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Postpartum Fitness: A Guide to Exercising After Pregnancy

postpartum May 28, 2024

After nine months of your body going through the wonders (and challenges) of pregnancy and childbirth, getting back into an exercise routine can feel both invigorating and daunting. As a new mom, you're likely anxious to start feeling like your old self again but also conscious of not overdoing it while your body recovers.

The good news is that gentle postpartum exercise can help provide many benefits – from boosting energy levels and improving healing to preventing postpartum depression and strengthening your core. The key is knowing when to start, what types of activities are safe, and how to gradually ease back in without compromising your recovery.

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about postpartum fitness, including recommended timelines, safe exercise options, and tips for rebuilding strength safely after a baby.

When to Start Postpartum Exercise

Before resuming any exercise routine after giving birth, it's crucial to allow your body adequate time to heal, especially if you've had a C-section or complications during delivery. Always consult with your doctor first and wait until you have medical clearance to start working out again.

For most women who had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, light exercise can typically begin within a few days after giving birth through gentle activities like walking, core tightening exercises, and stretching. However, high-impact exercise should be avoided for at least 4-6 weeks to prevent injury and give your pelvic floor time to fully recover.

If you had a C-section, strenuous exercise will likely require you to wait 6-8 weeks or until your incision has fully healed to avoid complications or separating of the surgical wound. During this initial postpartum period, stick to light stretches, pelvic floor and core exercises, and easy walks.

As long as you take it slow, listen to your body, and have medical clearance, most women can gradually add other exercises into their routines around 6-8 weeks postpartum.

Safe Postpartum Exercise Options

When you do start exercising after pregnancy, focus first on regaining strength through low-impact activities:

  • Walking: An easy way to start moving with little impact. Build up time/intensity gradually.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): Important for regaining core and pelvic floor strength which can become weakened from pregnancy/delivery.
  • Postnatal Yoga: Gentle poses and flows focused on re-strengthening and stretching key postpartum areas. Look for mom & baby classes.
  • Light Strength Training: Start with bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, and low weights to safely rebuild muscle. Avoid heavy lifting at first.
  • Postpartum Core Workouts: Targeted ab exercises to repair diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and regain core strength. Focus on pelvic tilts, bridges, planks, etc.
  • Low-Impact Cardio: Brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or low-impact aerobics to gradually increase cardiovascular fitness.

As you progress and your strength returns (around 3-6+ months), you can reintroduce other activities like running, HIIT, jumping, and higher-intensity exercises that place more demand on your body.

Important Postpartum Exercise Tips

No matter what type of exercise you do postpartum, keep these important tips in mind:

  • Listen to your body. If an exercise causes pain, heaviness, or excessive bleeding – stop and consult your doctor.
  • Go slow and don't push too hard, or too fast. Gradual progression is key.
  • Apply pressure with a towel or splint when exercising abs to avoid exacerbating diastasis recti.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished. Breastfeeding burns extra calories.
  • Work with a pelvic floor physical therapist if needed
  • Wear a supportive, high-impact bra to minimize discomfort.
  • Avoid anything high-impact or extreme for at least 6-8 weeks.
  • Stop any exercise that causes excessive leaking or causes your abdominal wall to bulge outward.

The most important factor with postpartum fitness is being patient with yourself and your body throughout this major transition. Don't compare yourself to others, and focus on feeling strong and energized rather than "bouncing back" at an unrealistic pace.

Benefits of Postpartum Exercise

When done safely, regular exercise after pregnancy can provide a wealth of physical and mental health benefits for new moms:

  • Boosts energy levels
  • Aids recovery and healing
  • Helps rebuild strength and endurance
  • Prevents/reduces postpartum depression risk
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Alleviates stress
  • Fosters a positive mindset

You've just accomplished the incredible feat of bringing new life into the world – be proud of your body and trust the journey of gradually getting back into exercise at your own pace. Listen to your body, start slowly, and embrace the mental and physical renewal that fitness can provide during this special postpartum period.

Did you find it helpful, Mama? Please share it with other Mamas!

Hey mama,

I'm Brooke Miller,

Before becoming a mom, I chronically dieted & thought "eat less, move more" was the healthiest option. I dealt with exhaustion, mood swings, hormone imbalances (not getting a regular cycle), high cholesterol and weight cycling. I felt like something was wrong with me.

Before I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the balanced nutrition approach I teach inside The Postpartum Shift. Once I implemented the framework, I was energized, gained strength, got my period back, lowered my cholesterol & maintained my healthiest weight. I continued this during my pregnancies & postpartum periods and recovered quickly after birth, made more than enough milk for my babies, had energy (even with the sleep deprivation) & stable mood. Postpartum was really enjoyable.

With a decade of experience as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Counselor, I created The Postpartum Shift to help moms boost energy, mood, metabolism & milk supply to have a stress-free & enjoyable postpartum experience.

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