For many women, losing weight after pregnancy can be a challenge. Luckily, there are some things you can do to get rid of baby fat within months. Start with light strength training and low-impact cardiovascular workouts, cranking up the intensity as you progress.
Set Realistic Expectations
It took you nine months to gain those extra pounds, so don't expect to lose them overnight. In general, it takes six to 12 months after childbirth to get rid of baby fat, states Penn State Hershey.
Depending on how quickly you recover, it could take you more or less time to resume your workouts. Aim for a gradual weight loss of about 1.5 pounds per week.
Now that you're breastfeeding, it's not the best time to experiment with crash diets or start skipping meals. As far as exercise goes, mix cardio and strength training to build lean mass and lose fat.
Forget about spot reduction. Doing hundreds of sit-ups and crunches won't help you lose the pooch. Instead, train your whole body and watch your diet.
Read more: A Killer Full-Body Workout for the Gym Floor
Sit-ups, for example, can help you build a strong core but have negligible effects on body composition, or fat-to-muscle ratio. Plus, they may not be safe in the first few weeks after childbirth. Squats, lunges and other compound movements, on the other hand, engage nearly every muscle and boost your metabolism.
Exercises to Lose the Baby Weight at Home
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends strength training at least twice a week. If you exercise after pregnancy to reduce stomach fat, try targeting the major muscle groups, such as your back, shoulders and glutes. Try to stay active about 20 to 30 minutes per day.
Your joints and ligaments will be loose for a few months to a year after childbirth, so it's important to start slowly and avoid high-impact activities. These changes are due to relaxin, a hormone released in large amounts during pregnancy, explains the American Council on Exercise.
Here are some good exercises to lose the baby fat and build stronger muscles without putting your health at risk:
- Squats with resistance bands
- Squats with kickbacks
- Bulgarian split squats
- Wall squats
- Curtsy lunges
- Alternating reverse lunges
- Lateral lunges
- Walking lunges
- Deadlifts (use light weights)
- Bench presses
- Push-ups (wait a few weeks after childbirth before doing this exercise)
After pregnancy, it's essential to strengthen your core muscles — and compound exercises can help with that. Squats and lunges, for example, engage your core muscles while shaping your legs and glutes. Start with body-weight squats and other compound movements that can be done without weights. Increase the load gradually as you progress.
Add Cardio to the Mix
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective way to burn fat, especially in the abdominal area, reports a September 2018 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Unfortunately, it may not be safe right after pregnancy. It all comes down to your overall fitness and how you feel after giving birth.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, female athletes and those who engaged in high-intensity workouts before pregnancy should be able to resume their workouts pretty quickly. As with strength training, it's recommended to start slowly and listen to your body.
Read more: The Truth Behind 5 Common Myths About HIIT
If you're feeling ready for HIIT, begin with lighter exercises. For example, you can do step-ups or speed skaters for 30 seconds, rest for another 30 seconds and repeat. Continue for 15 to 20 minutes.
Swimming, treadmill walking, brisk walking, cycling and elliptical trainer workouts are generally safe. Perform these activities along with strength training to get rid of baby fat and improve your fitness. Consult your doctor beforehand, especially if you've had a C-section.
Some exercises, including sit-ups, crunches and strenuous movements that cause the abdominal wall to bulge out, are not recommended if you have diastasis recti. Avoid heavy lifting and bending too.
The Continence Foundation of Australia warns that high-impact exercises early after childbirth may affect pelvic floor strength, leading to incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. The same goes for mountain climbers, sit-ups and other movements that put pressure on the pelvic floor.
However, you can gradually introduce these exercises into your routine after your six-week postpartum checkup. In the meantime, stick to low-impact activities, light strength training, yoga, Pilates and other gentle movements.
- Penn State Hershey: "Losing Weight After Pregnancy"
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Exercise After Pregnancy"
- American Council on Exercise: "Relaxin: Pre- and Postnatal Exercise Considerations"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Strengthening Your Core: Right and Wrong Ways to Do Lunges, Squats and Planks"
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "High-Intensity Interval Training in the Real World"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Postpartum Exercise"
- Barts Health: "Diastasis Rectus Abdominis"
- Continence Foundation of Australia: "Returning to Sport or Exercise After Birth"
- Tupler Technique