Postpartum Exercise: Tips for Working Out After Pregnancy

Learn about the benefits of postpartum exercise, when you can start working out, and the best postpartum exercises recommended by PTs.

Published Date: Apr 23, 2024
woman-exercising-in-ball-next-to-her-baby

Postpartum Exercise: Tips for Working Out After Pregnancy

Learn about the benefits of postpartum exercise, when you can start working out, and the best postpartum exercises recommended by PTs.

Published Date: Apr 23, 2024
woman-exercising-in-ball-next-to-her-baby

Postpartum Exercise: Tips for Working Out After Pregnancy

Learn about the benefits of postpartum exercise, when you can start working out, and the best postpartum exercises recommended by PTs.

Published Date: Apr 23, 2024
woman-exercising-in-ball-next-to-her-baby

Postpartum Exercise: Tips for Working Out After Pregnancy

Learn about the benefits of postpartum exercise, when you can start working out, and the best postpartum exercises recommended by PTs.

Published Date: Apr 23, 2024
woman-exercising-in-ball-next-to-her-baby
Table of Contents

You may have exercised faithfully before baby — and managed to keep it up while your belly was growing (no small feat). And you intend to do the same after baby arrives — as you should: postpartum exercise is really good for both your body and mind.

But.

Regardless of how fit you were before and during pregnancy or how clear your visions of returning to your favorite fitness class: Postpartum exercise can be a whole new ball game, at least for a while. Your body is healing after pregnancy. Your core was stretched, muscles may be imbalanced, and your pelvic floor may be weaker. (And, PS, there’s a newborn sapping your sleep, energy, and motivation.)

Postpartum exercise can help your body recover and provide a much-needed boost of energy. But before resuming your pre-baby routine, it’s important to make sure your body is prepped and ready. Read on to learn more about the benefits of postpartum exercise, when you can start working out, and the best postpartum exercises to help you get started.

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Our Hinge Health Experts

Gwen Smith, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Smith is a Hinge Health physical therapist with over 6 years of experience and certified in pelvic floor physical therapy.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.

Benefits of Postpartum Exercise

Pregnancy and childbirth affect your body in so many ways. Among the most obvious: changes to your abdominal muscles. They stretch, lengthen, and sometimes even separate to make room for your growing baby. 

The same is true for your pelvic floor muscles. Shaped like a bowl at the base of your core, they help support your uterus, bladder, and other abdominal organs. During pregnancy, your pelvic floor stretches, which can weaken the muscles and lead to pelvic and low back pain, urinary problems, and other symptoms. Postpartum exercise can help strengthen and tone abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Regular exercise and physical activity can also help:

  • Reduce pelvic and low back pain

  • Boost energy

  • Promote better sleep

  • Improve your mood and reduce symptoms of postpartum depression

  • Relieve stress

  • Promote a healthy weight 

  • Improve your ability to do everyday activities

When Can You Exercise After Giving Birth? 

First you need your doctor’s OK — that rule applies to everyone. “Beyond that, the answer really isn’t black and white,” says Gwen Smith, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health physical therapist. Postpartum recovery time is different for everyone. Your childbirth experience can factor into how soon you’re ready to work out, along with your pre-pregnancy fitness level and the type of postpartum exercise you want to do. In general, if you had a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you may be able to start gentle exercises and stretching a few days after giving birth, or as soon as you feel ready, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If you had a C-section or complicated birth, you might need to wait several weeks before starting gentle exercise. Ask your ob-gyn when it’s safe for you. 

It’s generally recommended to wait about 12 weeks after giving birth before beginning high-impact exercises like running

Getting Started

The first goal of postpartum exercise is core recovery. Regaining strength in your abdominal, back, and pelvic floor muscles is key to getting back to your pre-pregnancy workouts. Simple breathing and pelvic floor exercises can help. They also increase mobility and blood flow to the area to promote healing. For the first six weeks postpartum, you can try the following exercises, recommended by Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapists.

Gentle Postpartum Exercises

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  • Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Kegel Exercise
  • Abdominal Bracing
  • Alternating Pelvic Tilts
  • Seated Chest Opener
  • Cat Cow

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

The Next Step: Progressing Your Postpartum Workout Plan

When you’re ready to include low-impact strength and aerobic exercise in your exercise routine, a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) can help. “As you transition into a workout routine, it’s important to have a foundation of core strength before you start body weight or heavier loading exercises with resistance,” says Dr. Smith. A PT can tailor your postpartum workout program to ensure that it’s safe and appropriate for you. 

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

At Hinge Health, physical therapists follow the FITT principle for exercise progression. FITT stands for:

  • Frequency (or how often you exercise). Your goal is to build up to 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. You might divide that into 30-minute workouts, five days a week. Or you could break it into smaller 10-minute sessions throughout that day for the same benefit. A PT might also recommend strength training two or three times per week, and stretching exercises every day (such as seated cat cow or seal stretch).

  • Intensity (or how difficult your exercise is). You’ll start with low-intensity aerobic exercise and gradually increase to a moderate to high intensity. (That’s when you’re a little breathless, but still able to hold a conversation.) With strength training, you might slowly increase repetitions or number of sets. It’s important to build intensity slowly, listen to your body, and stop when you feel pain.

  • Time (or the duration of each exercise). You might start with 10 to 15 minutes of exercise and work up to 30 minutes in small increments.

  • Type (or what kind of exercise you are doing). Choose workouts you enjoy that fit into your lifestyle, such as stroller walking with your baby for aerobic workouts or body weight exercises for strength.

Pelvic floor physical therapists can also help you address certain postpartum complications or pelvic symptoms, such as:

PT Tip: Breathe First

Diaphragmatic breathing in the immediate postpartum period is the most underrated exercise that every woman should be focusing on,” says Dr. Smith. “Instead of rushing back into jogging or running, allow your body to rest and heal and focus on building up your foundation with diaphragmatic breathing and other gentle exercises.”

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have pelvic pain or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Çiçek, S., Çeliker Tosun, Ö., Parlas, M., Bilgiç, D., Yavuz, O., Kurt, S., Başer Seçer, M., & Tosun, G. (2023). Is the function of the core muscles affected during pregnancy? International Urogynecology Journal, 34(11), 2725–2736. doi:10.1007/s00192-023-05597-z

  2. Exercise After Pregnancy. (2022). Www.acog.org. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-after-pregnancy

  3. Rogers, R. G., Ninivaggio, C., Gallagher, K., Borders, A. N., Qualls, C., & Leeman, L. M. (2017). Pelvic floor symptoms and quality of life changes during first pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. International Urogynecology Journal, 28(11), 1701–1707. doi:10.1007/s00192-017-3330-7