A woman sitting on a yoga mat at home doing a postpartum workout. She is in lotus position with her eyes closed.

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The Best Postpartum Workouts to Ease Back Into Fitness

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

By Amy Gurvitz , Team PelotonUpdated March 21, 2024


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). Another thing that’ll change: 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 feel ready to restart your exercise routine with postpartum workouts.

Like everything else, your workouts will be different than they were pre-pregnancy, especially at the start. You’ll need to stay patient with your progress—and maybe even redefine what “progress” looks like to you—and learn to tune into your body to know what it needs in the moment. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t come back stronger than ever. 

We turned to Peloton instructor (and mom) Robin Arzón and 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 other 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. Rather, with the right mindset, your postpartum workouts can make you a stronger person and a stronger parent. 

With that in mind, the benefits of postpartum workouts include:

  • Increased abdominal strength: Postpartum exercise helps strengthen your abdominal muscles, notes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which have been stretched and pulled apart during pregnancy.

  • Boosted energy levels: Exercise increases energy—something every parent can get behind. Similarly, multiple studies have found that exercise improves sleep quality or duration, making a strong argument that sleep-deprived new parents can benefit from prioritizing movement.

  • Improved mental health: Postpartum workouts can also do wonders for your mental health. Research has found exercise is effective in reducing symptoms of postpartum depression and stress

  • More me-time: 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.

Getting Started with Postpartum Workouts: When and How to Begin

First and most importantly: 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. 

With that in mind, here’s what experts and medical professionals want you to know before starting your postpartum workouts:

1. In General, Wait Six Weeks After Delivery Before Resuming Intense Exercise 

“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.” 

But of course, everybody and every situation is different—so check in with your doctor about whether or not that time frame is appropriate for you specifically.

2. Pay Attention to Your Pelvic Floor and Abdominal Muscles

Before you do anything else, you’ll want to understand the importance of your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that rest between your pubic bone and your tailbone. They support the major organs in your pelvis (think: your 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. 

Your ab muscles also get stretched during pregnancy. In some cases, your rectus abdominis muscles (aka your six-pack ab muscles) may separate during the postpartum period, a condition known as diastasis recti that can cause symptoms such as coning when you flex your abs, pain during sex, lower back pain, incontinence, and general weakness in your core.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any signs of pelvic floor dysfunction (like pelvic pain or incontinence) or diastasis recti (like pain, softness around your belly button, or difficulty lifting objects). 

3. Consider Your Delivery Method

Your delivery method impacts when and how you should start your postpartum workout plan. If you delivered vaginally and had a healthy pregnancy, you can start gentle movement again a few days after birth (or whenever you’re up for it), according to ACOG. Starting with pelvic floor exercises is a good place to begin, since vaginal delivery puts pressure on the pelvic floor and you’ll need to strengthen those muscles in response. Prioritizing the pelvic floor muscles can also help with common post-birth symptoms, like incontinence.

If you had a C-section, you’ll need more time for recovery. (You’ve just had a major surgery, after all.) Work together with your doctor to map out the right exercise timeline for you. You likely won’t be able to lift anything heavy for several weeks. And, again, because a C-section is a major abdominal surgery, you’ll have to stay away from intense core exercises such as weighted crunches, Russian twists, or woodchops. Consider working with a physical therapist to rebuild your core strength gradually and safely. And as with after a vaginal delivery, you’ll also need to prioritize pelvic floor exercises.

4. Check In with Your Body and Mind First

So, how do you know when you’re ready to exercise? The key is listening to your body and your mind. Once your doctor gives you the OK, ask yourself the following questions before starting your postpartum workouts:

  • Are you excited and eager? If you’re genuinely looking forward to restarting your workout routine, consider that a great sign it’s time to begin. On the other hand, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or have a sense of dread at the thought of unrolling your yoga mat or starting a walking workout, give yourself grace and a little more time.

  • Do you feel rested enough? We get it—that’s probably not a question to ask new parents. However, if you’re feeling totally drained and the idea of a 20-minute workout seems impossible, you may benefit more from resting than from pushing through.

  • Do you have a support system in place? Whether it’s a partner who can watch the baby by themselves for an hour or a childcare provider who comes a few times a week, having a strong support system is key in managing the logistics of working out in your new everyday. A support system—especially other parents—can also sympathize with you or offer advice about fitting in postpartum workouts.

  • Do you feel emotionally strong? Having a baby is a whirlwind of emotions, even without the hormonal changes your body is going through. You’re likely to face challenges, physical discomfort, self-doubt, and fatigue when you restart your workouts. Being in a stable place emotionally will help you view these workouts as uplifting instead of beating you down. You also may experience postpartum mood disorders; if that’s the case, be honest with your healthcare provider about what you’re feeling and what feels doable in your current state. You’re never alone, and your practitioner can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes to help you cope and feel better. 

5. Know the Signs You May Need More Time to Recover

You may be excited and eager to start your postpartum workouts, but sometimes, your body has other plans. Keep an eye out for these signs that you need a little more time before making postpartum exercise a part of your routine:

  • Pain: If any workouts or exercises cause intense, sharp, or persistent pain (especially if it’s in the abdominal or pelvic reasons), stop immediately and consult your medical professional.

  • Bleeding: Bleeding may be a sign that your body isn’t 100 percent healed. Talk to your doctor about what bleeding is or isn’t normal post-birth. 

  • Diastasis recti: Diastasis recti looks like a visible ridge running straight down the middle of your stomach, paired with a feeling of weakness in the core. If you experience that or other symptoms, talk to your provider to make sure you’re performing the right movements to fix it.

A new mom pushing her baby in a stroller while going for a postpartum workout walk outside.

Stefan Tomic / E+ via Getty Images

Postpartum Exercises to Avoid or Approach Carefully

Whether you delivered vaginally or via C-section, your body underwent a major feat during birth. With that in mind, you’ll need to avoid or be wary of certain exercises when you’re restarting your fitness routine. 

First, ease into anything that’s high-intensity or high-impact in nature. Now’s not the time to dive headfirst into a new boxing class, a half-marathon training program, or a heavy lifting routine. Be cautious when approaching abdominal exercises, too—your abs have been put to the limit throughout pregnancy, after all.

Finally, one more big thing to consider: It’s smart to work with a personal trainer or fitness specialist who’s a postnatal fitness specialist, a women’s fitness specialist, or has a similar certification. They’ll have the expert knowledge to guide you through safe, effective postpartum exercises. And as always, check in with your OB-GYN with any questions.

Postpartum Exercises to Consider

Once you’re ready to ease back into exercise, where should you begin? In general, Dr. Irobunda recommends low-impact activities—such as walking, barre, Pilates, and yoga—for new parents. In the first year after having a baby, she also recommends focusing on postpartum exercises that engage your core and pelvic floor muscles (such as Peloton’s core strength classes or, once again, modalities like Pilates and barre). But as long as you’re doing something active, your body and mind will benefit, Dr. Irobunda notes.

Want a few moves to get started with? The following postpartum exercises are safe and effective picks to add to your fitness routine:

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

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

  1. Lie on your back with your hand on your stomach and your lower back pressed into the ground.

  2. Practice inhaling deeply, filling up your chest and stomach so that they visibly rise; during the inhale, your pelvic floor will naturally relax.

  3. Exhale slowly and with control, pulling your navel toward your spine and feeling your pelvic floor contract. 

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

  1. Lying on your back, raise both arms toward the ceiling and lift your knees over your hips in a tabletop position.

  2. Slowly lower your right arm and your left heel to the ground at the same time, then lift back to your starting position.

  3. Alternate sides, and if you’re feeling good, progress this move by straightening your legs.

Strengthen your core, hamstrings, and glutes in one go with a glute bridge. Want to ramp it up a bit? Place your heels on a stability ball to challenge yourself even further.

  1. Lie on your back with feet flat on the ground and knees bent at 90 degrees.

  2. Engage your glutes and core, then drive your heels into the ground and lift your hips toward the ceiling.

  3. Hold this position for a breath, then lower with control.

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.

  1. Start in a table-top position on all fours, shoulders stacked or wrists and hips stacked over knees.

  2. Slowly reach your left arm forward and right heel behind you while keeping both hips and shoulders square toward the floor.

  3. Hold, then bring your left elbow and right knee back into the table-top position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Want some more options? Check out the wide range of postnatal fitness classes available on the Peloton App, in addition to Robin’s Prenatal & Postnatal Class Series.

Postpartum Exercise Guidelines

ACOG recommends staying active for 20–30 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). 

That said, know 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. 

Remember, too, that gentle postpartum workouts are crucial in the beginning. “During the postpartum recovery period, we need to slow down so we can speed up,” Robin says. “Pressing the pause button and easing back into movement is a key part of the journey.”

Go at your own speed and, as always, follow your doctor’s unique guidance.

Other Things to Keep in Mind When Easing Back Into Fitness

Your postpartum journey isn’t going to be linear. There will be bumps and obstacles in the way, but knowing how to navigate those challenges can help you reach your goals and feel strong.

Here are a few things to consider as you ease back into your postpartum fitness routine:

Know That Your Workout Routine May Look Different

You might have been a cycling regular in the past who racked up five classes a week. But chances are, all those available windows of free time are gone, and you might feel guilty about not being able to upkeep your pre-parenthood cadence. 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,” Dr. Irobunda says. “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.

Consider That Exercise May Feel Different, Too

As you ramp up your workouts from gentle exercises to active training, know that it will take several months to hit your stride. “It can be very hard after childbirth to feel like you will be able to accomplish the same physical achievements as before,” Dr. Irobunda says, “but understand that your body just performed one of the most challenging and amazing feats possible: creating another human!”

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

Remember to Give Yourself Grace and Listen to Your Body

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—remember, self-care is never 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 bike in the evening after your little one has gone to bed, but do what you can to schedule time for you. And if you miss a day, know that that’s absolutely OK.

“If you find that you don’t feel up to it because of exhaustion, listen to your body,” Dr. Irobunda advises. “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.”

How Long Will It Take to Return to Pre-Pregnancy Fitness Levels?

There’s no one true guideline for how long it’ll take a new parent to return to their pre-pregnancy fitness levels, as there are simply too many variables to consider. Your postpartum workouts will vary based on your delivery, your medical needs, your childcare support, and your new priorities, which (understandably!) may have shifted. As much as we’d love to say you’ll be back to lifting your usual weights or running your normal paces within so-and-so months, that would be irresponsible and wouldn’t apply to everyone equally.

However, consistency will be the most important factor in reaching your postpartum workout goals, whatever they are. With a regular workout routine, your strength and cardio fitness levels can return to pre-pregnancy levels, or even reach new heights. (Carrying a baby in your arms is essentially an around-the-clock upper body class, after all!) No matter what, know that your postpartum workout routine is still benefiting you and your entire family by making you stronger from the inside out. 

The Takeaway

While the postpartum exercise journey is different for every new parent, slow and steady progress will help you be strong for your family. You may be tempted to get started as soon as possible and hit the ground running (literally), but in the long run, you’ll be better served by waiting until you’re physically and mentally ready to commit to a consistent workout routine. 

When you’re ready to start exercising more regularly, a great place to get started is by exploring the postpartum workouts available on the Peloton App. That said, lean on experts and professionals (like your OB-GYN or personal trainers with pregnancy-related certifications) to be smart, strategic, and safe with your new postpartum workout plan. Your body has been through a lot (to put it mildly), and you deserve all the grace in the world during this period of transition and adjustment.

“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!”

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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