Much like proper nutrition and hydration, a postpartum workout routine plays a crucial role in recovery. If you’re itching to get moving again you’re probably wondering when the perfect time is for you to resume exercising, and what moves are safe to do after childbirth.
Postpartum exercise revolves around your birth experience and how you feel. So if you want to make sure you’re returning to the exercise safely, we’d recommend taking these guidelines and suggestions into consideration.
Postpartum exercise guidelines
The type of birth (vaginal or c-section), as well as the general birth experience, have an impact on when exactly you can start exercising. Typically, if all goes well, mothers who had vaginal birth can start with light activity two weeks postpartum. Whereas, after a cesarean birth, you’ll have to wait approximately three to four weeks. For medium-high intensity activities, it is safest to wait for the six-week mark to pass.
Consult with your doctor beforehand to ensure no complications arise from starting activity too early.
What to do and what to avoid?
Since your body is sensitive and your core is weak during this time, it’s recommended to start with low-impact exercises. Other postpartum exercises that should be included in the routine are ones that target your pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor exercises can help with swelling, blood flow, and healing after childbirth.
Focus on exercises that strengthen major muscle groups. Start with 5-15 minutes a day and slowly progress every week/month.
Avoid over-exerting your body! Although you are eager to get back to your pre-baby body, too many exercises for a long period of time can lead to complications if your body isn’t ready.
Signs you might be pushing yourself too hard or aren’t ready for postpartum exercise:
- Abdominal pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Vaginal pain
- Leakage (urine or feces)
- Heaviness in your pelvic region
These are 12 of the best postpartum exercises you can start your post-baby health & fitness journey with if you want to get back on track as safely as possible.
1. Toe-Tap Modified
This exercise helps tone the core and improve balance.
Begin on your back, knees bent, and hand under your lower back. Legs are lifted from the floor, knees above hip level creating a 90-degree angle with your lower legs and thighs. Inhale and lower one foot towards the floor, tapping it with your toes, then exhale bringing it back to the beginning position. Repeat with your other leg.
Keep your core activated and keep the natural bend in your back throughout the routine.
Do this for each leg 8 times.
2. Cat-Cow Pose
Cat cow pose stretches your spine and relieves muscle tension. It can help reduce back pain, promote relaxation, and improve circulation.
Begin on your hands and knees. Knees are just below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Exhale pushing your back upwards, stretching the entire spine below the shoulders, head tucked to your chest. Inhale lowering your back and pushing your stomach towards the floor, your head is facing straight in front of you.
Hold each pose for a few moments. Repeat 10 times.
3. Cat Rotation
This exercise helps release the tension in your shoulders and stabilizes the core.
Begin on your hands and knees. Your knees are hip-width apart and just below your hip bone and your hands under your shoulders. Inhale and raise one arm behind your head with your elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder.
Exhale and bring your elbow towards the opposite arm, stretching the back and arm.
Repeat 10 times per arm.
This exercise gently tones your arms and shoulders while strengthening your core.
Begin on your hands and knees, keeping a straight line from your neck to your hips. Inhale and
extend one arm and the opposite leg out, using your core to keep you balanced. Exhale your arm
and leg back to the starting position. Be sure your back is not twisting during this exercise.
Repeat 10 times then switch sides.
5. Glute Bridge
Bridge lift strengthens your glute and back muscles. It is also great for pelvic floor and core stabilization.
Lie on your back and pull your feet towards your back.
Raise your pelvis until you reach a 90-degree angle in your knees.
Repeat the exercise 10 times in 2 sets, relaxing in between.
6. Knees Push-Up
This exercise is an alternative to standard pushups and makes a great way to strengthen the upper body, without putting a lot of pressure on the lower abdomen.
Begin on your hands and knees. Knees are hip-width apart and arms slightly wider than your
shoulder-width. Make a straight line from your head to your knees. Inhale and lower yourself
towards the floor, exhale activating your core and back muscles, and pushing yourself back up.
Don’t twist or curve your back.
Repeat 10-15 times.
You can do this exercise with your baby.
Begin in a standing position. Feet are just a bit wider than your hips and toes pointed outwards.
Hold your baby in your arms so it suits you both. Inhale and lower yourself to the ground,
bending your knees outwards and keeping your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Make
sure your back is straight. Exhale and lift up.
Repeat 10-15 times.
8. Downward Dog
Be cautious when doing this exercise if you’re experiencing troubles with your core.
Place your baby on the floor and position yourself above them while on your hands and knees.
Hands are just below your shoulders and knees hip-width apart with your feet flexed. Exhale
pushing your booty back and into the air, situating your feet as needed, and straightening your
elbows and knees. Push your heels as close to the floor as your body will allow. Inhale then
exhale two times then come back into the starting position.
Repeat 10-15 times.
9. Upper-Back Stretch
This stretching exercise helps release the tension in your upper back and neck.
Begin on the floor in a comfortable position. Straighten your back and place your hands on the
back of your neck. Bring your elbows together and lower your chin to your chest – using your
hands to help push your head down a bit further.
Hold for 10-20 seconds.
10. Straight leg stretch – Modified
This stretching exercise helps to relax the leg muscles without putting pressure on your back.
Begin on your back and lift one leg up, pulling it close to your chest. Bend your opposite knee if
needed, keeping that foot on the floor. Keep your back straight and relax your neck while
looking up towards the ceiling.
Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat with the opposite leg.
11. Sitting Hip Rotation
This exercise helps warm up the hips and prepare them for the workout ahead.
Sit on your fitness ball, your back is straight and your legs slightly wider than your hip-width apart. Place your
hands on your waist or ankles if you can. Circle your hips in one direction 5-6 times in a
controlled movement then repeat in the opposite direction.
Repeat 3-4 times.
12. Overhead Arm Raise
Overhead arm raise warms up the muscles in your shoulders and promotes mobility.
Sit on your fitness ball, a chair, or on the floor. Inhale lifting both your hands, careful to not lift
your ribs as well. Hold this position then exhale your arms down.
Repeat 10-15 times.
Postpartum Workout Sample
How to track your progress?
The Bellabeat health and wellness trackers can help you track your progress through your entire journey (even before the baby is born). It can help watch over your activity levels, sleep patterns, mindfulness, hydration, and stress. These insights can help you assess your postpartum exercise routine as well as general self-care practices.
The Bellabeat Wellness Coach also includes content dedicated to mothers postpartum, exercises included.
Postpartum exercise is one of the main influencing factors of a healthy recovery. Depending on birth circumstances, mothers can start exercising 2-6 weeks after birth. Postpartum workouts are specifically designed to help a healing mother. Focus on low-impact exercises that can help strengthen the main muscle groups.