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Best Exercises Post Baby

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer with more than 10 years of experience as a nutritionist. Her work is featured in the Huffington Post, DAME Magazine, The Good Men Project and more. She specializes in eating disorders and loves connecting with readers and writers via her blog and social media.

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Best Exercises Post Baby
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Much like a healthy diet, an effective fitness routine after pregnancy can help ensure your short- and long-term wellness, which includes healthfully shedding those excess pounds. You should reach your pre-pregnancy weight within six months of delivery, says the National Library of Medicine, and avoid weight-loss efforts for the first six weeks or two months if you are nursing. Then work your way into exercise slowly to avoid injury, taking special precautions if you've had a C-section. The following exercises make great additions to a post-delivery fitness plan. Once you've perused the slides, let us know which ideas you like best in the comments.

Whimsical Walking
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Adrenaline rushes and relief often follow childbirth, but that doesn't mean you should take off sprinting. "Even though the baby has arrived, you should consider your body still in a transitional state and avoid intense exercise," said Leslie McNabb, a restorative exercise specialist and Pilates instructor in New York City. Walking provides a low-impact way to gradually increase activity while enhancing circulation throughout your body. To soothe you and your baby, take her for a walk using a stroller. Even a quick jaunt around your block is a great way to start adding activity to your routine, says the National Library of Medicine. Over time, you can increase your pace and distance for added strength, cardiovascular benefits and calorie burn.

Related: Losing Weight After Pregnancy

Have-A-Ball Crunches
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Focusing on proper alignment of the bones attached to your core muscles helps your abdominal muscles gradually return to pregnancy form, says certified athletic instructor Leslie McNabb. An abdominal ball allows you to do basic crunches with ample support. Supported crunches are particularly important if you have diastasis recti -- a common condition in which your abdominal muscles fail to migrate back together after delivery. Begin ball crunches by positioning your rear toward the front of the ball so that your torso is nearly upright, with your hands gently supporting your head. Then crunch forward, tightening your abs as you lift your head. As you gain strength, you can position yourself farther back on the ball, making the movement more challenging. Start with sets of five to 10, working your way up to sets of 15 to 20.

Related: They Said Goodbye to Their Mommy Tummies!

Stretch Like a Cobra
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Yoga provides numerous benefits for moms, according to Parents.com, including increased back and shoulder strength and improved posture. The Cobra pose allows you to stretch your abdominal muscles after rounds of crunches and opens up your chest for easier breathing. Position yourself flat on your stomach on an exercise mat, then raise your torso up, bracing yourself with your hands on the mat. Tilt your face slightly upward, breathing easily. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. You can also rely on the Cobra for relaxation, which can enhance weight control by reducing production of ghrelin -- an appetite-stimulating substance, according to an "Obesity Reviews" report published in May 2011.

Related: Lifestyle Factors and Ghrelin: Critical Review and Implications for Weight Loss Maintenance

Belly-Tightening Bridge
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To take your belly-tightening moves further, Erin Denton, a certified postnatal exercise specialist suggests adding the bridge to workout routine. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your legs hip-width apart and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your back and butt off the floor and then return to your starting position. Denton suggests doing 10 reps at a time to start and then increasing your reps to 20. For added gluteal (buttock) muscle toning, hold the raised position for several seconds or more before lowering yourself. For comfort and support, use a quality exercise mat.

Related: 3 Moves to Target Your Post-Pregnancy Pooch

Groove to Tunes
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Thirty minutes of low-impact aerobics burns about 205 calories if you weigh 155 pounds, according to Harvard Health Publications. While breastfeeding requires added calories and getting too few calories poses health risks, you will need to burn more calories than you consume to shed excess weight once you're approved to do so. Low-impact aerobics can help strengthen your heart, tone your body and boost your moods. Unlike high-impact aerobics and running, there's little risk of joint injury and overexertion. Music makes exercise more enjoyable -- and thus, easier to stick to. For camaraderie, consider taking a low-impact aerobics class with girlfriends or fellow moms.

Related: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights

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If you enjoy aerobics and the water, why not take your workout to the pool? People report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can also exercise longer in the water without added risks of muscle pain and joint stiffness -- both of which can interfere with your ability to keep up comfortably with parenting responsibilities. Water aerobics burns close to 1 calorie per pound of body weight per half-hour, making it a useful tool for trimming. Because water athletics can also boost emotional well-being in mothers, according to the CDC, you'll likely feel happier and less stressed in the process.

Related: Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise

Stroller Lunges
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Whether your little one is a few months old or well into her first two years, your stroller can serve dual-purpose as a leg-strengthening workout machine. Angela Salveo, a certified personal trainer and a certified and sports medicine coach, recommends pushing your baby in the stroller, taking large steps forward into a 90-degree lunge position. "Because the weight (the baby) is in the front, be sure to keep your abs pulled in tight so you don’t hurt your lower back," she writes. "Watch the front knee so it doesn’t go over the front toes." To add difficulty, hold the lunge position for several seconds or more. Alternate your legs until you've completed a full set, or 12 to 16 lunges, at a time. For best results, keep your back straight, rather than leaning on the stroller.

Related: 12 Exercises for Moms and Babies

Baby Bench Squats
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While you're on your walk, stop at a neighborhood or park bench for a set of squats. To add difficulty and involve your wee one, Angela Salveo, CPT, recommends holding him as you squat and sit on the bench. Then stand up promptly and repeat the process. Doing so will strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings and core muscles. "Draw the belly in tight as you drive through the heels and stand up," Salveo adds. If you don't have access to a bench, use a chair in your backyard or living room, or sit with your back against a tree. For added challenge and strengthening, hold the lowered-down position for several seconds or more before releasing and repeating. Like lunges, aim for sets of about 12 to 15 at a time.

Baby-Lift Arm Press
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As your baby grows, you'll need continually more strength to carry her. Lifting her repeatedly as an exercise allows your muscles to keep up with her pace. Angela Salveo, CPT, suggests holding your baby from a standing position and then lifting her up in the air as an effective way to work your shoulders. To exercise your forearms and triceps, lift your infant while you lie on your back. "Keep [your] abdominals tight to protect your lower back," Salveo writes. "Bring the baby back down for kisses and repeat." Do a few sets of 12 to 15 reps at a time, increasing the frequency if they seem too easy.

Kripalu Yoga
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A study published in "International Journal of Yoga Therapy" in October 2012 showed that Kripalu yoga, a form of yoga that emphasizes meditation and self-acceptance, can enhance weight control, psychological well-being and nutritional behaviors. The 37 participants not only lost weight following the five-day training program, but more than half of them retained their weight loss one year later. Yoga workouts provide a useful way to strengthen, tone and stretch your body while enhancing posture, breathing and relaxation -- all attributes for busy moms. For best results, seek a class or individual training from a certified instructor. You can also do yoga at home using an instructional DVD while your baby naps.

Related: Psychological Well-Being, Health Behaviors, and Weight Loss Among Participants in a Residential, Kripalu Yoga-Based Weight Loss Program

How Do You Stay Fit?
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What's your favorite way to stay fit following pregnancy? Which slide struck a chord with you? Any questions or pointers to add? We love hearing from you! And remember, staying active throughout adulthood is important for your physical and psychological wellness. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults aim for two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity, such as jogging, and muscle-strengthening exercises that target all major muscle groups at least twice per week.

Related: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?

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