The Complete Guide to Exercise After Baby Ready to get back in shape after giving birth? Our complete guide shows you how to start working out safely and effectively postpartum. We cover everything from how to ease into exercise, to what types of workouts are best for your body, and how to avoid common postpartum injuries. Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned pro, our tips will help you achieve your fitness goals and feel your best.
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The Best Way To Work Out After Pregnancy

Welcoming a new life into the world is an incredible experience, but the journey of pregnancy and childbirth can be tough on your body. As a new mom, it’s important to take care of yourself and regain your strength. Exercise can be an excellent way to help your body recover and boost your energy levels, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I had absolutely no idea what I needed to do to get back to working out postpartum(and I was a personal trainer for 6 years at that point 😬). I knew nothing about kegels, the pelvic floor, or what my body was about to go through and how it was going to change the way I exercised for the first few months post-birth. I am so grateful I took the time to educate myself on the safe and efficient way to exercise after having a baby so I could get back to my favorite workouts in less time.

I will help you cut through the confusion of exercise after pregnancy and give you an exercise routine that you can customize to your specific needs. Learn when you should start exercising, what movements to focus on, and how frequently so you can take care of yourself and your new bundle of joy.  

When Can I Start Working Out After Giving Birth?

Most women can begin exercising postpartum as soon as they feel ready, usually around 4-6 weeks for a vaginal delivery and around 8-12 weeks for c-section deliveries. It’s important to give your body enough time to heal and to listen to any signals it may give you, such as pain, discomfort, or bleeding. Listening to your body and making a decision that fits well for you is the best way to know when you can begin working out.

After my first, I was exercising 4-5 weeks postpartum and feeling great. However, after babies 2 & 3 there’s just more exhaustion, more babies to juggle, and a longer recovery since I had 3 kids in 4 years so I didn’t start until a few months after birth. No mom wins a prize for jumping into exercise sooner than the other so avoid comparing yourself to other moms and truly listen to how you are feeling after having your baby.

How Long Should I Wait To Exercise After A C-section?

With a c-section delivery, it’s wise to get clearance from your doctor and make sure your incision is healing properly. The average healing time is between 8-12 weeks, but since every woman’s body recovers differently and has a different delivery, you may find yourself ready sooner or later. 

When Can I Start Working Out My Abs Postpartum?

Working your core should begin shortly after giving birth. But I don’t advise jumping back into crunches right away. It’s important to start from the inner core muscles and work your way out. Begin exercising your pelvic floor, then the transverse abdominis, then the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles), and finally your obliques.

Pelvic floor exercises help train the inner abdominals and pelvic floor muscles to help bring them back together and strengthen them. It’s crucial to rehabilitate your abdominals after pregnancy to avoid things like back pain, pelvic organ prolapse, or leaking.  If you do struggle with any of these symptoms, you should look into seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist to properly diagnose and heal any complications after birth.

Choosing the right core exercises can make the difference between a fast recovery with no complications and a long one with abdominal dysfunction. Ab exercises that target your transverse abdominals are most important after giving birth.

Exercises like ball squeeze breathing, elevated planks, and heel slides are gentle enough in the early postpartum period that focus on your inner abdominal muscles. Crunches are meant to target your rectus abdominis which are the outer abdominals and can be helpful to train after properly strengthening the inner muscles first.

postnatal woman practicing pelvic floor breathing

Tips For Working Out Postpartum

Now that you know when you can start working out again, let’s talk about what you should do to feel your best. I don’t recommend jumping into pre-pregnancy exercises like HIIT workouts or running right away, but instead, look at this as a time to rehabilitate your body and set it up for success for future workouts. I quickly tried to add in my favorite HIIT workouts and I was left feeling completely drained, sore, and discouraged about my performance. When I took a step back and focused on the basics first, I felt much better reintroducing HIIT workouts.

Start Exercising Postpartum When You Feel Ready

Let me make this clear- you do not need to start exercising at six weeks postpartum. This blanket recommendation does not consider how active you were in pregnancy, what type of birth you had, or how your body is healing after birth. Start easing into gentle exercise when you feel ready. 

If you feel exhausted, stressed out, and overwhelmed with motherhood, adding a workout routine may not be the best idea at this time. Prioritizing water intake, nourishing meals, sleeping when possible, and minimizing stress can help your body postpartum without jumping right into workouts. 

That being said, exercise after giving birth can be beneficial for your mental health, lower the chances of postpartum depression, and give you more energy. It just depends on how you look at exercise. If the only reason you’re working out is to be skinny and bounce back, it can feel very stressful.

However, if you look at exercise as time for yourself and a way to strengthen your body, exercise will be an enjoyable part of your day. Choose to work out so you can be strong, energized, and set an example for your children.

Begin with lower-impact workouts that feel energizing and focus on healing your abdomen are the best ways to ease into exercise after having a baby when you feel comfortable.

woman doing breathing exercises postpartum

Focus On Postnatal Pelvic Floor Exercises

Just like if you injured your shoulder and needed to rehab it with gentle strengthening exercises, you should focus on healing your core and pelvic floor after delivery. I don’t like relating birth to an injury, but the principles are the same. 

After stretching your abdominals and having the pressure of a 6-10 lbs. baby on your pelvic floor, those muscles need some rehab to get them fully functioning again. Take the time when you are newly postpartum to heal and strengthen your stomach muscles and set your body up for success when it’s time to get into more muscle-strengthening workouts or high-intensity exercise. 

You can find simple pelvic floor and abdominal exercises to start with and mom pooch exercises on my other blog posts. Each gives you a detailed tutorial on how to perform the exercise, suggested reps, and sets. Generally, make time for 15 minutes 3-5 times per week for these exercises.

woman strengthening her back after pregnancy

Get Your Post-Pregnancy Workout Done In 20 Minutes

As a new mom or mom of many kids, time is always a factor. If you are used to 1-2 hours for a workout in the gym, things will likely change once you have kids. Get comfortable with the idea that you can effectively exercise and get strong from a 20-minute workout after having a baby. 

Motherhood is a great catalyst to helping you become efficient in less time. I encourage you to embrace 20-minute postpartum workouts and give it your all to get back to mom mode and still prioritize your health and fitness. 

Walking After Birth Is Essential

Walking is one of the easiest and most underrated forms of movement after having a baby. There is no equipment required, babies typically love being in the stroller, and you can do it almost anywhere. 

Walking mom groups are very common as well, which is a great way to get you and baby out of the house, make new friends, and get some movement in after pregnancy. I thought it was silly to drive and meet up with people just to go for a walk but man, I felt alive leaving my house, communicating with other adults, and embracing some new scenery.

Start with a ten-minute walk to see how you feel and increase it as much as you feel comfortable. Daily walks are great or you could start with 1-2, whichever works best with your lifestyle. 

Stretching Improves Poor Posture After Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body compensates for the excess weight in the front of your body which can compromise your posture. Common postural imbalances like anterior pelvic tilt, kyphosis (hunch back), and lordosis (excess lower back curve) can be mitigated by practicing stretches to help bring your body back into alignment. 

I’m not going to lie, I used to be that person who never stretched before a workout and most certainly didn’t stretch after either. Also, posture just didn’t really matter before kids, I’m young, I felt good, and nothing ever hurt so what’s the point, right? Well, that all changed after having kids and I now appreciate stretching so much. You can see such a difference in your aching upper back from just 5 minutes of stretching a day, I promise.

Stretches like book openers, pelvic tilts, and cat-cow are great movements to help realign your spine and move more efficiently. Just 5-10 minutes of stretching a day can make huge transformations to your posture long term. For a list of my favorite postnatal stretches after pregnancy, check out this post

woman doing deadbugs after pregnancy

You Can Do This

Remember, all good things take time and exercising after having a baby is easier than you think. There will be times when motherhood may need to come first, and that’s okay. If you continue to work out despite the interrupted workouts and short breaks, you will get stronger, feel more confident, and show your kids that your health matters. 

Don’t let a small setback in your strength take you out of fitness forever. Jump back into physical activity and see how well your body remembers. You got this, don’t give up!

Start Small With Your Postpartum Workout Routine

Starting a workout routine after giving birth can feel like a challenging task, but with these tips, you can feel confident about taking care of yourself and regaining your strength. You can create a postpartum exercise plan that is safe and effective for your body. Remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and seek professional guidance if needed. 

The most important thing is to be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey to a healthier and stronger you. With determination and consistency, you can reach your postpartum fitness goals and lead a happier, healthier, and more active life.