Welcoming a new baby into your home, whether it’s your first or not, always means big changes. It can be really difficult to find time for self-care, including fitness and physical activity.
But we know how important activity is for everyone’s physical and mental well-being, and just because you have a new baby doesn’t mean this important time needs to disappear forever. You might just need to be a bit more creative in figuring out how to get it!
Below are some of my favourite ways to add some fitness time into your baby’s first year. Please remember you should always get the okay from your healthcare provider before starting a postpartum fitness practice.
As a yoga therapist I may be biased, but postnatal yoga is one of my favorite ways to reintroduce movement after giving birth. Postnatal yoga meets the practitioner where they are, and is easily adaptable to those dealing with diastasis recti or anyone looking to improve their pelvic floor, as well as breastfeeding parents and those with little to no sleep! As your baby grows, the practice can be made more physically challenging, while still staying safe. A great postnatal yoga session also allows options to interact with your baby, with poses done with Baby lying on the mat, or bringing Baby in to be held. This is typically a great practice until your baby becomes mobile and won’t stay on the mat, usually around six to eight months.
Zumba or dancing
Many babies love hearing music and watching people move. You can use this to your advantage. One of my favourite ways to get moving with an older baby is to do Zumba (or just dance) with the cutest audience around! Your baby can stay in a safe place (bouncy chair, playpen) with the ability to see you moving. Then pick your favourite workout on YouTube or elsewhere to get moving. Babies may share some giggles and bigger babies may even join in on the moving fun! In my experience, this is great for a 20-30 minute workout. Best for babies ages five months to walking.
I’ve always loved baby-wearing and think it’s a great way to get some exercise. Always make sure the baby is being carried in a safe and ergonomic carrier, and that you feel comfortable wearing them. After that, there are many great baby-wearing options. YouTube offers numerous baby-wearing workouts, many places offer in-person baby-wearing fitness classes, and you can create your own cardio practice by putting on some music (in ear buds if your baby is sleeping) and get dancing to get your heart rate going. If your baby is the type who loves to nap on you, this is a great way to get that nap and the workout in. This is best for all babies under one, assuming you have a way to carry them comfortably.
Get walking or running
Don’t overlook one of the best forms of movement—walking and running. If you’re a runner, investing in a jogging stroller can be a great way to get back on the pavement. But even if you have knees like mine, walking can be a great way to get physical activity. Babies usually love it (either in a stroller or carrier) and if you’re sleepy, fresh air can often be very revitalizing. With the right gear, no weather is bad weather and you can take Baby out rain or shine. Great for babies of all ages.
Jump in the pool
Babies love being in the water, and water is a great low-impact way to workout. “Baby swim” classes offer opportunities to do basic aqua activities with babies. Even on your own you can find a pool with water that’s walking height and walk laps holding a baby. There’s a good chance your baby will enjoy splashing and moving with you and this is a great way to get them used to being in the water. Always keep the baby’s head above water, and make sure you are somewhere you can comfortably stand and move and that the water temperature is around 38 degrees. Great for babies over three months.
A lack of physical activity can be one of the most frustrating things about a new baby, especially if it was a big part of your pre-baby life. Working out may not look like it did before you had your baby, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stop all together. With a little creativity, you can keep finding ways to enjoy the benefits of moving and exercising every day.
Emily Gold is a yoga therapist and teacher, doula, and public health specialist. She is currently living abroad, in Brussels, Belgium.