August 24, 2022

Fourth trimester fitness: How to ease into a postpartum exercise routine as a new mom

Rachel Wadsley, PhD

After giving birth, your life, emotions, and body are all out of whack. Maybe you're dreading exercising again (because who has the time for a consistent strength training routine) or itching to have some normalcy back in your life. Either way, it's all good.

No matter which camp you land in, adding fitness to your new mom routine has tons of unique benefits for your physical and mental health. Regular training workouts have benefits like improving your mental health, decreasing body fat, improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing your overall health and body image. To save you time and a headache, we interviewed some experts in postnatal care to give you everything you need to know. 

Why are postpartum exercises important?

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on your body both physically and hormonally. Gradually becoming more active and having a consistent workout routine will help improve your health and quality of life.   

"After 9 months of pregnancy, the core and pelvic floor specifically were under a lot of pressure and strain. Physical activity and fitness help increase the strength of these foundational muscles to help avoid things like urinary leakage, back pain, and hip pain," explains Dr. Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist specializing in women's health. 

Physical activity releases endorphins which ease anxiety and potentially postpartum depression. Choose an exercise and training routine that promotes positive emotions you want to feel, improving mental health along the way. If you're looking to relax, try something soothing like yoga, pilates, or light stretching. Need an energy boost? Try something that gets your body moving, like weight lifting, using resistance bands, or aerobic exercise - or something like an outdoor walk that has you soaking up some sunshine.   

Dr. Kehoe says, "Being physically active during the day can also help with mom’s sleep (not necessarily baby's). Lastly, physical activity can provide mom with some much-needed alone time and a respite from caring for everyone else."

How soon after giving birth can you exercise?

There's no one size fits all answer for when you can start exercising after pregnancy. A lot depends on your health before, during, and after giving birth. You also need to consider if you gave birth vaginally or had a c-section. 

"I usually recommend waiting to become more active until 4-6 weeks postpartum. This is due to tissue healing and bleeding that may be occurring. Even though your body is still healing at this point, this is typically the time when it is safe to be more active. With that being said, I don’t recommend jumping right back into high-impact activity. It’s important to limit activity that causes any pain, urinary leakage, heaviness, or pressure in the pelvic or vaginal area. This timeline may be a little later for those with a c-section," says Dr. Kehoe. 

It's important to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise or training workouts. They know all the details about your health and pregnancy. It's possible that you can start with very light exercise within days of going home from the hospital, and start seeing the health benefits right away. 

Essentials for easing into a fitness routine after giving birth

Warning signs your body isn't ready to start exercising again

Leigha Verbeem, pelvic health coach, stretch therapist, and personal trainer, cautioned new moms to take it slow. Leigha says, "your body just went through a MAJOR physically and mentally taxing event. We have to rehab it slowly and build your body back to its previous capabilities. Be kind to your body and reward it for all its hard work."

So it's crucial to watch for the warning signs below. If you experience any of them, stop any exercise, stick with gentle walking, and consult your health care provider.

Warning signs:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal pain
  • Bleeding
  • Leakage (urine or feces)
  • A feeling of heaviness in your pelvic region

Best amount of exercise to do after giving birth

Dr. Kehoe explains that, "light exercise even from the first week (i.e., walking, deep breathing, light stretching) is so important. Physically, getting back to activity in the early stages can help improve the healing process by promoting blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles. Additionally, light activity in the early weeks can help prevent childbirth complications like blood clots."

While 150 minutes is the gold standard amount of exercise according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this might not be doable for you. Reaching that 150 minutes could take weeks or months to build up to depending on your health and life. However, it's a great goal to strive for as regular exercise has unique benefits like lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, and improving overall health.

Keep in mind you're probably getting in more movement than you think. All that time spent walking around the house while rocking your kiddo, cleaning, or the other million things on your to-do list counts towards being active (hello, cardio)!

Pelvic health coach Leigha recommended bite sizes workouts. Think 10-minute chunks of time. She suggested including your baby in exercises as a natural "weight" like holding your baby while walking or doing squats. No excuses - you don't need weights to participate in regular strength training!

Helpful tips for exercising while breastfeeding 

While breastfeeding, you need to consume an extra 500 calories per day. Opt for as many whole foods as possible to give your body the additional nutrients it needs and keep your overall health strong. Also, keep in mind that rigorous exercise causes lactic acid build-up in your system, impacting breast milk. 

Either breastfeed before working out, wait 90 minutes after working out, or hand express a small amount of milk before feeding your baby. Make sure to shower before breastfeeding to wash the salty sweat from your body which can bother some babies.  

Evaluate your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles

After giving birth, your pelvic floor is weak. Exercises that put a lot of strain on your abdominal area can slow down or prevent healing. If pushed too hard, it can lead to prolapse! Avoid adding any abdominal exercises like crunches or planks into your initial exercise routine.

Diastasis recti, the separation of the abdominal muscles, is a typical result of the birthing process. This appears as a loose pouch of skin that can make you look pregnant. Over half of women develop this condition, it generally resolves in 4-6 months. 

Talk with your healthcare provider during your postnatal exam and see if this is something you need to address. Often it means taking things slowly, but in some cases, you might need targeted exercises provided by a physical therapist. 

Assess joint stability

As your body prepares for childbirth, it releases a variety of hormones. One of those, relaxin, does what it’s name sounds like. It relaxes and softens ligaments making it easier for the cervix to dilate. Unfortunately, this hormone can impact your joints up to six months postpartum. This is just another reason to avoid high-intensity and high-impact exercises. 

Use an app and trainer

"Have an app or program to help guide [you]. Often, many women want to be active postpartum but don’t know what they should and shouldn’t do. Or they don’t have the energy to think about it. As a physical therapist, that’s how I was. I knew what to do but didn’t want to plan it or think about it. Therefore, many clients have used postpartum fitness apps, and programs, or seen a pelvic floor therapist to help guide them," recommends Dr. Kehoe.

If having a trainer at your side every step of the way sounds wonderful, CoPilot has your back. Our certified personal trainers help women develop doable fitness plans to use during and after pregnancy. They'll create a routine made for real life (your life). 

Best of all, they know the demands of being a mom are seriously tough. They can help you create a plan that takes just minutes a day and gradually build up. Whether you need to start off slow with stretching, light walking and yoga, or you're ready to tone your muscles and get into a regular training workout, they will help you determine the best routine for you. Click here to find your trainer.  

Exercises to avoid post-pregnancy

Exercise after giving birth should be gentle. Avoid exercises that are high intensity,  high impact, or result in straining. Indicators of straining include holding your breath and feeling like you're bearing down.

According to Dr. Mya Bellinger, an internal medicine doctor specializing in immunology and gynecology, specific exercises you should avoid include push-ups, sit-ups, upward dogs, and Russian twists. 

Best postpartum exercises to do right now

  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises)
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Walking (free and doesn't require equipment) 
  • Activating core muscles by gently pulling the stomach toward the spine
  • Pelvic tilts
  • Happy baby pose
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga (avoid some poses - ask your trainer)

Set aside time for your fitness with a personal trainer

As a new mom, your life is super chaotic, and setting aside time for yourself for any kind of training workout or program seems like a luxury. But, the health benefits to you (and your baby) are pretty significant, ranging from stress relief, to improved self-esteem and confidence, to better sleep and overall mental health. Remember, getting started exercising after having a baby doesn't have to be overwhelming. A small change in your routine can go a long way in enhancing your every day life!

You can try various exercises, sneak movement patterns into your day, and explore programs that can make things just a little smoother. If you need extra support or just one less thing to think about, get a fitness trainer to help improve your mental health and overall wellness! The best way to better your life is to take the first step towards a healthier, stronger, more confident you. You can do it. We promise. 

Find your trainer now! Certified CoPilot personal trainers are here to empower you to reach your postpartum fitness goals.

Learn more about the article experts:

Dr. Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT. Visit her website at You can follow her on Instagram @simpli_whole and Pinterest @kkehoe15.

Leigha Verbeem, pelvic health coach, stretch therapist, and personal trainer. Visit her website at You can follow her on Instagram at @leigha.verbeem.

Dr. Mya Bellinger, an internal medicine doctor, specializing in immunology and gynecology, practices at

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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