Postpartum Exercise – 7 Workouts to try after birth
When is it safe to start exercising postpartum? And which workouts are good to do after birth? Read our tips to learn more.
Exercising after childbirth can feel challenging and taking care of a newborn is a workout in its own right! But exercise can help strengthen muscles that were weakened during childbirth and even relieve aches and soreness.
Guidelines in both Europe and the US recommend about 150 minutes of moderate activity for postpartum mothers spread throughout the week. Of course, after bringing new life into the world, this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Take things slow, listen to your body – and of course, always refer to a medical professional!
Here is our postpartum workout plan for parents who want to start off slow and build up strength:
These are exercises like Kegels, squats or glute bridges that can be done immediately after birth. These exercises work your – you guessed it – pelvic floor muscles. These are muscles that control your bladder and bowels, which get weakened during pregnancy. Doing an exercise like glute bridges after birth is an excellent way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles again, without being too intense.
With feet hip-width apart and back straight, bend your knees and lower yourself down as far as you can go. Return to start position and repeat.
Lying on your back with knees bent and arms by your side, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. Return to start position and repeat.
Take a walk with your baby! This is a low-intensity aerobic exercise that will activate you – and give you some much-needed fresh air. For active parents who aim to eventually resume their jogging as soon as the postpartum weeks are over, why not opt for a jogging stroller that can be fitted with a bassinet or an infant car seat? That way, you can use it as a newborn stroller for walks with your baby in the first months, and then switch the bassinet out for the toddler seat to jog with your child when they are old enough (which is usually around six months).
Once you have started going for walks and doing pelvic floor exercises, you can amp up the intensity by making your walks faster, covering more distance and getting the blood pumping. Fit your infant stroller with a cup holder to help keep you hydrated during the session. If you choose an infant stroller that can tolerate rougher terrain you can take your brisk walk easily through a park or forest trail.
When you have been given the green light by a doctor, why not go for a jog? When your baby is 6 months old, they can even join you on your local trail in a jogging stroller! Read our tips for more information on jogging with an infant.
If you started out with a jogging stroller with a bassinet or infant car seat, then all you have to do is replace it with a toddler seat. Now you can get running with your child without having to buy a new stroller.
Soreness after childbirth is common, especially in your lower back, neck and hips. Not only are you doing all the work needed to take care of a newborn, but pregnancy has altered your alignment, tightened certain muscles groups and weakened others. Stretches that target the lower back, chest, neck and hip flexors can be ideal after childbirth. Loosening these muscles can help take pressure of your joints and reduce soreness.
Stick to simple stretches in the beginning, like a hamstring stretch or stretching your neck side to side. You can then move on to something a little more challenging like a kneeling hip flexor stretch, standing lunge stretches (you can use a chair for support) or the reclined hip stretch.
Stretch your neck on either side with the help of your arm.
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
From a kneeling position, place one foot in front so that your leg creates a 90-degree angle. Lean forward for a deeper stretch. Switch legs and repeat.
Reclined hip stretch
Lying with your back on the floor, bend and raise your left leg at a 90-degree angle. Pull this leg towards you with your right arm. Bend your right leg and place it on top, creating a triangle. With the palm of your left hand, push the right leg away from you for a deeper stretch. Switch legs and repeat.
Exercises that work your abdominals are recommended for post-natal mothers. Crunches are a good choice since they strengthen your obliques and even the lower back muscles, which can be sore after childbirth. Drawing-in maneuvers are also recommended, these are exercises where your core is kept contracted and tightened throughout.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy showed that abdominal exercises like these might be helpful to decrease the instances of diastasis recti abdominus. This is when the widened gap between your left and right abdominal muscles caused by pregnancy make the belly protrude.
Lying with your back on the floor, knees bent, and fingers laced behind your head, engage your core to lift yourself halfway up. Return to starting position and repeat.
This aerobic exercise gets your heart racing once you are ready to take things up a notch. Cycling is a great way to gain strength without putting pressure on your joints and especially your back or hips which might already ache after pregnancy.
Sports for dads to do with their babies
With the rollercoaster ride that follows having a new baby, it can be hard for both moms and dads to find a balance between an active life and family life. So maybe combine the two? Staying active with your child is a great way to take care of your health and your baby at the same time. Jogging with your child in a jogging stroller is one option. A stroller with adjustable handle-bars is perfect for taller dads, since it means you won’t be kicking the stroller with each stride.
Also, going for longer bike trips with your child is possible with a bike trailer. Some multisport bike trailers let you bike with them one day and run with them the next, read our guide for recommendations. Some can even be fitted with a head support system which means that you can start biking with your baby already from sixth months of age.
When can I start exercising after birth?
In their guidelines from 2020, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explain that some mothers can resume exercise just days after pregnancy. They point out, though, that this depends on the mode of delivery and whether the mother experienced complications during her pregnancy. Since it varies so much from person to person, it is important to start gradually and always refer to a doctor for their professional opinion.