You arrive home with this tiny being in your arms. You’re adjusting to a new life of mamahood, feeding, and diaper changes.
And you’re rediscovering a body that has been very busy creating a human for the last nine months.
Finding a postpartum workout plan that fits into your new life can be more than a little challenging.
But while exercise can be an empowering addition to your postpartum recovery, nobody’s expecting you to do a triathlon right now.
Unless, of course, that’s what you’re into.
Really, the best postpartum exercises are realistic ones that fit your life and make you feel good.
There’s no room for ‘bounce-back’ culture here—we’re too busy making space for movement that enriches new moms from the inside out.
The real benefits of exercise can’t be measured by a scale, so let’s dive in.
In this article 📝
- Why is postpartum exercise important?
- When can you start working out after giving birth?
- Easy postpartum workouts
- What are the best postpartum exercises?
Why is postpartum exercise important?
There’s several barriers that get in the way of physical activity when you’re a new mama—from fatigue to time constraints to simply finding the right activities to do.
But as challenging as it is to find the right workout plan, studies show that it’s worth the effort for you and baby.
Postpartum exercise has significant health benefits, including:
- Enhancing aerobic fitness
- Improving cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity
- Lowering the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety
- Relieving perceived stress
- Promoting better sleep
Still, while to some degree it’s important to reduce any excess weight that could lead to long-term health problems, it’s not a step that needs to be rushed or achieved quickly.
Your body has been through a lot and it deserves time to recover—and you deserve time to adjust to a whole new exceptional way of being.
That’s self-care, mama.
When can you start working out after giving birth?
When to start working out postpartum can be greatly influenced by whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or a c-section.
And because no two birth experiences are alike, no two timelines for working out after pregnancy are the same.
A lot weighs on your unique journey, so it’s important to check with your healthcare provider before embarking on that fitness routine.
For instance, if you’ve given birth vaginally with no complications, you should be able to start with some low-intensity exercise—like a gentle walk— as soon as a few days after the birth of your baby.
But more high-intensity workouts like weight lifting and running may have to be on hold until your postnatal check-up, which typically happens around the six-week mark.
Similarly, if you’ve had a cesarean delivery, it’s best to avoid lifting weights and any movements that put pressure on your c-section scar while you’re still healing.
The same goes if you’ve experienced a vaginal tear.
And high-intensity workouts will probably have to wait until your baby is about four months old.
The most important thing to take from this is that your postpartum journey is yours alone.
You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. You do postpartum you.
Easy postpartum workouts
Your doctor has given you the green light, and you’re feeling stronger in yourself: where do you begin?
Here’s some gentle moves to get you back working out after giving birth (including right after!)
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are an excellent starting point to aid your postpartum recovery.
After all, your pelvic floor—the area between your tailbone and your pubic bone—has been through quite the adventure and needs a little TLC.
The best part is you can perform these strengthening exercises totally on the sly from just about anywhere—and as soon as day one postpartum.
All you need to do is gently squeeze your pelvic floor muscles like you’re trying to hold your pee in. Hold for ten seconds or so and release. Repeat about ten times a few times a day.
And the benefits are tremendous. From decreasing inflammation, getting the blood flowing, and helping to stave off urinary incontinence, those little flexes go a long way.
Deep core work
Another helpful exercise is deep core work.
While pregnant, a lot of changes take place within your belly as the fetus grows.
This causes the abdominal muscles to lengthen and stretch, causing some women to develop diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) and lower back pain.
Deep core work is a great way to strengthen your core and help prevent this.
Solid diastasis recti postpartum exercises include rollouts with an exercise ball or pelvic bridges.
Another one of those deep core exercises to avoid diastasis recti, abdominal bracing is nicely low-impact.
From your chosen position (sitting, standing, lying on your back, lying on your side, on all fours), inhale as you pull your belly button towards your spine and a little up.
Hold for ten seconds, and then release as you exhale. Repeat this about ten times a few times a day.
Ready to move a bit more, here is how to do so with care.
What are the best postpartum exercises?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends getting about 150 minutes of exercise through the week.
But remember, if you’ve had a c-section or complications during birth, always check with a doctor first.
How you break up your routine is up to you—three ten-minute walks five days a week is one option.
Five 30-minute workouts is another.
And moderate-intensity workouts are best at this point.
That means you’re moving enough to raise your heart rate and sweat a bit but not overexert yourself.
Postpartum complications are a real possibility, so being extra mindful of your (temporary) limits is critical during this period.
Here are some easy postpartum exercises to guide you in the right direction:
This simple action can go a long way when it comes to your postpartum recovery.
Not only does walking get you moving, but it also gets you out of the house for a bit.
And it can decrease your chance of blood clots and seriously contribute to your mental wellness.
Start out slowly—just a ten-minute walk around the block can go a long way.
If walking is your primary source of exercise in the postpartum period, try to work towards 30 minutes of walking five times a week.
You can even add in some walks with a stroller and invite a friend along.
It’s a great way for you and your baby to get some fresh air, all while squeezing in some much-needed adult time.
Until quite recently, information on returning to running after giving birth has been pretty hard to come by.
Recently, a set of guidelines has outlined recommendations for how to do this safely.
To honor the experience your pelvic area has been through and prevent injury, it’s best to wait at least 12 weeks before resuming a running program.
It’s a good idea to start out slow—walking can be a great gateway activity—and listen to your body.
Yoga is a wonderful way to integrate body and mind in your postpartum recovery.
Recent studies suggest that it may have a significant impact on postpartum depression and is worth exploring as a complementary treatment.
It’s a good idea to wait about six weeks before getting back into your regular practice. If you have access to a trained teacher, it’s always best to start your practice under their guidance.
Start with gentle breathing and stretching—child’s pose and cat-cow pose are great ways to get started.
If you’re itching to get back on your bike, it’s best to wait until you’ve been given the all-clear by your doctor at your postpartum checkup.
And again, starting slow is key here, particularly if you’ve had a c-section or vaginal tear.
If you have access to a stationary bike, this might be a good place to test out your readiness. If you experience any dizziness, pain, or bleeding, stop.
Getting in the pool can be an ideal way to relieve stress and get some low-impact exercise in.
The general guideline is to wait until bleeding has stopped, which is typically about four to six weeks.
If you’ve had a c-section, it’s a good idea to wait until your incision has closed completely before you start swimming.
As with all exercise, start slow and build up to 150 minutes a week.
When it comes to exercising postpartum, you can mix and match as needed.
There’s no one brand of exercise for new moms, just like there’s no real ‘bounce-back’ figure you need to reach.
Really, it’s about moving in a way that makes you happy—that boosts your energy, nurtures you against postpartum depression, and helps you sleep.
Above all, be gentle with yourself.
Your body has accomplished a lot.
Be kind to it.