How to Create a Postpartum Exercise Routine

After giving birth to a child, your body may be struggling to find a normal balance once again. Many women experience more dramatic changes to their bodies in the year after their first pregnancy than they did during their first pregnancy. To avoid unwanted weight gain and muscle loss during the months after your delivery, it is important to develop a postpartum exercise routine. Starting slowly with stretches and toning exercises, then building up to aerobic and strength training will get your body back in peak physical condition without straining or further fatiguing your muscles and organs.


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    Rest as often as possible in the first few weeks after giving birth. While activity may feel like what your body is craving, healthy activity cannot be completed unless your body is fully rested.
    • The birth process places a lot of strain on your body. Tissue that is torn must be allowed to heal, and the body needs to be rejuvenated to increase energy stores. Exercising without rest can actually do more harm than good. In any exercise routine, experts recommend periods of rest after a particularly strenuous exercise session.
    • The birth process can be considered an especially strenuous period of exercise that uses a variety of muscles. Rest is necessary after such an exhausting experience. New parents may find it difficult to rest sufficiently because of the added stress of caring for a newborn. This is why it is doubly important to rest as often as possible, whenever you get the chance.
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    Stretch the muscles in your limbs and back the day of your vaginal delivery. By starting your stretching routine immediately after delivery, you can prevent muscles from stiffening. Stiff muscles are more difficult to stretch than muscles that are simply fatigued. Don't overstretch or overexert yourself: slow consistent stretches that extend just until tightness is felt are the best exercises to do in the first few days after a delivery.
    • Lie on the floor with feet close to your buttocks and your back pressed firmly into the ground. With your arms relaxed lightly at your sides and your muscles relaxed, use your abdomen to raise your head and chin slightly off the ground. Perform this exercise 5 to 10 times, twice daily. Work slowly up to 20 times. When this exercise is comfortably mastered, progress to upper body curls.
    • Lie on the floor in the same position you used with the head curl ups. With your arms relaxed and your head aligned with your spine, lift your shoulders and head off the ground for 3 seconds. Exhale slowly as you lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Do not use your neck muscles to lift your head: the lift should come from your abdominal muscles. Perform this exercise 5 to 10 times, twice daily.
    • Exercise the pelvic region by standing or sitting with your legs spread apart. Contract your pelvic muscles by squeezing the internal organs upward. The motion is similar to stopping a stream of urine. Squeeze these muscles 3 or 4 times in succession and repeat as many times as is comfortable throughout the day.
    • Stretch the legs by lying with your back flat on the floor and your knees bent. Stretch one leg out, hold it, and pull it back in slowly. Repeat this action with the other leg. Continue stretching your legs with this exercise until you can stretch both legs simultaneously.
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    Stretch after having a cesarean section by beginning with breathing exercises. Breathing exercises help to remove the buildup of mucus that may be caused by the anesthesia. This mucus accumulates in the lungs and is a side effect of both the medication and the slowed breathing that is caused by anesthesia. When breathing slows, the lungs do not fill and empty completely, causing moisture and mucus to accumulate.
    • Begin slowly, performing 5 deep breaths every hour you’re awake. Breathe deeply through the nose and mouth. You will feel oxygen-rich air filling your lungs, and you may notice a point when your breath feels wet or raspy. This sound and feeling means that air is reaching the mucus-covered portions of the lungs. After the deep breathing, perform several huffing breaths. A huff is a forceful expulsion of air similar to a loud, abrupt laugh. Spit out any mucus that is dislodged from your lungs. Performing this step regularly will ensure that your lungs return to their healthy, normal potential.
    • Continue with similar stretching exercises for a cesarean section as were listed for a vaginal delivery. Be careful not to stretch the stomach too soon or place any unmerited stress on the cesarean section scar tissue.
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    Begin aerobic activity about 2 weeks after a successful vaginal delivery and 3 to 4 weeks after a cesarean section. Start with short, brisk walks until you feel comfortable enough to progress further without becoming exhausted. Slowly build your aerobic exercise routine up until you are keeping your heart rate elevated for 30 minutes or more. Perform aerobic activity at least 4 times a week in order to remove the accumulated body fat caused by pregnancy or breast feeding.
    • Begin your aerobic workout at a 50 percent exertion level. Gradually work up to a 75 percent exertion level. After 8 to 12 weeks, you can work up to a 100 percent exertion level.


  • Keep a journal of your daily activities so that you can monitor your progress and determine how much to increase the intensity of your current workout routine. Write the date at the top of each page and a list of exercises that are a part of your routine. Keep track of the number of repetitions and sets that you perform. Also, note your daily energy levels, your diet, your sleeping habits, and your energy status at the end of the workout.
  • To increase muscle mass, attach light weights to your ankles or wrists with adhesive straps. Or, carry small aerobic weights with you on a brisk walk or run.


  • Pay careful attention to your body when you are reintroducing aerobic exercise and stretching into your routine. If you feel something wrong or uncomfortable, alert your physician immediately. If your body was not used to consistent exercise before your pregnancy, you may need to stretch out your aerobic build-up to give your body time to adjust to a new routine of aerobic activity.
  • Never work out to exhaustion. Always end your workout routine with the ability to have exercised another 10 minutes. While healthy exercise is beneficial to the body, working out to exhaustion can have several negative effects including fatiguing important muscles, weakening the immune system, and causing physical injury.
  • Excess mucus build-up in the lungs can lead to serious complications including pneumonia. After a caesarian section, breathing exercises are extremely important for removing this mucus from the sensitive linings of the lungs.

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