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FITNESS

When Can I Start Exercise Postpartum?

Question: My baby is 3 weeks old and I am itching to exercise. Can I?

Answer: If you were to exercise at 3 weeks, your body might be tapping into sources that have not fully recovered. At 6 weeks, your body is considered “normal” in the fact that everything is back in its place. Your blood volume, uterus size, diaphragm, etc. have all returned to their original size/place. A lot of this happens rather quickly, but as you can see, your body is going through a lot of changes. Immediate postpartum weight loss comes from: amniotic fluid, placenta, blood volume, breast tissue, fat storage, swelling, urination, and the uterus involution (the uterus returning to its normal size).

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) most recent guidelines find no problems with resuming exercise quickly, assuming there are no surgical or medical complications. You can resume exercise once your doctor or midwife gives you permission. Typically, women who have vaginal deliveries are cleared around 4 weeks postpartum, while c-section mamas are typically cleared around 6 – 8 weeks postpartum.

You know your body best, so be mindful of all the changes, including your wrecked sleep schedule.  Download our Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Guide for all your exercise guidelines!

DOWNLOAD THE PRENATAL AND POSTNATAL EXERCISE GUIDE

Smart fitness for moms in any stage: bump, new baby, and beyond.

Weeks 0 – 6 Postpartum

  • Walking is a great activity. Start slow. Even pushing a stroller or wearing a baby can be too much for some women at first.
  • Pelvic floor exercises like kegels can be done in the first few weeks. According to Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), a mom can reduce the risk of future urinary incontinence by starting pelvic floor exercises immediately postpartum. To perform a kegel: act as though you are stopping the flow of urine, hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat as often as you like — aim for at least 10 times a day. But keep in mind, the release is just as important.
  • The transverse abdominis (TA) helped your belly support your baby and it’s important you know how to cue this muscle. When you are ready for traditional ab training like crunches, you need to cue the TA muscle. Why? You can do crunches until you are blue in the face, but unless your innermost core muscles are cued, the quest towards a flat stomach is nearly impossible. Perform diaphragmatic breathing to reconnect with your inner core. Start from a sitting or lying position — a lying position is the easiest way to learn how to cue your inner core muscles. Place one hand below your belly button and one on your chest. Take a deep inhale while letting your belly button and lower ribcage expand. Now as you exhale pull your belly button towards your spine without letting your hips tilt or letting your posture change. That corseting action of the deep core muscle is your TA engaging. This is an exercise all in itself. Try 30 – 40 seconds of the TA breath, followed by rest, then repeat. For me, I love to learn by watching a demonstration! Watch here!
  • Listen to your body — it carried a baby, it’s smart! If you feel pain, nausea, or lightheaded, stop and contact your doctor. If your postpartum bleeding increases, back off and rest.
  • Fuel your body properly with food and water. If you are breastfeeding, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 16 cups of water/day — keep in mind that 20 percent of water intake comes from foods and non-caffeinated/non-sugary drinks.  If you are breastfeeding, you also need extra protein (the same or more as during pregnancy). We have a full recipe box with breastfeeding modifications.

Week 6+ Postpartum

  • Fuel your body, listen to your body, and perform kegels as discussed in weeks 0 – 6 above.
  • See the diastasis recti self-test to check for an abdominal separation. If you think you might have one, check in with your doctor to confirm.
  • Pick back up the prenatal workout you were doing or start a postnatal fitness program. It is unwise to jump into a routine not catered to gaining 20 – 30 pounds in 9 months. Try our Postnatal Workout Program!
  • Connect with the muscles that supported your baby. Activate the transverse abdominis by doing the TA breath (discussed above). These are your deep core muscles and knowing how to cue them during exercise will help you get a flat stomach again.

Week 8+ Postpartum

  • Start incorporating cardiovascular and strength training. This will help you increase your endurance, as well as move your body. I recommend starting with isolation exercises to help with muscle imbalances created during pregnancy. Isolation exercise focus on one muscle group at a time. Then, move into compound exercises in which you engage multiple muscle groups at one time. In our postnatal workouts, we use the isolation exercises in phase 1. After two to three weeks we move to compound exercises in phase 2.
  • Know that you can get back to your prior self, or even better self. But don’t expect to just “bounce back.” Think of it this way, you don’t train for a running race by not running. So you cannot expect to get your body back by not exercising it.
  • If you are like me, I like to have a plan: a fully laid out template that I can follow to get from point A to point B. Kinda like the time we desperately signed up for a parenting class with 3 kids 3 and under — I needed a template for discipline, rewards, and getting the crazy under control. Well Love & Logic gave me that — a template — and my body and mind went “ahhhh.” Our Postnatal Workout Program is just that: a blueprint to get your body back.
  • If you had a C-section, read more about C-Section recovery and returning to exercise.

Postnatal Programs in the Studio

ABOUT MOMS INTO FITNESS

Moms Into Fitness offers the best online fitness, nutritional guidance, and recipes for moms. Get moving with 600+ scientifically backed workouts for all fitness levels in many different styles. Whether you’re easing back into exercise after birth or you’re a lifelong athlete, you will find a program that feels just right. At-home workouts are easily accessed from your computer or favorite streaming device. Try it for FREE.

Moms Into Fitness was founded by mom of three Lindsay Brin, BSE in exercise science and certified personal trainer. She is passionate about helping moms achieve optimal health without going to extremes — loving yourself from the inside out one day at a time.


Download the Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Guide

Smart fitness for moms in any stage: bump, new baby, and beyond.