Exercise your way to better parenting: fitness tips for new moms

By: Tamara Grand. Visit her blog at: connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Congratulations! You made it through nine long months of pregnancy and survived the challenges of childbirth. Your heart swells with pride every time you look at your darling bundle of joy yet aches when you think of how long it will take to get your pre-baby body back.
You know that diet and exercise are key, but you’re just so darned tired from the nighttime feedings and constant carrying of your infant that you can’t imagine getting to the grocery store regularly, let alone planning healthy menus and going to the gym. You decide that fitness will have to wait until baby is older, when you’ll have more time to focus on yourself.
I’m the mom of three children, aged 7, 9 and 13. Trust me when I say, that time will never come. Taking care of yourself now will give you both the energy and the will to continue meeting the needs of your child as they grow.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of self-care is regular physical exercise. It doesn’t need to be lengthy or overly structured. Just a few minutes of movement, as many times a day as you can. In addition to helping you lose your pregnancy weight, incorporating exercise into you daily routine will also make you a better mom!
•    Exercise is a natural sleep aid. Adding just 30 minutes of moderate activity to your day can help you fall asleep more easily and make it less likely that you’ll awaken during the night (this applies to children too!). Consider also, that poor sleep habits lead to an increase in the level of stress hormones circulating in your body, hormones that trigger fat storage, rather than fat loss.
•    Exercise improves your mood. Women who exercise regularly report feeling happier and less stressed than women who don’t. Exercise triggers the production of ‘feel good’ hormones that enhance the mothering experience. Happy mothers make better parents.
•    Monkey see, monkey do. Children imitate their parents. If you want your children to value exercise and movement, show them that it’s important by doing it yourself. They’re never too young to learn.
•    Combine exercise time with playtime. Getting down on the floor and interacting with your child is a great way to combine physical activity with parent-child bonding. Combine pushups or planks with peek-a-boo. Use your baby instead of dumbbells for your squats and presses. Make it fun and neither of you will think of your workout as ‘work’.
•    Combine exercise with education. Babies love visual variety. Expose them to tree branches, clouds, birds and shadows during daily walks to the park or playground. Name everything you see on your travels; babies love the sound of their mother’s voice. Carrying your infant in a snuggly or sling allows you to combine cuddle time with resistance training!
Once you’re used to incorporating movement into your day (and your little one is old enough to either happily attend child-minding or participate in a parent-baby class), adding a post-natal exercise class to your weekly schedule is a great way to further improve your fitness and practice your public parenting skills!