How Soon After Having A Baby Can You Exercise? An Expert Explains

Written by Heather Marr
Woman Exercising After Giving Birth

Image by FatCamera / iStock

Postpartum exercise offers a host of both physical and mental benefits for the new mom. Obviously, regular activity may assist with weight management and strengthening the abdominal muscles. It can also, however, boost energy, help to manage stress and anxiety, and, of course, help to prevent or alleviate symptoms associated with postpartum depression.

So how soon can you return to your workout routine after giving birth? Well, it depends. 

The key is to listen to your doctor and your body. 

How soon you can begin activity after having a baby depends on a few factors, one of which is whether or not you had a vaginal or Caesarean delivery. While we once thought it was necessary to wait six weeks post-vaginal delivery to begin activity, the new guidelines set by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that for some women, easing back into a routine can begin sooner than that—even as quickly as several days post-delivery. First and foremost, new moms should always get the green light from their doctor before beginning any type of training and make sure that it is appropriate for their situation. 

For many moms who had a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated vaginal delivery, getting started can begin just days after giving birth. Again, the key here is to listen to your body and proceed when you feel ready. For those who experienced a more complicated vaginal delivery or Caesarean delivery, more time is needed for the body to recover. For instance, the uterus and deep tissue after a Caesarean delivery can take six weeks to heal. In these cases, it's especially important to get cleared by your doctor before beginning to exercise. Many new moms will need to wait six to eight weeks before beginning a training program post-Caesarean delivery. This time should be spent patiently prioritizing recovery, not activity.

How to ease your way back into exercising.

The ACOG currently recommends aiming for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily after pregnancy. Finding the time and energy (and sometimes child care) to exercise while you have a newborn at home may feel like an impossible task some days. Luckily, even lower-intensity activity like walking is beneficial, and you can even take your baby with you in a stroller.

There's also an increasing number of exercise classes for new moms in the United States that focus on postpartum fitness, like Mom In Balance and Fit4Mom. This is also a great way to meet other moms and form a support system. Exercise videos and online programs are another convenient option that can be done any time at home, often with minimal equipment. Finally, many fitness centers now offer childcare services that you can utilize while you work out, so you don't have to depend on a sitter or rush your workout. 

When you, a new mom, feel ready and able, you can gradually up the intensity of your exercise. Strength and flexibility moves including pelvic floor exercises should be an integral part of the training program, as your core and pelvic floor are typically weaker after pregnancy.

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Will working out affect breastfeeding? 

A common concern is that breast milk may be affected by exercise. Fortunately, moderate exercise does not affect milk supply or composition—so yes, it's safe. Scheduling training and nursing, though, can certainly pose a challenge. Those who are breastfeeding may want to nurse the baby and put the child down for a nap. Experts recommend timing your workout so that it's while the baby is sleeping and the breasts are not feeling as heavy. This may make workouts easier to fit in and feel more comfortable. Upper back strain caused by increased breast weight and fatigue can be addressed with external rotation shoulder exercises as well as scapula retraction exercises. 

While finding the time to fit fitness into your life postpartum may not always be easy, it is well worth it. Carving out this time for self-care is not selfish; it is necessary. The more we fill our own cups, the more we have to give. Regular, consistent activity to strengthen the body and promote well-being can help new moms rise to meet the challenges of motherhood.

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