Postpartum Exercise Plan for the First Year

postpartum exercise plan

So you think you’ve tried everything to get rid of that postpartum belly? Or maybe, it all seems so overwhelming – the new baby, no time for yourself, the constant fast food cravings – that you haven’t even had time to even think about getting back into shape.

If you want to start exercising right after delivery, you can go ahead as long as you feel OK and there are no contraindications. When to start exercising after the birth of a baby depends on the woman’s state of health. Doctors usually recommend waiting for six weeks, although, a woman who has exercised throughout pregnancy and had an uncomplicated delivery could be ready to begin within 1-2 weeks after delivery.

Postpartum exercise is beneficial both physically and psychologically for most new mothers. It helps work off the extra pounds gained during pregnancy while increasing energy levels and improving self-esteem.

Postpartum exercise often improves the pains that are normal in the postpartum period. They strengthen you muscles and get you ready for more intense exercises later on. You might want to make sure and talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Start off slowly. Make sure you don’t get overtired. Whichever exercise you do, each movement should be made slowly and smoothly, do it with caution and moderation. Most women won’t be able to get immediately into the same routine practiced before pregnancy since the body needs time to recover from pregnancy.

Two special exercises, Kegels, and the pelvic tilt or pelvic rock, should be included in the postpartum workout. Kegels are done by repeatedly squeezing and then releasing the muscles of the pelvis around the genital area while standing, sitting or lying down. Kegels help a woman regain control of sphincter muscles.postpartum exercise plan - woman stretching

When To Start Postpartum Exercises:

A general opinion is to start exercising after 6 weeks in case of a normal delivery. In case of a C section, this period may be around 8 weeks. Some people are of the opinion that low-impact exercises can be started as and when you feel like it.

But before you choose to do any kind of postpartum exercise, it is always a good idea to ask a doctor. The recovery period after giving birth may vary from individual to individual. So do not follow others. Instead, understand the needs of your own body and start exercising accordingly.

The postpartum exercise tips below will help you return to exercise safely within the weeks after delivery.

0-3 Months Postpartum (Exercise Plan)

During the first three months, your main focus for exercising should be on restoring function and strengths to your core and pelvic floor, being pain-free and feeling good at every stage.

Walking is a great calorie burner, and if you do it with friends and family, it can also be pretty fun – plus, if you do it with other people, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Walking helps to tone your body, and if you go on regular brisk walks, you’ll be boosting your cardiovascular system – which means that you’ll be reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Right after delivery, you can start Kegel exercises. As long as your doctor allows, you can begin Kegel exercises whenever you feel up to it. Strengthening the pelvic floor will speed your recovery along.postpartum exercise plan - young mom stretching her arm

Strength Training Guideline:

  • 2-3 days per week
  • 20-40 minutes per session

Cardio Guidelines:

  • Walking, Swimming, Gentle biking. When comfortable shift to jogging (1-2 days per week, 15-30 minutes)
  • Continue gentle walking up to 7 days per week( not breathless and not with a high heart rate but slowly building this up to daily walking)
  • Time duration ( 10-30 minutes per session)

4-6 Months Postpartum (Exercise Plan)

Now that you have followed the guidelines from 0-3 months, you have reached a stage where you have developed a solid base of strength and endurance. Your diastasis recti are healing well, you have been assessed by pelvic floor physio who agrees the body is in good working order. You may begin your return to running.

Strength Training Guideline :

  • 2-3 days per week
  • 20-40 minutes per session

Cardio Guidelines:

  • Deadlifts (light)
  • Barbell back squats (light)
  • Incline front planks and pushups (hands raised up)
  • Pull-ups/chin-ups (assisted)
  • Walking, swimming, biking, rowerbest exercises after pregnancy

7-9 Months Postpartum (Exercise Plan)

After completing the guidelines of 4-6 months, you can now start to build in a bit more intensity into the strength training workout by adding a bit more weight to exercises if you feel strong and comfortable.

Strength Training Guideline:

  • 2-4 days per week
  • 20-40 minutes per session

Cardio Guidelines :

  • Light leisurely walking and moving your body(cardio exercise priority) up to 7 days per week.
  • Moderate cardio (pushing your heart rate, a bit breathless i.e. hilly walking, hiking, biking, etc)
  • Interval walking on treadmill, bike, rower, etc.
  • 10-20 minutes of running (however, you can increase your interval of running time longer, as long as you feel good about your body)

10-12 Months Postpartum (Exercise Plan)

If everything goes well, you can slowly dial up the intensity of your workouts. Remember that you don’t have to feel like you’re totally spent after a workout or be terribly sore after a workout for it to be effective.

Challenging yourself in exercise is great but not to the point where you feel depleted and achy for a longer period of time. Especially when you’re chasing after your almost-toddler now!

Strength Training Guidelines :

  • 2-4 days per week
  • 20-45 minutes per sessiona mother holding her baby

Cardio Guidelines: 

  • Walking, swimming, biking, rower
  • up to 7 days per week of light/leisurely walking and moving your body (this is your cardio exercise priority)
  • 1-2 days per week as more moderate type cardio where you’re pushing your heart rate more, a bit more breathless (hilly walking, hiking, biking, etc).
  • 15-30+ minutes (as much as is enjoyable, you have time for, and feels good on your body)

So, get back to feeling your old self again and start feeling fit and healthy again, just do it as you deserve it and so does your baby!

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