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- Postpartum exercise can bring numerous physical and emotional benefits including restored strength, better sleep, and improved mood.
- You can begin with low-impact exercises like walking and yoga soon after delivery.
- If postpartum exercise and a healthy diet alone aren’t helping you achieve your goal weight, you might consider adding a GLP-1 medication such as Wegovy or Ozempic to your routine.
Bringing a new life into the world is a remarkable experience, and as a new mom, you're undoubtedly navigating a multitude of changes—both physical and emotional. One common concern that often arises after childbirth is the desire to regain fitness and engage in postpartum exercise.
Moving your body after having a baby can bring numerous benefits. It can help restore your strength and flexibility, improve your sleep, and help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Plus, postpartum exercise isn't just about physical recovery—it's linked to mental well-being, too. Engaging in regular exercise can alleviate postpartum depression and anxiety.
Read on for expert tips on getting started with postpartum exercise, so you can begin reaping the benefits and feeling like yourself again.
How Soon After Giving Birth Can You Exercise?
It's natural to be eager to get back into an exercise routine, but it's crucial to prioritize your recovery. How soon after giving birth you can exercise can vary based on a number of factors such as the type of delivery, your overall health, and the recommendations of your medical provider.
“Generally, light exercises like walking can be started soon after delivery,” explains postpartum exercise expert Alexa Stelzer, RDN, LD, CDCES, and clinical health coach at Robin by One Drop. “More intense exercises should be eased into and not start until after consulting with your doctor. It’s frequently recommended to avoid higher intensity exercises like running or lifting heavy weights until at least 12 weeks postpartum.”
Your six-week postpartum check-up is a great time to talk to your provider about the type and amount of exercise that’s best for you.
What is the Best Exercise for Postpartum?
The simple act of walking can be one of the best exercises you can do postpartum. Walking can help to promote postpartum healing, improve circulation, and help with mood.
“Taking walks with your newborn, either in a baby carrier or safe stroller, can be a great way to get the benefits of physical activity while also bonding with your little one,” explains Stelzer.
During times when another caregiver is with your child, walking alone or with other family or friends can provide a much-needed opportunity for self-care, allowing you to recharge.
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What Are Other Effective Postpartum Exercises?
Beginning with low-impact postpartum exercises can reestablish core strength and pelvic floor health. “Postnatal yoga, pelvic floor exercises, and other low impact calisthenics can all be used to get moving and gain the benefits of physical activity,” says Stelzer.
How Can I Strengthen My Core Postpartum?
Your core muscles go through significant changes during pregnancy and childbirth. To help strengthen your core postpartum, incorporate exercises that target your transverse abdominis and obliques. Planks modified for postpartum women, under the guidance of a fitness professional, can aid in core recovery.
Most pregnant women (66% to 100%) experience diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) during the third trimester. DRA is a separation of the left and right sides of the outer abdominal muscle. It can cause persistent lower back pain, reduced quality of life, and other issues. Research shows that an exercise program called deep core stability is effective in treating DRA.
The deep core stability exercise program involves abdominal bracing, diaphragmatic breathing, pelvic floor contraction, plank, and isometric abdominal contraction. Check with your doctor if this type of regimen could work for you.
Is It Normal to Experience Leaking During Postpartum Exercise?
Experiencing urinary incontinence during and after postpartum exercise is common due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Integrating Kegel exercises into your routine can help mitigate this issue.
Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel who developed them in 1948, are simple yet effective pelvic floor muscle exercises. They’re designed to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel. The beauty of Kegel exercises is that you can do them any time, anywhere. The Mayo Clinic offers a helpful guide for getting started.
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Can I Exercise While Breastfeeding?
Absolutely. Breastfeeding is not a reason to avoid exercise.
“Light to moderate exercise is unlikely to affect breast milk supply,” says Stelzer. “Research is mixed on the effect of higher intensity exercise on milk supply, but if you notice a negative effect, try nursing or pumping before a workout and make sure you are drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.”
Breastfeeding moms do need to keep their energy and nutrient requirements in mind. Ensure you're consuming enough calories and staying hydrated to support both lactation and exercise.
What Are Some Postpartum Exercise Red Flags to Watch Out For?
While it's normal to experience some discomfort, certain symptoms indicate you should halt exercise and consult a healthcare provider. These include excessive bleeding, severe pain, or any discomfort that persists post-exercise.
“Women who had a cesarean section, tearing, or complications with their delivery may be advised to wait longer before engaging in physical activity,” says Stelzer. “Doing too much, too soon can increase risk of serious health complications like muscle tears, hernias, and pelvic prolapse. Listen to your body and work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that is safe and appropriate for you.”
What if You’re Not Seeing Results from Postpartum Exercise?
Sometimes exercise and a healthy diet aren’t enough to help you achieve your postpartum weight loss goals. Many moms are turning to GLP-1 medications to help quiet the “food noise” and experience quicker weight loss wins while making other lifestyle changes.
Common GLP-1 medications include Wegovy (semaglutide), Ozempic (semaglutide), Trulicity (dulaglutide), and Monjouro (tirzepatide). They work by mimicking the action of GLP-1, a gut-derived hormone that occurs naturally in the body. These medications reduce appetite, causing people to eat less food overall.
Robin by One Drop is the only GLP-1-supported weight loss program designed specifically for moms. Combining a 20-week intensive program, one-on-one coaching, a Withings Body scale, and data tracking in the award-winning One Drop app, Robin helps you reset your relationship with food and feel like yourself again. Find out if you’re eligible today.
The Bottom Line
Remember, every woman's postpartum journey is unique. Prioritize self-care and never hesitate to consult your healthcare provider before starting or modifying a postpartum exercise routine. Your body has achieved an incredible feat, and with time, patience, and well-informed choices, you can navigate postpartum exercise safely and effectively.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Hanna Rifkin, RD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.