Exercise has the following benefits for postpartum women:
It helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles.
It boosts energy.
It may help prevent postpartum depression.
It promotes better sleep.
It relieves stress.
It can help you lose the extra weight that you may have gained during pregnancy.
After having a baby, you should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on 5 days of the week or into smaller 10-minute sessions throughout each day. For example, you could go for three 10-minute walks each day.
An aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body (like those in the legs and arms) in a rhythmic way.
Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You can still talk normally, but you cannot sing. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking and riding a bike on a level surface.
A vigorous-intensity activity is one in which it is hard to talk without pausing for breath. If you followed a vigorous-intensity exercise program before pregnancy, it may be possible to return to your regular workouts soon after the baby is born. Be sure to talk with your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) first.
This type of exercise works the body’s major muscle groups, such as the legs, arms, and hips. Examples include yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, sit-ups, and push-ups. There are also exercises called Kegel exercises that help tone the muscles of the pelvic floor. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done in addition to your aerobic activity on at least 2 days a week.
If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a cesarean birth or complications, ask your ob-gyn when it is safe to begin exercising again.
Aim to stay active for 20 to 30 minutes a day. When you first start exercising after childbirth, try simple postpartum exercises that help strengthen major muscle groups, including abdominal and back muscles.
Gradually add moderate-intensity exercise. If you exercised vigorously before pregnancy or you are a competitive athlete, you can work up to vigorous-intensity activity.
Remember, even 10 minutes of exercise benefits your body. Stop exercising if you feel pain.
When you are ready to start exercising, walking is a great way to get back in shape. Another good way to get daily exercise is by joining an exercise class.
Check with your local fitness clubs or community centers for classes that interest you, such as yoga, Pilates, spinning, and dance. Some gyms offer special postpartum exercise classes and classes you can take with your baby.
If you do not want to join a gym but want the benefits of having someone to exercise with, ask a friend to be your workout buddy. If you want to exercise on your own, check out fitness videos and online exercise programs. Many are designed for women who have just had a baby.
You may already have a great exercise tool in your pocket. Smart phone apps for exercise and fitness can help you stay motivated, keep track of your progress, and connect you with others with the same exercise goals. Many apps are free or cost very little.
As you get ready for your workout, follow these steps:
Wear loose-fitting clothing that will help keep you cool.
If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby or express your milk before your workout to avoid any discomfort that may come from engorged breasts.
Wear a bra that fits well and gives plenty of support to protect your breasts.
Have a bottle of water handy and take several sips during your workout.
The Move Your Way website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can help you find safe, fun ways to get active after pregnancy.
Cesarean Birth: Birth of a fetus from the uterus through an incision (cut) made in the woman’s abdomen.
Complications: Diseases or conditions that happen as a result of another disease or condition. An example is pneumonia that occurs as a result of the flu. A complication also can occur as a result of a condition, such as pregnancy. An example of a pregnancy complication is preterm labor.
Kegel Exercises: Pelvic muscle exercises. Doing these exercises helps with bladder and bowel control as well as sexual function.
Obstetrician–Gynecologist (Ob-Gyn): A doctor with special training and education in women’s health.
Postpartum Depression: A type of depressive mood disorder that develops in the first year after the birth of a child. This type of depression can affect a woman’s ability to take care of her child.
Don't have an ob-gyn? Search for doctors near you.
FAQ131 Last updated: March 2022
Last reviewed: August 2022
Pregnancy After Pregnancy Postpartum Healing and Support Nutrition and Exercise
Copyright 2022 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
Postpartum exercise: When it's safe to start running and lifting after pregnancy | Your Pregnancy Matters
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Most patients should wait at least 12 weeks after giving birth to resume running or lifting weights.
Cardio exercise and weight training are two great ways for women to clear their minds and build strong, healthy bodies. It's normal to want to hop back into your regular workout routine – or start a new one – after your Ob/Gyn clears you at your six-week postpartum checkup.
But your body will still be healing for at least six more weeks for a typical vaginal birth. Most new moms should wait at least 12 weeks before easing back into more intense workouts, such as running or lifting weights.
The 2019 postpartum exercise guidelines, endorsed by the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports and Exercise Medicine, shows that waiting can reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as hernias, muscle tears, falls, urinary incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse – when the bladder and uterus droop into the vagina.
The 12-week milestone is geared toward patients who had a normal pregnancy and vaginal delivery. Your doctor may suggest waiting longer if you had:
A cesarean section (C-section)
Obesity prior to pregnancy
Diastasis recti (improper healing of the abdominal muscles)
Excessive scar tissue in the pelvic area
But having to wait doesn't mean you can't do any exercise. In fact, staying idle will further delay your return to more intense workouts.
Most moms can start walking up to 30 minutes at a slow to moderate pace a few days after delivery. The best way to know what pace you need to go is to listen to your body. When walking, you should be able to easily carry a conversation or sing a song on your playlist.
Yoga is another great choice to improve flexibility, balance, and overall strength. During the postpartum period, it's also important to rebuild a strong pelvic floor – the muscles and tissues that hold up the bladder and uterus.
In a previous article, my physical therapy colleague Taylor Price, P.T., D.P.T., C.A.P.P., explained 10 pelvic floor strengthening exercises most patients can safely do two to six weeks postpartum. Now, she'll discuss how to safely return to running or lifting weights after having a baby.
Running after pregnancy
Why do I have to wait 12 weeks to start running?
Even if you had an easy pregnancy and delivery, your muscles and ligaments were stretched beyond their normal state, causing instability and weakening. These tissues take a long time to strengthen and heal – approximately 16 weeks at minimum, though many women need up to six months for complete healing.
How do I know I'm ready to run?
After 12 weeks, you can gauge your strength with a few physical tests. If you're ready to run, you should be able to:
Complete your pelvic floor strength circuit without difficulty.
Jog in place for one minute.
Balance steadily on one leg (each side) for 10 seconds.
Hop on one leg (each side) 10 times without pain or loss of balance.
Perform single-leg "running man" moves (opposite arm and leg extension) 10 times on each side.
Do 20 each of these single-leg exercises per side:
Bridge while lying on your back.
How much running is safe at first?
We recommend patients start with no more than three 20-minute sessions a week. Those should break down into intervals of 20 seconds jogging, followed by two minutes of walking. You'll run about three minutes and walk about 17, laying a solid base of continuous movement.
The next week, add 10 seconds to your running intervals, then 10 more the next week. In five weeks, you'll be running a full minute at a time. Over the next few weeks, you can gradually cut down your walk breaks and increase your run time until you're running a solid 20 minutes.
It's best to start without a jogging stroller, which requires a little more effort. If you choose to bring the baby, you'll want to progress even slower. Pay attention to your body mechanics – don't slouch as you run and remember to breathe as you rebuild musculature and endurance.
Related reading: 3 exercises to avoid during pregnancy – and 7 that are safer
Lifting weights after pregnancy
Why do I have to wait 12 weeks after giving birth to lift weights?
It only takes two weeks for the body to lose endurance and muscle. Even if you were working out until the day you delivered, you likely stopped during the postpartum period – that's a good thing.
In that time, your muscles likely lost some strength. It can also take up to 12 weeks for the muscles, vaginal tissues, and ligaments to completely heal. If you try to jump back in where you left off, you'll be at increased risk for injury.
But you can get your muscles back – safely – if you work toward incremental goals and listen to your body.
How do I know I'm ready to start lifting?
You should be able to complete your pelvic floor workouts with little or no difficulty. You should also be able to do at least 10 squats and 10 deadlifts (with a PVC pipe or broomstick) with no weight and proper form.
When starting to add weight, you should start with dumbbells (10-20 lbs.) then progress up to the weight of a barbell. Then, transition to the barbell. If at any point you are unable to maintain proper form, move back to the previous weight and try increasing repetitions.
Most importantly, you must be able to do all these things without holding your breath, which increases your risk of injury, such as pulling a muscle or falling. It also increases pressure on your pelvic floor, which can lead to developing pelvic organ prolapse. Breathing is key to healthy blood flow and oxygenation.
How much lifting is safe at first?
For most patients, we recommend resistance training 2-3 times a week for the first four weeks you return to exercise. Start by squatting without weight. Once that is easy, start using either a 10 lb. kettlebell or dumbbells.
Once you have worked up to 40 repetitions, you can consider increasing the weight by 5-10 lbs. From there, you can continue increasing until you reach your desired weight. Once you start getting into more challenging weights, you may only want to increase 2.5 lbs. at one time.
Forty repetitions is a general guideline. If you are:
Training more for power, such as lifting large bags of soil a few times from the car to the garden, you may want to decrease with repetitions and increase the weight.
Training to improve endurance for daily tasks, such as lifting laundry, your children, or groceries, you may want to increase the reps and maintain a lower weight.
Signs you might be overdoing it
If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Doing too much too fast can increase your risk of injuries such as hernias, torn muscles, falls, or pelvic organ prolapse.
Stop your workouts and contact the doctor if you experience:
Sharp, sudden pain anywhere
Pain or pressure in your pelvic floor
Keep tabs on your mental health, too. Call your Ob/Gyn if you feel overly stressed or irritated about missing a workout or feel as if you aren't doing enough. You may be experiencing a form of postpartum anxiety.
Related reading: Urinary incontinence is not ‘normal’ – but it is treatable
When to see a pelvic floor physical therapist
If you are breastfeeding, your joints may be "looser" due to hormonal changes. The laxity may increase your risk of injury, such as overextended knees or rolled ankles. Before you start running, check with your doctor to make sure your body is ready to support your workouts.
If your Ob/Gyn has signed off on your health and you feel ready to ramp up, you can get started after that 12-week milestone. However, if you have pelvic health concerns or just want to get the healthiest start, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist first. We can help you strengthen weak areas and create a plan to safely reach your goals.
As you resume intensive exercise, keep two things in mind:
Your body just made and delivered a baby. That takes a lot of work, and almost no one bounces back overnight.
Don't compare yourself to elite athletes or celebrities. They likely had extreme fitness training and medical supervision during pregnancy and postpartum, which is an unrealistic scenario for most people.
If you’re ready to get back to working out, visit with your Ob/Gyn or a pelvic floor physical therapist to help you rebuild a solid and safe foundation.
Call 214-645-8300 to request an appointment, or you canuse our online form.
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Fitness after childbirth - when you can do it for a nursing mother
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During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles are stretched, fat accumulates on the hips, legs, arms. With the birth of a baby, a woman takes all her free time to take care of the child, which causes positive emotions and excitement. After a while, there is a desire to strengthen the skin tone, get rid of excess weight, fatigue, weakness. The question logically arises: when can I do fitness after childbirth in order to regain my former shape.
Stages of recovery after childbirth
The clear desire of a newly-made mother is to return the lost form after childbirth as soon as possible. However, early physical activity, according to gynecologists, can lead to complications. After the birth of a baby, a woman's body goes through a number of significant changes:
the uterus gradually shrinks and returns to its normal size;
after separation of the placenta, a wound remains inside the genital organ, which heals over time;
pelvic bones and internal organs, displaced during pregnancy, return to their places.
Immediately after childbirth, sports are not allowed, the main reason for the ban is the high risk of uterine bleeding.
When you can return to sports after childbirth
Pregnancy for every woman is a complex process associated with hormonal changes in the whole organism. The lack of vitamin and mineral components caused by the intrauterine development of the baby, a large load on the spine, muscle strain, excess weight can cause stress and depressed mood.
Full recovery time is individual for each woman, depends on the age and physical health of the young mother. Postpartum fatigue, constant care, anxiety for the newborn, reduced vitality are not the best incentive to play sports. For a nursing mother, it is important to listen to your own feelings, plan your day for physical exercise on your own.
Experienced doctors do not prohibit fitness after childbirth, but do not recommend too much hurry. Heavy physical activity, a sharp change in activity can adversely affect the state of health. There is a risk of a decrease in breast milk production, in severe cases, uterine bleeding is possible.
Gynecologists recommend starting exercise after a natural birth after 1.5 months. If there were complications, surgical obstetric methods were used - not earlier than 3 months. It is important to observe the principle of gradual increase in loads.
Types of activities for classes: pros and cons
When asked if a nursing mother can do fitness, doctors answer in the affirmative. A preliminary consultation with a gynecologist, who will examine the tone of the uterus and the general well-being of a woman, will help you choose a sport. In the absence of contraindications, the intensity of training, the level of load is calculated individually. The list of sports and exercises prohibited for a young mother includes:
stayer distance running;
heavy loads on the abdominal muscles.
Active sports games should be treated with caution: volleyball, basketball, football, tennis, which are characterized by sudden movements, quick change of direction. Recommended recovery activities include:
Pilates: a type of fitness with smooth and slow movements that effectively help to get rid of wrinkles on the stomach and sides with regular training;
yoga: competent performance of asanas helps to increase vitality, improve mood, helps to relax and recharge with positive energy;
walking: a simple and effective method of training for muscle tightening, perfectly combined with daily walks with the baby;
swimming: complex work of all muscle groups without static load on the spine;
dances, including oriental dances: belly dance helps restore muscle elasticity, body plasticity, and flexibility.
Home or gym
Having dealt with the questions of when you can start classes, it remains to choose what is better - visiting the gym or the convenience of a home environment. Each of the options has advantages and disadvantages, namely:
Gym . Pros: classes with an experienced professional trainer in a group with young mothers. All loads are correctly calculated, guaranteeing an effective result without risk to health. Cons: the schedule of classes is strictly defined, without taking into account personal wishes, as well as financial costs.
House . After consulting with a doctor, you can choose a set of exercises and start exercising at a convenient time, in comfortable conditions, while saving the family budget. Minus: in the absence of self-discipline and large household duties, classes will not be held regularly.
The final version completely depends on the life circumstances and the great desire of the woman herself. An excellent motivation for playing sports will be a baby who, as he grows, will take an active part in classes with his mother.
Fitness after caesarean section
Caesarean section is a surgical intervention in the process of childbirth that took place with complications. Postoperative wounds are treated for a certain time, which determines the period of return to sports. The recovery period, in comparison with natural childbirth, is longer, requiring a woman to pay more attention to her own health. According to the recommendations of the gynecologist, simple exercises should be started no earlier than 3 months after the operation.
Small cuts and tears that occur during childbirth heal within a few weeks. When the baby is 2 months old, you can start training. In the case of multiple injuries of the perineum, the ban on sports directly depends on the complexity and size of the gaps. After suturing large wounds, you should wait with the sport until full recovery. Active full-load training after caesarean or ruptures is allowed no earlier than 6 months.
It is recommended to drink plenty of clean still water during fitness activities to avoid dehydration. It is important for young mothers to eat right, walk a lot in the fresh air. It is especially useful to spend time in coniferous and deciduous parks, far from harmful emissions.
The first workouts after childbirth should be gentle. First of all, it is important to pay attention to the abdomen. Pilates or yoga exercises are optimal, which additionally strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. With the help of the gymnastic complex, you can tone the lower abdominal muscles, stabilize the spine, and distribute the load on the musculoskeletal system of the body. At the second stage of physical activity, in order to achieve attractive forms, the pelvic muscles should be trained. The final stage is exercises for the upper back, neck muscles. This complex is especially relevant for breastfeeding, as it helps to stimulate lactation.
A set of exercises on a large gymnastic fitball not only keeps the muscles in good shape, but also cheers up. Simple and effective exercises on a sports equipment do not require much physical effort. Rolling and twisting while sitting on the ball helps to relieve tension in the back area, it is good to work out the lateral muscles on the belt.
An integrated approach to the training system, proper nutrition and a positive attitude will bring the expected result. Regular classes will give beauty and strength to enjoy the joy of motherhood.
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How soon after giving birth can I play sports
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Almost all women put on weight after giving birth. Someone manages to quickly get rid of it, someone wages a long war for many years. Sport after childbirth is necessary in order to restore beauty and elasticity to your body, as well as to feel energy, vivacity, and strength again. How long after childbirth can you go in for sports, what areas, what is better to refuse ?! Let's look for answers together.
When can I exercise after giving birth?
Consider how long after giving birth you can play sports.
After vaginal delivery without tears/cuts. If the birth went “smoothly”, there are absolutely no contraindications, injuries, then you can start playing sports even the next day. When can I download the press after childbirth? More complex workouts, such as fitness, a swimming pool, can be started only after 1.5-2 months.
After vaginal delivery with tears/cuts. In this case, you can allow the minimum load only after a month. In parallel, you should be observed by a doctor and gradually load the body.
After caesarean section. Recovery after a caesarean is a complex and time-consuming process. The first loads are permissible only 2 months after the birth of the baby, gradualness is important here.
Can I exercise while breastfeeding?
Sports during breastfeeding are not contraindicated and do not affect the quality of milk. It is important to drink plenty of water and not do complex chest exercises. For training, it is best to purchase a supportive bra. If you have a feeling of fullness in the chest during the session, then the next time you feed the child before training. For pain, you can use two bras at the same time to provide maximum support. Can I play sports while breastfeeding? Now you know the answer for sure.
What sports can I do after childbirth?
Many people are concerned about the question “is it possible to play sports after childbirth?” and the answer is yes, yes, and again, yes! However, it is important to understand which areas of sports will benefit and help the body get stronger, and which ones can harm.
1. Calm walking. You can walk alone or with your newborn baby in a stroller. The main rule is not to overload yourself. Walks can be 20 or 30 minutes, it all depends on your well-being and desire.
2. Water fitness. Physical exercises after childbirth on land are prohibited due to the high elasticity of the ligaments, however, in water it is quite difficult to damage the joints and ligaments, therefore aqua fitness is recommended after childbirth.
3. Swimming. Back pain, heaviness - consequences of childbirth. Swimming will help relax your muscles and restore their tone.
4. Yoga. Yoga perfectly levels the emotional background and relieves depression and prevents nervous breakdowns.
How to start exercising after childbirth?
When can I play sports after childbirth? Everything is very individual and depends on how active you were physically before pregnancy. If the birth occurred naturally, then you can start training in a few weeks. When can I exercise after a caesarean? Depends on the severity of the complications, so it is recommended that you always consult with your doctor. Sports after cesarean should be introduced into life very carefully. Be sure to do a warm-up, drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest.
What sports should not be practiced after childbirth?
Physical activity after childbirth is not fully available immediately. There are certain sports that are strictly contraindicated, and there are those that are acceptable, but in limited quantities. The following sports are prohibited:
1. Run. While running, a person loses a lot of calories. For women who have just given birth, running can result in a lack of milk and changes in its taste.
2. Any direction that enhances the feeling of adrenaline.