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.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain.
Activities to try
Start with something low impact and simple — such as a daily walk. If you're looking for camaraderie, see if you can find a postpartum exercise class at a local gym 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 your pelvic floor muscles, as if you're attempting to stop urinating midstream. 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. Avoid Kegel exercises when urinating.
When you're caring for a newborn, finding time for exercise can be challenging. Hormonal changes can make you emotional and some days you might feel too tired for a full workout. But don't give up. 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.
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.
July 27, 2016
See more In-depth
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Your guide to breastfeeding. The National Women's Health Information Center. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/breastfeeding-guide/index.html. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Younger Meek J, et al. New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2011.
- Frequently asked questions. Labor, delivery and postpartum care FAQ 131. Exercise after pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-After-Pregnancy. Accessed July 5, 2016.
- Lawrence RA, et al. Maternal nutrition and supplements for mother and infant. In: Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. 8th ed. Maryland Heights, Mo.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 18, 2016.