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Caring for your mind and body after pregnancy

Becoming a parent is wonderful and exciting but also challenging, both physically and mentally. Exercise can help you feel better – and even small amounts count.  

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise after pregnancy has many benefits: 

  • Strengthens abdominal muscles 
  • Boosts energy 
  • Promotes better sleep 
  • Relieves stress 
  • Helps lose extra weight that you may have gained during pregnancy 

Exercise may even help prevent postpartum depression

Ask your doctor when you should return to exercising. But also listen to your body, and if you need more time, then wait longer. If you had a cesarean section (C-section) birth or complications such as diastasis recti, it’s important to check with your OB/GYN on when it’s safe to start exercising. Also ask if pelvic floor physical therapy is recommended. 

Go for a walk outside

Taking your baby for a walk is a simple, fantastic exercise. The sunshine and fresh air can work wonders for your well-being. Walk every day when possible. 

There are a number of benefits to getting baby outside. It helps baby stay healthy, provides sensory stimulation, boosts baby’s language, helps with sleep, and provides mental and physical health benefits for parents. 

Try "exercise snacking"

The US Department of Health recommends during and after pregnancy that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days a week. These are the same guidelines for all adults. The 150 minutes could be 5 days of 30-minute workouts, or smaller sessions throughout each day. 

If you can do that, awesome! But if not, don’t be discouraged. There are other ways that may be better for you.  

As a personal trainer, I agree that it’s ideal for people to get the recommended amount of exercise. But as a mom who had 2 difficult pregnancies and an infant that didn’t sleep well, I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. Often it was all I could do just to get through the day. That was long before exercise became a regular part of my life. 

Parents don’t need any more pressure than they already have, right? So let’s be realistic. Any tired, struggling new parent knows it may be tough, if not impossible, to find the time or energy for a traditional 30- or 60-minute workout.  

If that resonates with you, here’s another idea: Focus on doing what you can do, and moving in a way that makes you feel good. 

Exercise snacking means doing small amounts of exercise at a time. Ideally, you would do several short sessions spread throughout your day. This can be whatever timing and format that works best for you.  

You could try doing 1 minute of squats while you’re picking up things from the floor, doing leg lifts and kitchen counter push-ups while you’re waiting for the baby’s bottle to warm, and stretching before bed. There are a lot of ways you can fit movement into your day

Even if a few minutes a day is all you can do right now, any amount of exercise is better than none. Small amounts of exercise still benefit you physically and mentally.  

And remember, technically all movement counts as exercise. Caring for a baby and toddler involves lifting, squatting, and bending. You’re probably already getting some exercise, so give yourself credit. 

Workout ideas for new parents

  • Join an online class from the convenience and comfort of home. I’m leading 2 free online classes: Chair Fit and Wellness in Motion⁠⁠. They're sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) Raleigh location and open to all. Go to a gym or community class that offers on-site child care. 
  • Participate in a stroller fitness group for walks in neighborhoods or parks. 
  • Search for mom and baby exercise classes in your area.

Treat yourself with kindness and compassion

Pregnancy changes your body in many ways. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to bounce back quickly. Your body has been through a lot and needs time to recuperate.  

That’s why it’s important to be gentle and kind to yourself. Appreciate your body and all it’s been through, and all the work and energy involved in caring for a baby. It’s amazing what your body has done throughout pregnancy and childbirth – and what it continues to do. 

If you’re not loving what you see in the mirror right now, consider the concept of being “body neutral.” Penn Medicine shares tips to overcome negative body image after having a baby

Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Social media research published on ScienceDirect shows that people are more likely to compare themselves to others on social networking sites. And people who use them more often have greater chances of feeling bad and developing lower self-esteem. Social media is full of mom influencers and celebrities with who seem to have perfect bodies, families, homes, and lives. Their pages are carefully curated, and bodies may be photo-edited beyond reality, thanks to apps and AI. Why judge yourself based on an illusion? 

If you are feeling depressed, you are not alone. Contact your provider for help right away. 

Blue Cross NC has other resources to help. Our nurses can help new moms to make sure mom and baby are well. They are available to answer your questions and to connect you with resources. Moms who are breastfeeding also have access to lactation counseling services. 

authors photo

Michelle Rogers

Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

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