Getting to the gym can feel like a Herculean effort for new moms. Finding a babysitter and scheduling around feedings and nap times is nearly impossible, especially with a newborn. But exercising and caring for your baby doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, fitness classes geared to new moms offer not just a great way to take care of yourself but an opportunity to bond with your little one, too. Plus, it’s never too early to model a healthy lifestyle, provided you’ve recovered from delivery and consulted your doctor (usually around your six week checkup). Check out these five workout programs that allow moms to get fit with baby along for the ride.
1. Stroller Fit
Who It’s For: Moms who need a boost. While all forms of exercise raise feel-good endorphins, research shows that spending time outdoors can help women combat stress, overcome postpartum blues and connect with other parents facing similar challenges.
Areas Targeted: Walking with a stroller is a great cardio workout that allows new moms to strengthen core and leg muscles while improving range of motion and burning calories at their own pace. Some stroller-fit classes mix strength-training intervals and power walks to build muscular endurance.
What Does Baby Do? Babies often fall asleep during walk time, giving moms a chance to socialize with other adults while getting fit.
2. Mom & Baby Boot Camp
Who It’s For: Moms looking for an intense full-body workout. Melanie Osmack, Vancouver–based director of Fit 4 Two (now in 13 locations), cautions that moms should establish a routine of muscular endurance and cardio for at least a couple of months before joining a boot camp class. “Jumping and high-impact activity is not something someone should do immediately after giving birth,” she says.
Areas Targeted: Most postnatal boot camps have a strong emphasis on muscle conditioning, with cardio intervals mixed in to tone and strengthen the entire body.
What Does Baby Do? Babies hang out on mats in the centre of the circle of moms, perch in strollers or cozy up with their moms during stretches.
3. Mom & Baby Spinning
Who it’s for: New moms looking to burn a maximum amount of calories in a short period of time. “Women can burn a minimum of 450–550 calories during a 30–40 minute cycle class,” says Sari Nisker, owner of Spynga in Toronto.
Areas Targeted: In addition to providing a cardio workout, spinning restores pre-baby abdominal strength. “The core strength required for lifts [getting up off the seat] and sprints will help build the superficial and deep-lying abdominal muscles,” says Nisker. Spinning also tones the legs, especially quadriceps and calves.
What Does Baby Do? Babies hang out on blankets or in their strollers at the front of the class and enjoy bopping along to the beats of heart pumping music. “Moms can use their babies as weights instead of free weights, but it’s not necessary,” says Nisker. Babies can also be incorporated into relaxing cool downs.
4. Mom & Baby Yoga
Who It’s For: Moms coping with postpartum anxiety or depression or simply looking to manage the stresses of adjusting to a new baby. These classes focus on a series of gentle poses that relieve tight muscles while safely rebuilding core strength. “As moms begin to regain their strength, they may wish to participate in a more vigorous yoga practice that challenges the body with powerful and flowing postures, such as a vinyasa class,” says Amanda DeGrace, owner of Little Lotus Yoga in Ottawa.
Areas Targeted: Postnatal yoga targets the spine, shoulders and neck, releasing tension caused by hours spent holding baby.
What Does Baby Do? Babies are often incorporated into poses, allowing for mom-baby bonding time. In a tabletop or plank position, for example, babies lie on their backs underneath mom, exchanging silly faces and giggles as mom breathes through core work. “Babies feed off their mother’s energy during class; when they feel that mom is calm, baby is, too,” says DeGrace.
5. Salsa Babies
Who It’s For: Moms who enjoy a good beat. Having a baby strapped to your chest may make for a different look than when you shook up the dance floor in your pre-baby days, but the upbeat Latin music makes you feel like you’re back at the club.
Areas Targeted: “Salsa dancing is a great cardiovascular activity that firms and tones the core, legs and glutes,” says Jennifer Matthews, owner of Salsa Babies.
What Does Baby Do? Babies (six to eight weeks is the recommended minimum age) usually face inward and fall asleep to the rhythm of mom’s body moving to the tropical beats of salsa.
Too busy to workout? check out our Fitness Tips for Busy Moms