Still Holding on to Pregnancy Weight? Try These Exercises

Pregnant woman holding belly

It can be hard to lose weight after a baby. | iStock.com/tamaravidmar

Once they’ve made all the necessary life adjustments to welcome their new baby after giving birth, moms find themselves tasked with trying to shed their pregnancy weight. To call it overwhelming doesn’t even come close. It takes a lot of time and energy to take care of a baby, and so many mothers feel like they don’t have time to spend on their own wellness. If you don’t devote a little bit of attention to yourself, though, those additional pounds might start to multiply.

In one study involving 774 women, researchers found a majority of them retained at least some of their baby weight one year later. The real takeaway was, among the women who had a normal BMI prior to pregnancy, nearly one-third were overweight or obese one year after delivering. Since these additional pounds increase the risk for multiple health problems, the results prove mothers really should take some time to focus on themselves.

Before anyone starts panicking, it’s worth remembering any amount of weight loss takes time. After all, it took nine months to put on the pregnancy weight in the first place. For some, it will come off immediately anyway. According to Fitness, most women can expect to shed 10 pounds just from the combined weight of the baby and body fluids. Breastfeeding can also help increase your calorie burn.

And now for exercise, which is crucial for helping you lose the pregnancy weight. As long as you’re up for it and your doctor doesn’t have any objections, you’re usually good to get moving pretty soon. These exercises will help you ease back into a fitness routine and shed those excess pounds.

1. Walking

young mother pushing a stroller as she walks

Walking is always a good go-to exercise. | iStock.com

Even women who are avid fitness buffs are going to need to ease into things a bit. Now is not the time to start intensive training for a road race. Walking is often the easiest way to get moving again, partially because you have the option of bringing your little one along for the ride. Once you’re past the point of normal strolling, you can up the intensity by heading for some hills. Parents also suggests trying a more structured walking workout like intervals. According to the article, you can expect to burn between 80 and 100 calories every 10 minutes.

Before you roll your eyes about the lack of intensity, it’s worth noting how effective walking can be in the weight-loss department. One 2015 study found those who walk briskly tend to weigh less than those who look to more traditional exercises.

2. Core-strengthening moves

woman doing glute bridge on a yoga mat

Work to strengthen your core. | iStock.com

Though it’s more about strengthening and toning than weight loss, core exercises are a crucial part of a post-baby fitness routine. These muscles get stretched out and become substantially weaker over the course of a pregnancy, which can lead to aches and pains just about anywhere on your body. Some women will also find themselves with diastasis recti, a condition where the abdominal muscles separate, usually to make room for the baby during pregnancy. Breaking Muscle has a great diagram helping to illustrate what you should be looking for.

Whether you have diastasis recti or not, your core needs some love. Start with simple strengthening moves on your back. Redbook shares some great options. And don’t forget about planks, which you can modify to meet your fitness level.

3. Swimming

woman pushing off the wall in a pool

Swimming is an awesome exercise. | iStock.com

Another great way to get back into a regular exercise routine is by jumping in the pool. Swimming is phenomenal for burning calories because it works just about every muscle in your body. Plus it’s a lot gentler on your joints than running or other intensive workouts. According to Women’s Health, an hour of easy swimming can blast 500 calories. You also have plenty of opportunity to up the intensity with different strokes and incorporate more intense intervals.

4. Yoga

Group Of Women Doing Yoga Indoors

Yoga will calm your mind and strengthen your body. | iStock.com

Since so much of yoga is about the mind-body connection, it’s a phenomenal workout for moms who feel a little frazzled by their hectic, baby-filled lives. That being said, don’t expect to be doing crow pose right off the bat. If you practice at home, take breaks when needed. For those who attend classes, just communicate with the instructor beforehand. Any good yoga teacher will be able to offer modifications to meet your needs. Some studios even specialize in postnatal yoga. Want to get started on your own? Check out some basic poses from Yoga Journal.

5. Biking

woman standing on the side of the road with her bike

Biking is great, though it may be uncomfortable at first. | iStock.com

Taking to your bike is a great way to get moving and enjoy time outside, but you do want to make sure you get a clear go-ahead from your doctor before hopping back in the saddle. Fit Pregnancy explains it’s usually far too uncomfortable for women until well past a month after giving birth.

Once you’re in the clear, start slow. Experience Life suggests women who weren’t particularly active before or during pregnancy aim for about 10 to 20 minutes at a comfortably hard pace three times a week. Those who were pretty fit before pregnancy can aim for 30 minutes.

6. Strength training

woman training with a fitness ball and weights at home

You can strength train anywhere. | iStock.com

Again, consult with your doctor before you get too involved in strength training. Depending on the specifics of your birth, he or she might recommend taking things slow. Once they say it’s OK, bodyweight exercises are a great place to start. IDEA Health & Fitness Association suggests getting started with basics like hip bridges, reverse crunches, and squats.

Eventually, you’ll be able to progress to more intensive workouts and use weights. Bodybuilding.com has a great 12-week program for moms looking to lose baby weight, which focuses on circuit training to build strength and lose fat in a short amount of time. Many of these workouts can be done with little equipment, so you can often do them at home.

Lastly, don’t forget about the role diet plays. One 2013 review found the programs most effective for helping women lose weight after giving birth relied on both dietary changes and physical activity. This doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself, it just means you need to be smart about your food choices. And give yourself a break. The occasional chocolate chip cookie totally fits into a healthy lifestyle.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec