postpartum workouts

5 Expert Tips for An Empowering Postpartum Fitness Journey

Your workouts may be different now, but you can come back stronger than ever.

By Amy Gurvitz , Team PelotonUpdated June 7, 2023


Everything changes after giving birth—from the amount of sleep you get (a little) to the loads of laundry you do in a week (a lot). As does your body, which has already undergone a major transition over the past nine months. It may take six weeks, or it may take six months, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of your “new normal” and be ready to restart your exercise routine.

Like everything else, your workouts will be different than they were pre-pregnancy, especially at the start. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come back stronger than ever. We turned to Peloton instructor (and mom) Robin Arzón and Dr. Heather Irobunda, MD, board-certified OB-GYN and Peloton Health & Wellness Advisory Council member, to learn more about the benefits of postpartum workouts, as well as guidance on when you can start working out after giving birth and helpful postpartum workout tips.

Benefits of Postpartum Workouts

First, let’s get one thing straight: The goal of any postpartum workout is not to “get your body back” or “bounce back” in any way. Your mental and physical health are so much more valuable than a number on a scale or the way your clothes fit. And with the right mindset, your postpartum exercise routine can make you a stronger person and a stronger parent. 

Physically, postpartum workouts have a wide range of benefits. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), postpartum exercise helps strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, which have been stretched and pulled apart during pregnancy. Exercise also increases energy; in fact, one study found that 20 minutes of low-impact exercise reduces fatigue symptoms by 65 percent. Similarly, multiple studies have found that exercise improves sleep quality, making a strong argument that sleep-deprived new parents can benefit from prioritizing movement.

Postpartum workouts also do wonders for your mental health. Research has found exercise helps significantly to reduce symptoms of postpartum depression and stress. Carving out time to exercise—even if it’s just 10 minutes—also helps you take time for yourself, prioritizing your own needs and alone time. Exercise just might be the mental reset you need during a difficult day juggling all your responsibilities.

When Can I Start Working Out After Giving Birth?

Your doctor is ultimately the final word on when you can start working out postpartum, so talk to them first about your timeline. Every person’s recovery will be different, so don’t rush back into your workouts before you’re really and truly ready. 

In general, however, the ACOG advises that if you had “a healthy pregnancy and normal vaginal delivery,” you can start gentle movement again a few days after birth (or whenever you’re up for it). We’d recommend sticking to low-impact movement, like walking, stretching, pelvic floor exercises, or gentle yoga, as your body recovers. If you had a C-section or complications, you’ll need to wait longer and get clear guidelines from your doc. 

The ACOG recommends staying active for 20 to 30 minutes a day, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (and yes, you can break that down into 10-minute chunks to make regular movement more manageable). Note that “staying active” doesn’t translate to “crushing hardcore workouts”—being active could be as simple as taking a walk, gardening, or standing and rocking your baby to sleep. 

3 Tips for Postpartum Exercise

Now, you probably understand the importance of consistent movement in your new normal. Let’s dive into how you can make postpartum workouts work for you, instead of dreading them or feeling disappointed in yourself.

1. Start Postpartum Exercise Gradually

“We usually recommend waiting at least six weeks before starting any intense physical training after a vaginal or cesarean birth,” Dr. Irobunda says. “This gives your body enough time to recover after the birth. Especially with C-sections or deliveries that resulted in vaginal tears, we want to give time for those to heal properly before starting intense physical activity.”

No matter what your experience was like, Robin agrees that gentle postpartum workouts are crucial in the beginning. “During the postpartum recovery period, we need to slow down so we can speed up,” she says. “Pressing the pause button and easing back into movement is a key part of the journey.”

As you ramp up your workouts from gentle exercises to active training, know that it will take several months to hit your stride. Along with exhaustion, one of the main culprits is constantly fluctuating hormone levels, which can cause you to feel more sluggish. By the six-month mark though, things should start to level out and your postpartum exercise performance should improve. (And if you noticed that your output scores were lower during pregnancy, here’s why that happened.)

“Understanding that you may need more rest days in your routine in the postpartum period is key,” adds Dr. Irobunda. “You may also want to incorporate more stretching and yoga into your workout routine as ways to be active without intense physical exertion.”

2. Understand the Importance of Your Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor, FYI, is part of your deep core, and it’s a group of muscles that rest between your pubic bone and your tailbone. They support the major organs in your pelvis (think: bladder, uterus, bowels, and more), stabilizing them and keeping them in place as you move around. You can thank the pelvic floor for being able to hold your pee until you reach a toilet and for boosting blood flow to assist contractions during sex or childbirth. So yes, it’s pretty crucial. 

During pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles are working overtime to support the child growing inside of you—and once you’ve given birth, they’re stretched and weakened. In some cases, your rectus abdominis muscles might actually separate, a condition known as diastasis recti that can cause symptoms like coning when you flex your abs, pain during sex, low back pain, incontinence, and general weakness in your core.

Here’s the thing: Those symptoms might sound like normal postpartum things, but they’re not—they’re just common. We may have normalized these dysfunctions, but you don’t have to settle for experiencing them forever. Talk to your doctor and ask about pelvic floor physical therapy if you experience pelvic pain, incontinence, a soft feeling around your belly button, or other signs or diastasis recti or pelvic floor dysfunction. 

In the meantime, you can immediately do pelvic floor exercises and diaphragmatic breathing after giving birth. (More on that below.)

3. Modify Postpartum Workouts As Needed 

For the sake of your sanity, spare yourself the stress of trying to reach unrealistic fitness goals. And don’t get down if you’re not progressing as quickly as you had hoped. “It can be very hard after childbirth to feel like you will be able to accomplish the same physical achievements as before,” says Dr. Irobunda, “but understand that your body just performed one of the most challenging and amazing feats possible: creating another human!”

When starting postpartum exercise back up, modification is essential. Peloton instructors provide modifications in many classes, so take them up on their suggestions and meet yourself where you’re at in the present moment.

“It can feel frustrating having to change your activities for your changing body,” acknowledges Dr. Irobunda, “but it just allows for a little more creativity and possibly more spontaneity!”

In the first year after having a baby, she recommends focusing on postpartum exercises that engage your core and pelvic floor muscles, like Peloton’s Pilates, barre, and core strength classes, but notes that as long as you’re doing something active, your body and mind will benefit.

Best Exercises for Postpartum Workouts

Not sure where to start? Try adding these expert-recommended postpartum exercises into your new workout routine. And don’t forget to check out “Robin's Prenatal & Postnatal Class Series" collection on the Peloton App.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Yes, breathing can be an exercise. Diaphragmatic breathing improves core stability and strengthens pelvic floor muscles. 

A. Lay on your back with your hand on your stomach and your low back pressed into the ground.
B. Practice inhaling deeply, filling up your chest and stomach so that they visibly rise; during the inhale, your pelvic floor will naturally relax.
C. Exhale slowly and with control, pulling your navel toward your spine and feeling your pelvic floor contract. 

Dead Bugs

Another core stabilizing exercise, the dead bug is great for all levels of fitness. Focus on keeping the small of your back pressed into the ground. 

A. Laying on your back, raise both arms toward the ceiling and lift your knees over your hips in a tabletop position.
B. Slowly lower your right arm and your left heel to the ground at the same time, then lift back to your starting position.
C. Alternate sides, and if you’re feeling good, progress this move by straightening your legs.

Glute Bridge

Strengthen your posterior chain and your core in one go with a glute bridge. Want to ramp it up a bit? Place your heels on a Bosu ball or exercise ball to challenge your stability even further.

A. Lay on your back with feet flat on the ground and knees bent at 90 degrees.
B. Drive your heels into the ground, exhale, and lift your hips toward the ceiling.
C. Squeeze your glutes and hold for a breath, then lower with control.

Bird Dogs

This core move challenges your balance and encourages you to use your core to stabilize your body. Think about lengthening your arms and legs as long as possible, really reaching toward the walls in front of and behind you.

A. Start in a tabletop position on all fours, shoulders stacked or wrists and hips stacked over knees.
B. Slowly reach your left arm forward and right heel behind you, while keeping both hips and shoulders square toward the floor.
C. Hold, then bring your left elbow and right knee in to meet under your torso in a crunch. Hold for one breath, then lower both arm and leg to the ground and repeat on opposite side.

Any Postpartum Exercise Is Better Than Nothing

You might have been a cycling regular in the past, racking up five classes a week, or a weekend warrior who loved a good Saturday 60 with Jess Sims. Chances are, those pockets of total free time are gone, and you might feel guilty about not being able to make that same time. Dr. Irobunda’s advice? Embrace what you can do and know that it’s enough.

“Any sort of physical activity you can do regularly will help you manage stress—it can be low or high intensity,” says Dr. Irobunda. “Additionally, meditation and yoga can do wonders for helping with mindfulness, which can help to manage all the stress associated with the ups and downs of having a new baby.

After Robin’s daughter Athena was born, she decided to focus on consistency over intensity. “I prioritized rebuilding my core and my pelvic floor,” she says, “which is why I’m so excited to offer new postnatal core classes on the Peloton platform.” (And you can read more about Robin’s journey to motherhood right here.)

With a regular workout routine, your strength and cardio fitness levels can return to pre-pregnancy levels, or reach heights greater than before. (Carrying a baby in your arms is essentially an around-the-clock upper body class, after all!) And if they don’t, know that your postpartum workout routine is still benefiting you and your entire family by making you stronger from the inside out.

Embrace Your Postpartum Exercise Journey 

Raising a child is one of the most rewarding (and challenging) things you’ll ever do. The unconditional love you feel for them is something that can’t adequately be put into words. But don’t forget to focus on yourself too. As you’ll hear our instructors say again and again, self-care is not selfish.

You may need to squeeze short workouts in during nap times throughout the day, go for walks while pushing a stroller or hop on your Peloton Bike in the evening after your baby’s gone to bed, but do what you can to schedule time for you. And if you miss a day, it’s OK.

“If you find that you don’t feel up to it because of exhaustion, listen to your body,” advises Dr. Irobunda. “Give yourself grace during this period; you are caring for another person who completely relies on you for everything. If you can’t fit that workout in today, there is always tomorrow.”

Whenever you’re ready, the #PelotonMoms, a group of Members almost 300,000 strong, will see you on the Leaderboard.

“Listen to your body, honor where it’s at, and give yourself grace throughout this process,” Robin says. “You just grew and birthed a whole new human, after all! You got this, mamas.”

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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