When is it safe to begin working out postpartum?


by Jamie Erwin, MD

May 10, 2023

Getting back to exercising postpartum can be full of complicated emotions and considerations. There can be pressure to start working out, or worse, “bounce back.” While it’s true that moving your body can help you feel like yourself again and improve your physical fitness, it’s important to remember that every mother’s recovery is different—and the “right” time to develop a more regular exercise is different for everyone.

So, when is the best time for you to begin working out? Read on to learn what to consider as you begin your postpartum fitness journey.

Getting started with exercise postpartum

When you’re recovering postpartum, remember to treat yourself with kindness and to be gentle. Jumping back in or pushing too hard too early could cause injury, and your priority during this time is healing from giving birth.

Walking is usually safe after just a few days or weeks, but any high-intensity exercise or high-impact activity like box jumping or plyometrics should be avoided until your doctor has cleared you for more vigorous activity. It can take anywhere from 6-16 weeks for your pelvic floor to completely heal, and introducing high-impact exercises too early can prevent proper healing.

The type of exercise you’ll be able to do will depend largely on your baseline fitness level. If you exercised before and during pregnancy, you’ll have a different starting point than if you weren’t regularly active pre-pregnancy.

If you had any complications during your pregnancy, delivery or postpartum, such as hypertension, gestational diabetes or significant tearing or hemorrhaging, speak with your doctor about what is best for your specific recovery so you can give yourself the time you need to heal.

You might experience some symptoms while exercising that you aren’t used to, such as urinary incontinence. Your physician can help you decide on ways to strengthen your pelvic floor—many women find pelvic floor physical therapy to be an incredible treatment during postpartum.

If you are experiencing pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding or pelvic organ prolapse, be sure to speak with your doctor about next steps and hold off from increasing physical activity.

Best exercises for postpartum women

Unsure of where to start? Exercises like Pilates and yoga are great options for anytime during the postpartum period. These exercises help you gradually develop more core strength, which is excellent for recovery.

Once you’re able, strength training larger muscle groups like your quads, hamstrings, shoulders and chest will help you feel stronger and improve your overall health. Try adding in these exercises:

  • Squats
  • Weighted lunges
  • Bench presses
  • Deadlifts
  • Dumbbell presses
  • Upright rows

Once your doctor has deemed it safe, don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights and incorporate more than just cardio exercises!

Remember to take it slow

As with all recovery, take each day one step at a time. By paying attention to your body and gradually adding strength exercises while allowing time to heal, you’ll be able to reach your goals on a timeline that is right for you.

If you have questions about postpartum recovery and exercise, your care team is here for you. Talk to your OBGYN or find one near you.

About the Author

Jamie Erwin, MD, is an OBGYN on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth.

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