Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

Fitness Articles

Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

How and When to Start Exercising after Pregnancy

385SHARES
Now that your baby has finally arrived, your life will never be the same. Your body has gone through some major changes, too—and will continue to do so in the coming months.

When you're feeling ready (and after your doctor gives you clearance), resuming or starting an exercise program can help your body heal, become stronger, and get fitter than ever.

Benefits of Exercising after Pregnancy
The advantages of exercise go way beyond simply firming up or losing the "baby" weight. A consistent exercise program can also:
  • Prevent the baby blues. Research shows that light activity can help ward off the common feelings of sadness, disappointment, and depression that many women experience after delivery.
  • Promote healing. Getting stronger and fitter helps your body recover. Strong muscles and bones tend to bounce back faster.
  • Increase energy. You may never have felt as tired as you do right now. Working out can help balance out sleep deprivation and the stress of motherhood, giving you the energy you need to nurture, and play with your little one.
How Soon Can I Exercise after Delivery?
You will need a period of time off to allow your body to rest and heal after giving birth. Don't start your exercise program before your doctor gives you the OK. The most important things you can do during the first weeks postpartum are: care for your baby, rest when possible, and eat a healthy diet. Time for exercise will come soon enough.

Once you're cleared for exercise (usually 6-8 weeks postpartum for an uncomplicated delivery), listen to your body and start slowly. You shouldn't jump back into the same intensity and duration of exercise you were doing before your baby was born. Find an activity (like walking, water exercise or gentle yoga) that feels good—and can even include your baby!

Most women can follow one of the general schedules below to reintroduce exercise, but let your own commonsense and energy levels lead the way. If you aren't feeling up to something, listen to your body and continue to rest longer. Always check with your health care provider before starting or trying any exercises.

If you had a normal vaginal birth:
Most women should wait several weeks before resuming normal exercise, but you can begin some simple movements as early as the day after delivery. This is a good time to try some light exercise while lying in bed, such as kegels, pelvic tilts, and neck & shoulder stretches.
 
In the following weeks, as you feel able, begin some light walking and strengthening moves for your abs, lower back, and pelvic muscles.
 
You'll likely have a postpartum checkup around 6-8 weeks postpartum. Ask your doctor about resuming exercise at this time, and if cleared, start with light to moderate exercise, building up to a full training program slowly (and with your doctor's clearance).
 
If you had a Cesarean birth:
A Cesarean delivery is major surgery, from which you will need extra rest, sleep and good nutrition in order to recover. Along with your doctor's advice, here are a few tips to determine when your body is ready to start exercising after a Cesarean delivery:
  • All incisions or tears have healed.
  • Your postpartum recovery is progressing normally, and both you and your baby are healthy. (A high-needs baby is more physically and mentally stressful for mom, which can slow down recovery.)
  • You feel good after physical activity and don't experience any increase in vaginal bleeding.
  • You don't feel excessively fatigued from exercise and you recover within your normal period of time following exercise.
 
The day after a Cesarean delivery, you can usually begin simple exercises (in bed) like kegels, deep breathing (which engages the diaphragm and your deep transverse abdominal muscles), actively pulling your stomach muscles inward (belly button toward spine), and simple upper body stretches for the neck and shoulders as you feel comfortable. If you experience any pain or discomfort during any of these movements, take it as a sign you are doing too much.

In the following weeks, as you feel able, try light walking and strengthening moves for your lower back and pelvic muscles. Expect to wait about 8-10 weeks (and get a physician's OK) to begin any further activity.

Other Postpartum Fitness Concerns
Continued ›
Page 1 of 2   Next Page ›
385SHARES

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Catherine Cram Catherine Cram
Cathy received her master's degree in exercise physiology from San Diego State University. A fitness enthusiast, she specializes in prenatal and postpartum exercise.

Member Comments

  • ETHELMERZ
    It's interesting that they just "assume" that the person was in great shape "before", which is usually not the case, except for celebs and some fitness people out there. Just saying, it's going to take a lot longer for the average woman who just had a baby and not enough time to even sit down for a spell............
    ........... - 10/11/2014 2:01:51 PM
  • Thanks for sharing. - 12/8/2013 6:07:52 AM
  • I gained alot of weight when I had my three boy's. I lost some and later on down the road I started to put weight on and it kept coming. - 10/11/2013 7:12:41 PM
  • Yes Breast feeding helps but once I stopped (plus working full-time) I gained back all that I lost. Do any of you work full time? If so how do you incoroporate working out. I don't have a gym membership nor can I afford one, we have a small home so I worry that early morning work outs may wake the little guy up...he tends to wake easily in the mornings. I sweat like a crazy person so lunch time work outs are out of the question and since my son is at day care all day I really don't want to put him in child care after work for another hr and half to do a class. - 8/23/2011 7:05:18 PM
  • I was determined to exercise and stay as physically active as possible during my last pregnancy. I even did a whole hour workout the day I went into labor. The nurses in L&D thought I was crazy. Within 1.5 weeks after having my baby I was feeling up to taking small easy walks with my double stroller. I know you need to wait 6 weeks and heal but I listened to how my body felt and I was back at the gym 2.5 weeks postpartum. I took it really easy though. I didn't even get back to running until 6 weeks but I was doing small weights and using the elliptical. I think working out my whole pregnancy helped me get back to the gym faster. I'm not saying that everyone should go back to the gym like I did so soon, but I think the physical activity level you set during pregnancy can determine how soon you can get back into working out. BF helped me get off some pounds too. I'm down to prepregnancy weight but am looking to lose some more weight that I had before having kids. - 6/6/2011 9:09:34 AM
  • I agree that it takes creative thinking to fit in an exercise routine with multiple children in the house. When I let the kids watch a Wiggles show, I try to dance along. It's really high impact! Breastfeeding has consistently helped me lose weight throughout the first year of each baby's life. It surprises me to read that NOT getting enough calories can actually slow down our bodies' weightloss. After tracking my food on SP, I find that's the case for me. I have a 5-month old and I have not been able to reach my lower range of 2,000 calories or protein range with "healthy" eating. However, if I indulge in more food or unhealthy food to help reach the ranges, then I go WAY over in the carb and fat ranges. Does that matter when I'm nursing? Which is worse for a nursing mother: not enough calories & protein/just right carbs & fats OR enough calories & protein/too many carbs & fats? - 6/6/2011 12:53:55 AM
  • NICOLEPREGNANCY
    This is incredible!! http://pregnancyp
    ossible.com - 2/1/2011 4:14:05 PM
  • I think these are great recommendations for people who have had their FIRST baby. The juggling becomes much more complicated after you have 2, 3, or 4. The lesson is to be creative and even 10 minutes of walking, stairs, situps, pushups are a great start! - 1/21/2011 1:06:02 PM
  • JUNGLEJUNGLE
    Well... I have four children and I gained almost nothing during my pregnancies.... But!! Once the baby was out and I was breastfeeding, I was sooooo hungry! I was ravenous! I gained all the weight after the babies were born... Nursing my babies actually piled the weight on for me... Mind you, I don't regret nursing them. I just need to work extra hard now to catch up! - 1/21/2011 10:03:10 AM
  • I have 4 children. First were twins, and then singles. I gianed less weight with my last one, but seem to be having a hard time shedding the baby weight of 13 pounds. All the other pregnancies I got the weight off within 6 months, but this one doesn't want to give. - 1/21/2011 9:53:05 AM
  • I had 9 children and gained about 5 pounds with each because I didn't stay on top of the exercise. My hubby couldn't join me in walking, because of a bad back, and my little ones were very close together making an extra person pretty much a necessity. If I could do it over again, I would 'dance' with the kids doing the day....anything..
    as long as we stayed active ...together! Now we are a home schooling family and so I have determined to incorporate my w/o's with Phys Ed. Makes sense to me! :D - 1/21/2011 12:46:27 AM
  • I nursed with my daughter and lost a lot of weight doing that. I loved nursing, I had to stop when she was 7.5 months because of her allergies to food I was eating but you should do it as long as possible. After I stopped nursing her, I started gaining weight. - 8/27/2010 10:22:21 PM
  • I have three boys ages 1, 3, and 6. I stuggled to lose weight in between each pregnancy so I just kept packing on the pounds. I was introduced to P90X and Turbo Jam, both great workouts that i could do at home. They changed my life! I had time to workout and I didn't have to drag the boys to the gym daycare center. I lost 30 pounds and 3 dress sizes in after completing P90X. I feel great and I became a Beachbody coach to keep myself motivated and help others reach their fitness goals. If you want an accountiblity partner send me an email on my sparkle page and lets work together! - 8/22/2010 11:03:58 AM
  • I have a 6month old, am breastfeeding and working 4 8 hour shifts a week. I am so exhausted, despite sleeping 6 to 8 hours straight (I know I am lucky she sleeps through the night) but I wake up so groggy and exhausted that I get to the gym so inconsistently. I hate not having energy! I eat well too. The pounds are coming off slowly but the belly hangs loose and low and I know I could rock the pounds off quick if I could just get in there. I just miss it too. - 8/22/2010 5:18:03 AM
  • I have 4 kids ages 4,3,2, and 4 months. I breastfeed but unlike with the other 3, it doesn't seem to be helping with the weightloss. I did have some luck with Weight Watchers and 30-40 minutes of Pilates each day. Once I made it a part of the day, it seemed easier to fit in. I have about 30 pounds to lose to reach my ideal weight, so hopefully I continue to lose!!! - 8/21/2010 5:40:29 PM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Acting  |  Archery / Hunting  |  Bobsledding

x Lose 10 Pounds by February 1! Get a FREE Personalized Plan