Feeling lost about postpartum exercise? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Turns out, working out after having a baby isn’t as easy as you’d think.
But exercising after having a baby can boost your energy levels, relieve stress, and help your mental health, so it’s pretty important.
But you probably have no clue where to start with a postpartum exercise plan ‒ especially if you’re sleep-deprived and juggling a million things at once.
So we had a chat with Mahri Relin, a fitness expert and founder of Body Conceptions, about all things with postpartum exercise.
In this article: 📝
- Mahri’s top postpartum exercise tips:
- How soon can I exercise after giving birth?
- What exercises are best for postpartum?
- How soon after c-section can you exercise?
- Can I workout with a newborn?
- How can I exercise at home with a baby?
Mahri’s top postpartum exercise tips:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others
It can be easy to compare yourself with a friend who had a baby at the same time and wonder why you look and feel completely different.
But every pregnancy, delivery, and postnatal healing process is different.
Know that you are doing your best, and it’s so important to stay at the pace that’s right for you!
2. Be gentle with your hormonal expectations
Heads up ‒ after you give birth, your hormones are out of whack.
From fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels causing hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, to higher cortisol levels from stress and lower melatonin and serotonin because of the lack of sleep, it’s totally natural for a new mama to feel tired and experience some weight gain.
So please don’t feel like you have to jump back in to exercise straight away! This is all normal.
3. Focus on breathing
Believe it or not, breathing is one of the most important components of postnatal healing.
Your rib cage can flare after pregnancy, which flattens the diaphragm and affects its connection with the pelvic floor and your deep core.
Proper breathing helps coordinate the movement of all of these elements together to allow them to help you strengthen your core, protect your spine, and control your internal pressure so that you can heal properly and prevent injury.
As an added bonus, proper breathing also helps you de-stress!
4. Pay attention to your posture
Did you know that there are a lot of changes that happen during pregnancy (and beyond!) that can affect your body’s ability to function without pain or injury?
For example, holding and picking up your baby can cause tightness in the front of your shoulders and rounding in your upper back.
Keep an eye on the way you stand when you carry your little one too - you want to avoid leaning back as this can lead to misalignment.
But don’t worry, there are lots of adjustments, postpartum exercises, and stretches that can help.
5. Listen to your body
It’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals when it comes to postpartum exercise.
Since relaxin ‒ the hormone that loosens your muscles, joints, and ligaments during pregnancy ‒ is still present for a while, you’re more prone to injury.
Plus, you might be recovering from abdominal injury or pelvic pain, so it’s really important to be aware of what feels good and back away from anything that still needs to heal.
6. Don’t jump into high-intensity fitness
Ignore the pressures out there to ‘bounce back’.
I know that many women feel restless and eager to return to their previous fitness level ASAP, but it’s important to remember that your body needs to ramp up again slowly and carefully.
It takes time to strengthen your muscles and heal from the structural changes that happened, so allow things to coordinate together in their own time and start with simple fitness like breathing, walking, and focusing on your pelvic floor.
7. Consult with an expert
Speaking with someone who understands postnatal recovery can help you learn how to properly approach your fitness journey.
After pregnancy, some common issues can arise, including diastasis recti, pelvic floor incontinence or pain, and other discomforts.
Many of these issues can be made worse by incorrect postpartum exercise, but they can also be resolved with proper fitness.
8. Remember that all fitness counts
Postpartum exercise doesn’t have to happen all in one sitting for a full hour to be effective.
You’re a busy mama, and it’s totally okay to break things up however you need.
Why not try leg lifts while playing with baby on the blanket, fitting in some squats in the kitchen, or practicing your breathing at night as you unwind?
9. Try working out with your baby
Don’t have the time or opportunity to leave your little one?
Try some exercises with baby!
You can easily incorporate a stroller into your walks, stretches, or lunges.
And if you don’t want to work out with them directly, baby will love sitting and watching you move around.
10. Do workouts that make you happy
As well as using fitness to help your body heal postpartum, fitness is even more important when it comes to confidence, catharsis, and joy.
It should be something just for you and a chance to feel good rather than accomplish a task you ‘should’ be doing.
Take each day as it comes, and do what makes you happy, if that’s no postpartum exercise all week, then that’s OK.
How soon can I exercise after giving birth?
So, now you’re inspired by Mahri’s motivational words, you’re raring to get into your postpartum exercise plan!
Whatever form of birth you’ve been through, you’ve still brought a whole new human into the world!
So if you’re asking when to start postpartum exercise, the general rule is to wait at least 6 weeks.
Can I workout 2 weeks postpartum?
Keen to try postpartum exercise before 6 weeks?
Well, at 2 weeks, postpartum exercise needs to be light and gentle.
Otherwise, you risk causing yourself damage while your body’s trying to heal.
It is recommended to wait a few days after birth before trying any exercise, no matter how gentle, but some 2 weeks postpartum exercises you can do are:
- Kegels: We can’t stress this enough ‒ pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) should be done by every person who can physically do them! They’re great for your posture, uterus, bladder, rectum… pretty much everywhere below the waist! Start them now, thank us later.
- Gentle walking: If you’re comfortable, put baby in their stroller and go for a short walk. Even just 5-10 minutes to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and some light 2 weeks postpartum exercise can do a world of good.
Essentially, at 2 weeks postpartum, exercise shouldn’t be strenuous at all.
If you feel any pain during postpartum exercise, stop immediately to recover.
What exercises can I do 4 weeks postpartum?
If you’re wondering, Can I exercise 4 weeks postpartum?, the answer is yes!
But, as with any exercise before 6 weeks postpartum, or before you’re fully healed, you need to take it slow.
Just like 2 weeks postpartum exercises, we recommend walking and Kegels.
Why do you have to wait 6 weeks postpartum to exercise?
It’s generally recommended not to exercise until 6 weeks postpartum.
This is because you can be more prone to causing further vaginal tearing, which can lead to postpartum bleeding after exercise, and hernias, muscle tears, or potentially little “accidents”.
(Hey, your vagina’s been through a lot, so the occasional pee coming out sooner than you’d want is all par for the course)
You need to give your body time to heal.
What exercises are best for postpartum?
So what are the best postnatal exercises?
Well, exercises after pregnancy, when you’re healed and feeling ready, are pretty varied!
Let’s break it down:
- Postpartum pelvic floor exercises: Yup, we can’t stop singing the praises of pelvic floor exercises after birth!
- Swimming postpartum: When can you swim after giving birth? Well, it’s a good idea to keep out of the swimming pool until around 6 weeks after birth. Then, just take it easy and stick to a few laps each time while you recover.
- Running after pregnancy: It depends on your fitness levels before and during pregnancy, but, if you’ve been signed off by your doctor, running at 6 weeks after pregnancy should be fine.
- Postpartum squats: Can I do squats postpartum? Yup! You don’t have to dip too low, though. You can even try to exercise with baby by holding them while you do a few squats.
How can I tone my stomach after having a baby?
Before we start with postpartum exercises to tone your belly, we want to clarify that you don’t need to tone your belly.
A stomach with extra skin is like your medal after providing such a lovely home for your baby for 9 months.
But if you’re after stomach-toning postpartum exercises, here are a few for you to try:
- Forearm plank: Lie face-down on the floor, rising up onto your toes. Then pull your core to your spine, tensing your butt muscles. Hold for as long as you find comfortable, release, then go again.
- Scissor kicks: Lie on your back, then lift your legs, while keeping them straight. ‘Scissor’ them alternatively for 15-20 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then go again.
- Bridge: Lie on your back with your feet just under your bottom, so your knees are bent. Then raise your butt off the ground, hold, release, and repeat.
How soon after c-section can you exercise?
What about exercise after c-section? When can I start exercising after c-section?
Working out after c-section is a little different, because while your body needs to heal, it’s not quite the same healing as a vaginal birth requires.
As for when can I exercise after c-section, 12 weeks is what’s generally recommended.
How long does it take for stomach muscles to heal after c-section?
Well, your stomach muscles may heal after a c-section between about 6-8 weeks, but while you may be feeling better, it’s hard to tell how much you’ve required, because the healing is mainly internal.
What exercise should I avoid after c-section?
A c-section is a serious surgery, and can mean that there are certain postpartum exercises you should avoid.
Essentially, stomach exercises can cause further damage to your c-section area, so it’s best to avoid:
- Leg raises
- High-impact exercises
- Weight lifting
Check with your doctor if you’d like to try any of these exercises after a c-section.
When can I squat after c-section?
Keen to tone up that butt and those gorgeous thighs?
Well, you’ll likely have to wait at least 6 weeks before squatting after a c-section.
But it’s best to check with your doctor, as your advice based on your healing may be a little different.
Can we do skipping after c-section?
As it’s a pretty high-impact postpartum exercise (you’re connecting with the floor pretty hard), it’s best to avoid skipping after a c-section until your doctor gives you the go-ahead.
When can you swim after c-section?
How long after c-section can you swim?
Generally, swimming after c-section isn’t recommended until about 6 weeks, as it can lead to infection if done before you heal.
But check with your doctor before trying swimming after a c-section.
When can I start walking after c-section?
You can start walking as soon as 24 hours after a c-section.
But you can do too much walking after c-section ‒ if you start to get any abdominal pain, it’s best to stop and slow it down.
When can I try running after c-section?
Running is another high-impact postpartum exercise, so it’s best to wait 12 weeks, or until your doctor signs you off for exercise before trying to jog.
Can I do yoga after cesarean section?
It’s best to wait 6 weeks before trying any postpartum yoga after a c-section.
This is because the stretches and contortions can aggravate where you’re healing.
If you want to try some yoga postpartum, check with your doctor first.
When can I lift weights after c-section?
Weights can be quite dangerous if attempted too soon after a c-section.
The general rule is 12 weeks, but check with your doctor before you try to get back to lifting.
Can I workout with a newborn?
How about exercises with baby?
That’s a great idea! That way, you can bond together while you build up your fitness.
With a newborn, the best postpartum exercise is popping them in a stroller and going for a short walk.
How do you do cardio with a baby?
If you’re after cardio exercises with baby, we love this ‘Mommy and Me’ exercise video that uses baby as a sort of ‘weight’ while you bond and get fit.
But our favorite cardio postpartum exercise with baby is still walking. Whether you’re carrying baby or you snuggle them up in a stroller is totally up to you.
Does lifting baby count as exercise?
Yup! If you’re feeling your muscles moving, then it’s a postpartum exercise!
How can I exercise at home with a baby?
We get it ‒ it can be hard to find time for yourself when it comes to postpartum exercise.
The best postpartum exercise tip we have is to try little and often.
If you can spare a couple of minutes, and you want to exercise, do it.
Postpartum exercise doesn’t have to be a 60-minute pilates class or even a 30-minute HIIT session.
15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes… even 2 minutes!
It all counts as postpartum exercise.
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