Exercise after Pregnancy

Exercise after pregnancy can be a confusing and overwhelming topic for a new mom. Like I have said before, there is no doubt that the miracle of life is an experience next to none. Unfortunately, the weight gain that accompanies it doesn’t just fall off in the delivery room.

The average woman gains about 30 pounds over the course of pregnancy (I was a tad over average, weighing in with 43 extra pounds…oops). Over the course of the first month after giving birth, you can expect to shed anywhere between 18-20 pounds. It is the last 10 pounds (or 23 lbs for me) that tend to be a bit on the stubborn side.

Unfortunately, the “average” mom doesn’t have a nanny to care for her children while she goes to the gym two times a day, a personalized home delivery meal service, or a staff of personal trainers…umm, Denise Richards and Uma Therman. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes us “regular” moms anywhere from 6 months to one year to return to our pre-pregnancy state. Nevertheless, exercise after pregnancy is a must and, let me assure you, it can be done.

The Fist Six Weeks

Wait! Wait! Wait! No need to take off running. Exercise after pregnancy should be a slow and gradual process. How soon can you start exercising?

Well, you definitely don’t need to wait a full six weeks to get moving. For the first two weeks, focus on kegel exercises and slow, steady walks. Your goal should be to establish a regular walking routine (3-5 times a week) and develop a habit. This will get you out of the house, relieve some stress, reduce fatigue, and improve your self-esteem.

Contraindications to Exercise after Pregnancy during the first 6 weeks

  • Heavy bleeding…bright red bleeding that continues for several hours, stop exercising and contact the doctor.
  • Pain…STOP! It should never hurt!
  • Breast Infection or abscess…contact your doctor. Too much movement can spread the infection.
  • Cesarean or traumatic vaginal birth…talk to your doctor. Remember, if there’s pain, it’s not good.
  • Breast Discomfort…when you are engorged, you shouldn’t exercise until it is gone. If that’s not the problem, try adding support. I had to wear two sport bras at times. Again, if it hurts, STOP!
  • Heavy urine leakage or pelvic pressure during exercise… some is normal, but if it is heavy or persists for couple of weeks, call the doctor before you continue (same for pelvic pressure).

*Contraindications according to James F. Clapp III. M.D. in Exercise Through Your Pregnancy

Life After 6 Weeks

Your body probably will not be ready for a full-go, all-out workout until 6 weeks, or even 8 weeks for a cesarean birth (right around the time of your postpartum doc visit). However, some women are ready to exercise after pregnancy before the 6 week mark. I was able to started spinning around four weeks. Just listen to your body and run it by your doctor before you start. If it doesn’t hurt or result in heavy bleeding then it should be okay.

So, it’s time to start thinking about your...

Exercise After Pregnancy Goals

1. Return to pre-pregnancy weight

2. Focus on abdominal strength and toning

3. Improved body image

4. Maybe improve your endurance

First, find a routine that you can stick to, one that fits into your schedule. Your goal should be to enjoy 3-5 workouts a week that focuses on strength, flexibility and endurance activities. Yes, you’re are going to have to be realistic…again, no nannies on my household staff. However, you might have to get creative.

From day one, my jogging stroller was and still is my best friend. Grif has been my training partner every step of the way. From short walks around the block starting on day 10, to walking lunges down the street, to training for my first 5K. He has watched me do a million squats and twice as many pushups.

As he got bigger, I strapped him into the Baby Bjorn (you know, the baby carrier you wear on the front) for a little added weight while I did squats, calf raises, lunges and long trail walks. He also loved to sit in his bouncy or activity center while I jumped rope and lifted weights…he thought I was so funny.

If you are lucky enough to live close to a gym with child care (I was not, like I said, the military dropped us off in the middle of nowhere), I think babies can start attending around 3 months old. Try a kickboxing class or a Body Pump class. That is an excellent way to get some “me” time and be around other women. Don’t worry, the baby is just around the corner and you can check in whenever you want!

Kick Butt Walking Workouts

So, at this point, everything is fair game. There are no restrictions you have to follow. Still, listen to your body. While it should be challenging, it shouldn’t hurt. If you experience heavy bleeding, stop and contact your physician.

Get the most out of your cardio
Don't forget about Strength Training!

Exercise after Pregnancy for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Watch your milk production, which is best measured by the growth of the baby. Just follow the growth chart specific to breast fed babies.
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
  • Don’t cut your calories! Breast feeding moms should be consuming an additional 500 calories a day to ensure adequate nutrition for the baby.
  • Where extra support up top to avoid discomfort.
  • Try to work out right after you have nursed. There will less discomfort if they aren’t full.
  • To avoid infection, clean and dry your breasts after workouts to prevent your breast ducts from getting clogged.

Tighten Your Tummy

The stomach seems to suffer the most over the course of birth. After I gave birth, I remember being so anxious to start knocking out sit ups that I did too many, too fast. Again, exercise after pregnancy has to be slow and gradual...you have to listen to your body. Start with pelvic tilts and abdominal compressions. Keep your pelvic floor flexed throughout the movements to prevent further stretching.

Pelvic Tilts:

  • Lay on the floor, knees up, feet flat on the floor, space between the floor and lower back.
  • Exhale and tilt the bottom of your pelvic up toward the sky. Naturally your back will descend toward the floor
  • Inhale and slowly return to the start position

Abdominal Compressions

  • Sit or stand with good posture
  • Slowly tighten/flex your abdominals
  • Hold for a count and slowly relax your abdominal muscles

As your abs and pelvic floor get stronger, add more intense ab exercises to your regimen.

Abdominal Planks
Slow Mo Scissors
Stability Ball Crunch
Oblique Crunch on Stability Ball

Healthy Eating

One thing you can start right away is eating healthy. Contrary to popular belief, cutting calories isn’t the secret to weight loss. When you are nursing, you actually need 500 extra calories to ensure the baby is getting all the proper nutrients.

If that isn’t enough, a low calorie diet can send your metabolism plummeting as much as 30 percent. To top it off, when weight loss is based on diet alone, 30-35 percent of the weight loss isn’t even fat, it’s lean tissue.

Still, our diet does play an integral part in our postpartum weight loss and should go hand in hand with your exercise after pregnancy plan. However, the focus should be what we put in our mouth, not entirely on how much.

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks

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Accountability is key...try a food and exercise journal
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Need more convincing...the benefits of strength training!
Can't get to the gym...at home exercise workouts
Weight Loss Eating Plan
Sleep & Weight Loss...I know, hard for new moms
Importance of water in weight loss!

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