Physical activity goals

For most healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — after pregnancy. Consider these guidelines:

  • Take time to warm up and cool down.
  • Begin slowly and increase your pace gradually.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wear a supportive bra and, if you're breast-feeding, nursing pads in case your breasts leak.
  • Avoid excessive fatigue.
  • Stop exercising if you feel pain.

Activities to try

When you're ready to exercise, start with something low impact and simple — such as a daily walk. If you're looking for camaraderie, check out a postpartum exercise class at a local fitness club or community center.

With your health care provider's OK, also consider these specific exercises:

  • Pelvic tilt. Try the pelvic tilt a few times a day to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.
  • Kegel exercise. Use this exercise to tone your pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Contract the muscle you use to stop your urine flow. Hold for up to 10 seconds and release, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Overcoming barriers

When you're caring for a newborn, finding time for physical activity can be challenging. Hormonal changes can make you emotional, which might lead to sedentary behavior. And some days you might simply feel too tired for a full workout. That doesn't mean that you should put physical activity on the back burner, however.

Instead, do what you can. Seek the support of your partner, family and friends. Schedule time for physical activity. Exercise with a friend to stay motivated. Include your baby, either in a stroller while you walk or lying next to you on the floor while you do abdominal exercises.

Remember, exercise after pregnancy might not be easy — but it can do wonders for your well-being, as well as give you the energy you need to care for your newborn.

Aug. 14, 2013 See more In-depth