Wendy Powell

How Soon Can I Exercise Postpartum?

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mother with baby

Moms want to know, “How many weeks after birth can I workout?”

You asked. MUTU listened. Here’s our guide to returning to exercise postnatally.

One of the most sought after pieces of advice new moms have in postpartum is “How soon after birth can I return to working out?” However, studies show that there can be little clear guidance or support around what exercises are safe and effective provided by medical providers. This leaves women feeling that they have to seek out this information on their own.  

photo credit: Amanjot Singh

If you are one of those mothers, you’ve come to the right place. MUTU has been the ​​pioneering, body-positive, medically recommended and proven support program for all mothers since 2009. We’re here to walk you through some of the most important considerations for resuming your workouts. 

How soon can I start to exercise post vaginal birth?

The standard recommendation for returning to light, aerobic exercise postnatally following an uncomplicated vaginal birth is just a few days postpartum or whenever you feel ready and comfortable doing so. ‘Light exercise’ includes walking, gentle stretching, pelvic floor/ kegel therapy, and tummy exercises.

It’s best to build up to more vigorous activity. This generally includes any exercise where you work out hard enough to not speak comfortably through the activity and more strenuous muscle-building exercises like yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, and body weight exercises. 

If you were an athlete or otherwise practiced more strenuous workouts prior to giving birth, you may be able to comfortably and safely return to working out sooner in postpartum. It’s a good idea to check in with your midwife, GP, or OB to get confirmation on your general healing before resuming heavier exercise post birth. 

How soon can I return to working out following a complicated birth or cesarean surgery?

It is a good idea to talk to your primary care provider about your plans to return to working out following any operative (forceps or vacuum assisted) or surgical (cesarean) birth. You can start this conversation within the first few days of recovery, when you have providers monitoring and assessing your healing and continue through your routine check-ups post birth. 

There are some complications which may require longer rest periods, but most women will be able to start light exercise relatively soon after more complicated births, as well. 

photo credit: Loren Castillo

How much physical activity should I be getting per day in postpartum?

Every body can benefit from at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity five days a week for overall health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest breaking these up into 10 minute walks or light stretching a few times a day early in postpartum if that feels more comfortable for you. 

What are the benefits to postpartum exercises?

There are many benefits to working out, both physically and mentally. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are all part of an incredibly transformative process, and our bodies feel these massive shifts. Whether you were a gym regular before, played sport, had a committed yoga practice, loved walking meditations, or wasn’t much for exercising at all, the benefits of including a workout in your postpartum recovery plan are enormous. 

The majority of international guidelines for postnatal wellbeing list maternal mental health as being one of the primary functions of postpartum exercise. Even short walks each day have been shown to lower incidences of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) over remaining inactive. 

Regular physical activity in postpartum can also help with hormonal regulation, which can improve sleep and healing. Stabilizing mood and fatigue can have broad ranging effects on managing the always-fluctuating nature of the early months with a new baby. 

Thoughtful postpartum exercise plans can also address common concerns new mothers experience like feeling reconnected with their bodies, regaining physical strength, feelings of body confidence or revived sensuality, easing back and hip pain, staying fit enough to play and engage with older children, adding some structure and routine into postpartum, and losing weight post birth. All are valid feelings through the birthing journey, which might be addressed through fitness at any stage. 

How will I know if I’m exercising too much?

You are the primary care provider for your own body and the best judge of how it’s feeling. Though you may get a “pass” from a midwife, doctor, or physical therapist at 6 weeks or sooner, if you don’t feel ready to start or resume certain workouts, listen to your gut. 

Listen to any new or unfamiliar pains, discomforts, or increased immobility. If you are experiencing increased vaginal bleeding after working out, it might be a good idea to return to less intensive workouts briefly and discuss your observations with your care team. 

photo credit: Anna Shvets

Using a guided workout plan like MUTU, designed and led by postpartum fitness experts based on sound science with built-in community support can be an excellent resource in helping you stay motivated to work out while keeping you from potentially going too far too fast. 

How soon can I exercise postpartum if I have diastasis-recti?

Diastasis-recti (DR) is the separation of the two parts of the rectus abdominis muscles in pregnancy due to excessive intra-abdominal pressure and is a common occurrence, not an injury. 

There is a lot of incorrect or incomplete information out there about exercising post birth with diastasis-recti. You can workout safely if you are experiencing DR, but with some parameters. It’s a good idea to workout along a clinically-proven system of exercise designed specifically for postpartum bodies — like MUTU — to help guide you toward strengthening your abdominal and back muscles, realigning your core, and addressing pelvic floor tone to help bring your muscles back together after birth. This will help you not only address the possible symptoms of DR (droopy or “still pregnant looking” belly, lack of coordination, bad posture, core weakness), but to treat the issue effectively and holistically. 

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For more information on building core strength safely in postpartum with us, check out the MUTU pages on diastasis-recti here.  

How can I manage to fit in workouts as a new mom?

Postpartum can be a tough time to make any sort of plan, but it can be a good idea to work some exercise structure into your recovery plans. You may want to join a scheduled class (virtual or in person) or download a guided system like MUTU to help you visualize a plan for postpartum workouts and get started. Ask your postnatal support crew if they can help with house and baby care for a few hours a week so you can take this time for yourself to exercise. 

We hope you found this review of when to start exercising post birth helpful. More information on how soon you can start using the MUTU system following a vaginal or cesarean birth can be found here and you can join the tens of thousands of MUTU moms who have benefitted from these world-class and expert-driven postpartum workouts here

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