Exercise after pregnancy: How to get started

Exercise after pregnancy can help you feel your best. Consider the benefits of exercise after pregnancy, plus ways to stay motivated. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after you give birth, but it's worthwhile. In fact, exercise after pregnancy might be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Follow these tips to keep exercise after pregnancy safe.

Benefits of exercise after pregnancy

Regular exercise after pregnancy can:

  • Promote weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness
  • Restore muscle strength and tone
  • Condition your abdominal muscles
  • Boost your energy level
  • Improve your mood
  • Relieve stress
  • Help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression

Better yet, including physical activity in your daily routine helps you set a positive example for your child now and in the years to come.

Exercise and breast-feeding

Exercise isn't thought to have any adverse effects on breast milk volume or composition, nor is it thought to affect a nursing infant's growth. Some research, however, suggests that high-intensity physical activity can cause lactic acid to accumulate in breast milk and produce a sour taste a baby might not like. If you're breast-feeding, you can prevent this potential problem by sticking to moderate physical activity and drinking plenty of fluids during and after your workout.

If vigorous activity is a priority during the first few months of breast-feeding, consider feeding your baby before your workout or pumping before your workout and feeding your baby the pumped breast milk afterward. This can also help you stay comfortable while you're exercising. Alternatively, you can simply avoid breast-feeding your baby right after your workout. After months four to five of breast-feeding, physical activity has less of an impact on your milk because your body produces most milk at feeding time.

When to start

In the past, health care providers often instructed women to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. The waiting game might be over, however. If you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin exercising as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section, extensive vaginal repair or a complicated birth, talk to your health care provider about when to start an exercise program.

Aug. 14, 2013 See more In-depth