Best Postpartum Workout (Exercises & Tips for New Moms)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: March 11, 2024
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It is tough to decide when the proper time is to start exercising after giving birth to a child. However, deciding the best postpartum workout or activity might be harder.

As a certified personal trainer and after conducting 35-hour research, I singled out the best workouts, exercises, or activities you can enjoy after the postpartum period.

After reading the article, you will know all the necessary activities to participate in after pregnancy, the proper time to start a postpartum workout program, and the benefits of postpartum exercises.

Quick Summary

  • The best postpartum workout activities and exercises include walking, swimming, core stability exercises, gentle strength training, postpartum group classes, postnatal yoga, baby-and-me exercises, pelvic floor exercises, breathing exercise programs, and jogging.
  • The benefits of exercising after pregnancy include generally feeling better, having more energy, increased weight loss, improved cardio fitness, and better sleep.
  • The NIH states that swimming is excellent for postpartum recovery, as it's easy on muscles and joints, activates key areas like the core, arms, back, and legs, and boosts cardiovascular fitness and endurance.
  • In my view, combining these exercises with a balanced diet and proper hydration is key to a successful and healthy postpartum recovery.

9 Postpartum Exercise Ideas

A mother doing postpartum workouts at home

Below I will provide the best exercise ideas for women after pregnancy.

"I have seen women who used to be able to do effortless strict toes to bar suddenly struggle with even a simple sit-up. Sometimes it’s more mild, and other times it stems from diastasis recti—abdominal muscles that separate during pregnancy due to the uterus putting pressure on the two bands of muscle that run down the middle of your abdomen."

- Emily Beers, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Walking

I highly recommend walking as a low-impact physical activity that can be sustained for extended periods of time.

It's particularly beneficial for physical recovery, like post-pregnancy, helping to tone and strengthen muscles, including those in the abdominal and pelvic floor areas.

These muscles generally become weaker during pregnancy and childbirth. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), walking also improves your circulation and weight management [1].

Walking can burn a substantial amount of calories since it is considered a low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

2. Swimming

A mother doing swimming workouts

Swimming, even gentler on muscles and joints than walking, is ideal, especially if you're recovering from delivery complications or a cesarean section.

It activates multiple muscle groups like your core, arms, back, and legs, all at once. This boosts your overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

According to NIH, it ramps up your heart rate, enhancing blood circulation and beefing up your lungs and heart [2].

And hey, don't forget the bonus – swimming's a fab way to unwind and soak in some chill vibes in the water.

Read More: Swim Workouts for Beginners: Trainer Approved Plan

3. Core Exercises

It is essential to exercise your core musculature in some form after childbirth. This is because your abdominal muscles get stretched during pregnancy and may separate, resulting in diastasis recti.

According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, diastasis recti is a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle during pregnancy, which occurs from being excessively stretched [3].

Core exercises will also improve your pelvic floor recovery as the pelvic floor muscles undergo significant strains during childbirth and pregnancy. 

In addition, you may experience lower back pain after pregnancy, and that's perfectly normal.

However, the pain will likely disappear quickly if you keep exercising your abdominal and core musculature.

Core workouts will also improve your overall fitness, increase your heart rate, and burn a decent amount of calories.

You can enhance and contribute to weight management and improve your energy levels.

4. Gentle Strength Training

A mother doing gentle dumbbell workouts

According to NIH, the primary function of gentle strength training after pregnancy is restoring muscle tone and strength [4].

Pregnancy and childbirth often zap muscle tone in your legs, arms, and core. But no sweat. Bodyweight and light strength training can whip those muscles back into shape.

Plus, this kind of training revs up your metabolism – that's all the body's building and breaking down processes. It also beefs up your bone density, which often takes a hit from lactation and hormonal shifts during pregnancy.

Gentle weight-bearing exercises are key for stronger bones. And hey, you'll also boost your functional fitness, making everyday stuff like kneeling, lifting groceries, or playing with your kiddo a breeze.

5. Postpartum Group Classes

Postpartum group classes are all about dishing out solid social support. They're a fab way to meet other moms in the same boat, sharing the ups and downs of motherhood.

You'll tackle common postpartum challenges and life changes together, swapping stories and tips. Plus, these classes are a goldmine for relaxation and mindfulness techniques – just what the doctor ordered for mental health and clarity.

They're not just chit-chat sessions, though. You'll get the lowdown on new mom-specific fitness and exercise programs, focusing on core and gentle strength training, and those oh-so-important pelvic floor exercises.

"A weakened pelvic floor leads women to become quad or hip flexor dominant postpartum to compensate for the weakness. If the pelvic floor isn’t strengthened, it can lead to urinary incontinence, and in extreme cases, eventual organ prolapse."

- Celia Balf, Certified Personal Trainer

6. Postnatal Yoga

A mother doing yoga at home

Postnatal yoga is a top-notch way to get back in shape after baby arrives, focusing on strengthening, gentle stretching, and toning.

Tailored for new moms, it's a champ at restoring muscle tone, especially in the pelvic floor and abs. Plus, it's a lifesaver for fixing posture and easing back and shoulder tension.

Core-focused, it keeps your back stable, warding off lower back pain and injuries. Beyond the physical perks, yoga is a stress-buster, perfect for unwinding post-pregnancy.

And the cherry on top? Many yoga moves are baby-friendly, letting you bond, cuddle, and play with your little one during class.

Also Read: Yoga Before Or After a Workout: Which is Better

7. Pelvic Floor Exercises

As mentioned above, childbirth and pregnancy strain and stress the pelvic floor muscles significantly.

This inevitably leads to their stretching, which as a consequence, has the weakening of the muscles.

Pelvic floor exercises are extremely important to help rehabilitate and recover these muscles. 

Post-birth, it's common for women to face urinary incontinence, especially when laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Pelvic floor exercises are a game-changer here, not just easing but managing this issue.

Weak pelvic muscles can also cause pelvic organ prolapse, but hey, regular pelvic exercises can dodge that bullet.

And a bonus – these exercises spice up your sexual health, boosting blood flow down there, cranking up arousal, and amping up orgasm intensity.

8. Baby-And-Me Exercises

A mother doing workouts with her baby

I can tell you that baby-and-me exercises are more than just a workout; they're a fantastic opportunity to bond with your baby through holding, carrying, and playing during the exercises. This is an excellent way to enhance the parent-child connection.

These exercises are specifically designed for postpartum women, targeting areas most affected by childbirth.

When you join a baby-and-me class, you're not just exercising; you're joining a community of new moms, which is great for your social support network.

And importantly, these workouts are perfect for improving body mechanics, which is essential for maintaining healthy posture and ergonomics, especially when you're handling your baby.

9. Jogging

As a trainer, I can vouch that jogging is an excellent cardio workout. It propels you into the aerobic zone, converting oxygen into energy (ATP).

This activity not only increases your heart rate but also enhances lung capacity and boosts endurance and stamina. From my experience, clients who jog regularly see a significant improvement in their overall fitness and energy levels.

It's also great for burning fat and shedding extra kilos. Plus, if you're feeling down, jogging can lift your spirits by releasing endorphins, those natural mood boosters. And for postpartum women, it's particularly beneficial in strengthening bones and enhancing bone density.

When Can You Start Exercising After Childbirth?

A mother working out at home

There is no exact date when you are supposed to start exercising after childbirth.

If you've had a vaginal birth and got the green light from your doctor, start exercising as soon as you feel up to it – this could be just days after delivery for some.

However, recovery after a cesarean section or complications might take longer, often requiring four to six weeks before beginning light workouts.

Always check with your healthcare provider for personalized advice on when to resume exercise.

Postpartum Nutrition and Workout Synergy

Postpartum workouts, crucial for recovery and regaining strength, are significantly enhanced by tailored nutritional strategies. During this period, a woman's body requires additional nutrients to heal and replenish energy reserves.

  • A diet rich in protein is essential; it aids in repairing and building muscle tissue stressed during exercise. Including lean meats, legumes, and dairy products can effectively meet these protein needs.
  • Hydration is another key factor; increased water intake supports overall health and helps in milk production for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains and starchy vegetables, provide sustained energy, crucial for both workout performance and the demands of motherhood.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly from fish or flaxseeds, are beneficial for mood stabilization and combating postpartum depression.
  • Additionally, calcium and iron are vital; they support bone health and blood oxygenation, respectively.

FAQs

What Workouts Are Best for Postpartum?

The best workouts for postpartum are walking, swimming, gentle strength training, postnatal yoga, jogging, and similar activities. Participating in just about any activity that will activate your major muscle groups, abdominal muscles, and pelvic floor muscles will boost your mood and increase your energy level.

Which Exercise Is Best for Postpartum Belly?

There isn’t such a thing as the best exercise for the postpartum belly. Furthermore, you should consider enjoying any postnatal exercise program that will raise your energy levels, boost your mood, and decrease anxiety.

How Can I Reduce My Tummy After Delivery?

You can reduce your tummy after delivery by participating in a high-quality postpartum exercise program, regularly performing breathing exercises, and following a healthy diet and supplementation plan. It is always best to indulge in a regular fitness routine that will activate both your lower and upper body muscles and your core.

What Supplement Should I Take for Postpartum Workouts?

You should take a high-quality multivitamin supplement for postpartum workouts.

There are two essential things your body needs to function normally: macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients include proteins, fat, and carbs, and with a proper diet, you will likely get all the necessary things you need.

However, ingesting the diverse and proper amounts of micronutrients may be tricky after giving birth to a child, so I highly suggest reading our guide on the best multivitamins for women to pick the one that will suit your needs the best.

Let me know what your favorite postpartum workout or exercise is and why.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4453623/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7730683/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9498119/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6377696/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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