It’s a familiar story: you have a new baby, and you spend so much time and energy caring for the infant that you forget to take care of yourself. Going for coffee dates with friends, watching movies, working on hobbies or home improvement projects, and exercising gets moved to the back burner–and eventually, fall off the stove.
Parenting is easier if you’re feeling healthy, happy, and confident, all three of which can be improved with regular exercise. Mayo Clinic says that exercising after childbirth can help a woman recover from labor and delivery, boost energy, relieve stress, tone abdominal muscles, and sleep well. WebMD adds that it can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Fathers, too, will benefit from increased energy, reduced stress, and better health.
And remember this: you’re not the only one who benefits from an active lifestyle. With regular exercise, you set a good example for your little one. When she’s old enough to walk and mimic you, she might even want to play along as you exercise. As she grows, fitness will be a normal part of life, helping her develop habits for a healthy lifestyle.
It can be hard to find the time for fitness when you’re getting used to a new schedule with a tiny human who relies on you for everything but keep in mind that you don’t have to put in two hours at the gym each day to reap the benefits of exercise. Parents find different ways to make exercise work in their lives.
If you’ve recently given birth, speak with your doctor about when it would be appropriate for you to start exercising. Mums and dads can follow these tips to develop and stick to a workout program, without sacrificing your role as parents.
Embrace Play Time
When your child is ready to play, you can get some exercise and enjoy quality time with him at the same time. If he wants to run around the yard, hop after him. If he wants to be held, lift him up and down while you do squats.
Connect with other parents in your area and agree to go on walks or join a mum-and-me or dad-and-me fitness programme together. Having someone hold you accountable makes it easier to lace up your shoes. You’ll not only get the opportunity to move and spend time with your baby, you’ll also make some new friends.
Don’t Neglect Pelvic Floor Fitness
What is the pelvic floor? If you’ve had a baby, you’re probably quite familiar. Baby Centre explains:
“It’s a broad sling of muscles, ligaments and sheet-like tissues that stretch from your pubic bone at the front of your body, to the base of your spine at the back.”
Pregnancy and childbirth weaken the pelvic floor, and strengthening it with Kegel exercises should be a part of your workout routine to help you heal more quickly and prevent urinary incontinence. Start doing them as soon as possible after giving birth.
Men, too, can be affected by urinary incontinence as they age; strengthening the pelvic floor should be a priority for them, as well. The North Bristol NHS Trust offers more information about pelvic floor exercises for men, and Baby Centre provides tips for postpartum women. Both dads and mums can do these exercises at any time throughout the day.
Ask For Help
Your health is important enough to ask for help if you need it. It could make the difference between having enough time and energy to play with your child or not. Perhaps grandparents or aunts and uncles would enjoy spending time with your children while you exercise. Consider making arrangements with fellow parents: they can mind your child during a workout, and you can return the favour. Bonus: by scheduling those times with others, you’re more likely to do the workout!
There are lots of free workouts on YouTube, some as short as five or 10 minutes. You save time because you don’t have to think about what to do: simply choose a video and follow along. Try apps like 7 Minute Workout, 30-Day Squat Challenge, and Adidas All Day Fitness.
Congratulate Yourself For Every Minute
Something is always better than nothing when it comes to exercise. If you start a workout and your infant wakes up from her nap, be happy about the 10 minutes you did instead of disappointed about the hour you didn’t.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise for adults every week, adding that “10 minutes at a time is fine”:
“The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don’t have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It’s about what works best for you, as long as you’re doing physical activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.”
Don’t put pressure on yourself to do hours of exercise. Do what you can, and appreciate the time and how it feels to do something good for yourself. Take a deep breath: you’re doing just fine!