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Pilates For New Moms

Getting back in shape after having a baby can take some work. But an exercise program called Pilates can help speed the process along.

Certified Pilates instructor Sarah Picot has created a workout aimed at new moms called "Post-Natal Pilates."

Adding 20 minutes of Pilates moves to your exercise program three times a week will have your stomach flat and your back strong in no time, according to Picot.

Picot stopped by The Saturday Early Show to demonstrate how it's done.

Before becoming a Pilates instructor, Picot was a professional dancer. Now, she teaches at the Washington School of Ballet and trains clients at her Pilates studio in Virginia. She received her Pilates certification when pregnant with her first baby. That is when Picot worked with two OBGYNs to design her own Pilates programs for pregnant women, and then went on to design a post-natal program as well.

To get back in shape after pregnancy, Picot says women should engage in cardio exercise for 30 minutes, three or four times a week. She says including Pilates into a woman's exercise routine has the following three big benefits:

  • The abdominal wall is the force behind all Pilates movements, which is renowned for flattening and toning the stomach.
  • The moves, which lengthen muscles and improve flexibility, also result in improved posture. Since you spend so much time carrying your new baby around, Picot says good posture benefits your entire body.
  • Finally, Pilates will give you the arm strength you need to lift your baby from the stroller, crib and car seat.

    Picot's specific program allows the new baby to be a part of the workout, too. She says moms don't have to worry about finding a baby-sitter or finding time without baby to exercise. Plus, Pilates says, it's a great opportunity for baby bonding.

    Abdominal exercises are usually safe for both vaginal and C-section moms after six weeks, according to Picot. However, because all pregnancies are different, check with a doctor before beginning the program.

    If you decide to involve your baby in the exercises, he or she should be two to six months old. The only equipment needed, Picot says, is a bouncy chair or supportive pillow for your baby. (If your floor is hard, you may want an exercise mat for yourself.)


  • The 100s

    Picot says this Pilates move is the best one for working your core muscles (stomach, back, spine) and it gets your circulation going.

    The move starts by lying on your back with your knees up and feet flat on the floor. Your baby will be on your stomach (younger babies) or sitting propped against your legs (older babies). Curl your upper back and shoulders off the floor, one hand is on your baby and your other arm is straight by your side. Lift that arm a few inches off the ground and pump it up and down while breathing.

    To make the move more advanced, lift one leg and then both legs off the floor while doing the move.

  • Spine Stretch

    Picot explains this move lengthens and strengthens your back. But, she says, no matter what body part a Pilates move appears to focus on, every single one works your abs. In every move, you keep your belly pulled up and in; this results in totally toned abs.

    For this move, the baby will be sitting/propped in a supportive pillow. You will straddle the baby. Then, reach over her as if lowering the crown of your head to her feet. As you straighten up, tickle the baby. Picot says little ones love seeing Mom's face appear and then disappear and then appear again.

  • Pulling Weeds

    For this exercise, the baby remains on her pillow. You will stand up over her, with your knees slightly bent. Reach down (as if pulling weeds) and then straighten again, building arm strength and a strong back.

    Picot says doing five sets of a Pilates exercise like this one is more effective than doing 100 crunches at the gym. She says to remember to keep your stomach tight at all times and think carefully about each move when performing Pilates moves.