[Demo] Postpartum Exercise: Avoid Overdoing it

RachelMS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS

Postpartum exercise is usually safe as long as you listen to your body. Start with simple exercises (aerobic and strengthening) and increase the duration and intensity slowly over time. If you experience any of the following warning signs, stop exercising: headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, increased vaginal bleeding or chest pain.

What To Do

Warm up for at least 5 minutes before exercising
Before launching full-tilt into vigorous exercise, move around and warm up your large and small muscle groups to help prevent injury and increase circulation. Simple walking for 5 minutes will do. There are differences of opinion on the benefits of stretching before exercise but post-exercise stretches can increase flexibility and prevent muscle aches and joint stress. For the lower body, try a runner’s stretch, pelvic tilts, lunges, squats, quad stretches and forward bends. For the upper body, try pre-workout elbow bends, side stretches, shoulder rolls and neck rolls.

If your joints are loose due to pregnancy, consider a soft knee brace for support and comfort. If you are experiencing pelvic girdle discomfort, ask your healthcare provider to prescribe a pelvic support belt.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising
Providing your body with enough water helps prevent dehydration and the headaches, dizziness, and rapid pulse that go along with it. Keep a water bottle with you and drink before, during, and after your exercise session. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, then rest and make sure you replenish your fluids and electrolytes. Remember – maintaining adequate fluid intake is especially important while you are lactating.
With all that drinking, make sure you go to the bathroom often – especially before you exercise – as holding your bladder has only downsides and the strain to the bladder can contribute to urinary incontinence (whereas, doing pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels has only upsides).

Need Help?

How do I breastfeed?

Breathe at a comfortable rate Rapid, short, shallow breaths, or hyperventilation, can cause lightheadedness and may result in fainting. While you are exercising you should be able to talk at a normal conversational pace. If not, you need to slow down the intensity of your exercise. Take deep breaths with a slower exhale, and rest if and when you need to – postpartum is not the time to prove you’re a super athlete.

Check the weather and heed heat advisory warnings

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On extremely hot and humid days, exercise indoors (preferably in air conditioning) so you can feel good after your workout rather than completely worn out. Swimming is a great option for hot weather workouts and you may be able to find a mom and baby swim class at your local recreation center.

Give your musculoskeletal system time to recover2 Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state, with the lower spine, pelvis and knees being especially vulnerable after carrying the brunt of your pregnancy weight. Low back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis discomfort, and tenderness in the knee joint are common ailments during this recovery phase. Listen to your body, take your time when changing positions between lying, sitting and standing, and avoid rapid twisting movements that could exacerbate any muscle, bone, or joint issues.

Example bullet list:

  • Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state

  • Low back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis discomfort, and tenderness

  • Avoid rapid twisting movements

Example number list:

  1. Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state

  2. Low back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis discomfort, and tenderness

  3. Avoid rapid twisting movements

More on this topic:

Healthy Snacks Ideas for Postpartum Women
Tips for postpartum exercise when short on time
Strategies for effective postpartum weight loss

Example bullet list:

  • Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state
  • Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state
  • Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state

Example bullet list:

  1. Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state
  2. Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state
  3. Your musculoskeletal system will need time to bounce back into its pre-pregnancy state