If you have questions about getting back in shape after your baby is born, ask us.

If regular exercise makes you happy and sane, is it realistic to think you'll feel that way again during the first year of your new baby's life?

It is, says sports medicine specialist Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD, but you'll need to manage your expectations.

"You need to look at exercise in the short term," she says. "Right now, it's about stress relief and giving yourself time to do what you enjoy. You're not going to set a personal record after you give birth, so give yourself a break."

After all, your body has been through a lot over the last 280 days as it prepared itself for birth. If you're a normal weight woman, you may have gained 25 pounds or more during your pregnancy. After giving birth, you lost 10 pounds right away between the baby and body fluids. That remaining pregnancy weight may take awhile to shed.

It can take resolve for a sleep-deprived mom to resume exercising, but the benefits include:

  • More energy
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Toned body

Exercise can also lessen the likelihood of postpartum depression.

Once your doctor clears you to exercise again follow these tips:

Start slowly – "You don't have to treat exercise a whole lot differently than any other time you've taken off before, such as when you've had an injury," Dr. Weiss Kelly says.

Avoid injury by gradually adjusting the distance you run, amount of time spent exercising or the weight you lift. Dr. Weiss Kelly's rule of thumb is to make 10 percent incremental increases each week. For instance, if you bench press 40 pounds and your goal is to work up to 60 pounds, increase the weight by 10 percent each week.

Do something you like – You're more likely to stick with it if you're doing an activity you enjoy. Many new moms like to walk with their baby in the stroller. Swimming is a great one to come back to," she says. "It's low impact but good for relieving stress and for fitness."

Plan around your baby – Consider exercising around your baby's schedule, such as early morning before she wakes or while he naps. Some moms include baby in their exercise plans. For instance, they attend a mom-and-baby yoga class or walk or run with baby in a regular or jogging stroller.

Whether you breastfeed or not, many moms like to time their exercise around their baby's feeding schedules. Breastfeeding moms usually find it more comfortable to feed their babies before heading out for a walk or run.

Some days your baby may dictate how long you get to work out. "If you only get to do 20 minutes that day because the baby wakes up or something happens, then be happy with that," Dr. Weiss Kelly says.

Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD is the division chief, Pediatric Sports Medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center and the division chief, Pediatric Sports Medicine at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Weiss Kelly or any other doctor online.

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