Postpartum Exercise: When and How to Get Started

You might not feel like exercise when you’ve just welcomed your new little one into the world – and that’s pretty understandable. But once you’re ready, postpartum exercise can be a great way to get your body back to a healthy weight range. Let’s go through the facts on how to get moving after birth, and how to do it safely.

Benefits of postpartum exercise

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Weight control and fitness

Regular exercise can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight range (but you should plan to be back to your pre-pregnancy weight about 6 months after childbirth). As well as burning calories, exercise helps you tone and strengthen your muscles.

Mental health

Exercise can boost your mental energy and promote better sleep – a precious resource for new parents. It also gives you a boost of mood-boosting endorphins, and could help provide some protection against postpartum depression.

When can I start postpartum exercise?

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When you can start exercise after birth depends a lot on what your pregnancy and delivery were like, as well as your general fitness level. For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises that it’s safe to start up exercise a few days after the baby is born, provided you had a healthy pregnancy, and a normal vaginal delivery.1

However, it’s not always so cut-and-dry. If you didn’t get regular exercise all through your pregnancy, it’s best to get the all-clear from your doctor at your 6-week checkup, and start off slow. If you had a complicated pregnancy or delivery, or a C-section birth, you may need to wait a little longer for your body to recover enough to start exercise.

The bottom line? It depends. No two pregnancies (or moms!) are alike, and you may need more time to recover from pregnancy than you think. When you’d like to start an exercise plan, always check with your doctor or midwife first.

How much should I exercise after giving birth?

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ACOG recommends that once you’ve recovered from childbirth, healthy moms should aim to work up to 150 minutes of exercise per week – but you can split that up as best fits your lifestyle.2

However, the key here is not to overdo it. Just 5 to 10 minutes at a time is fine to start off with, gradually increasing the length of your exercise sessions. Recovering from pregnancy and birth takes time, and if you push yourself too far, you might end up feeling too worn-out to stay active. Listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too hard: it’s possible to work up to your activity targets bit by bit.

Postpartum exercise tips

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Starting your post-baby exercise plan might seem a little intimidating, but there are ways to stay comfortable and motivated while you get back into shape.

Join a class

Many gyms and community centers offer classes for new moms to get into shape. Not only does this give you a good structure for your post-baby workouts, but it’s a great way to make friends with fellow moms.

Take care of your breasts

Breasts can get pretty uncomfortable during exercise if they’re not well supported. Before you get started on an exercise plan, invest in a well-fitting sports bra. If you’re breastfeeding, take some of the strain out by feeding your baby or pumping out your milk before exercise, and wear nursing pads just in case there are any leaks.

Include your baby

Taking care of a newborn baby takes a lot of you, so if you’re running low on time or energy, you might feel too worn out for a full work out. That doesn’t need to mean the end of your exercise plans, though.

Including your baby in activities like enjoying a walk around the neighborhood in a stroller gives you a chance to bond as well as meet your activity goals.

Postpartum exercise is a great way to take care of yourself

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It might take a while for your body to bounce back from giving birth, but don’t get discouraged. Once you’ve got the all-clear from your physician, think about the ways you can gradually increase your activity levels in your daily life.

Enjoying exercise can be your first step to a healthy and happy post-pregnancy lifestyle, and can offer opportunities for you to bond with your baby and other moms.