• Postpartum Fitness

    Image for post preg fitness Although exercise is important at any stage in life, studies have shown that exercise can truly enhance both pregnancy and postpartum health.

    The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

    • Prevents excessive weight gain
    • Improves posture and circulation
    • Reduces swelling of hands and feet
    • Reduces leg cramps, varicose veins, and back pain
    • Helps prevent insomnia, fatigue, and constipation
    • May reduce a woman's risk of having gestational diabetes.
    • Increases stamina, which will improve labor
    It is important to note that most pregnant women can safely maintain an exercise program that was already in practice prior to pregnancy. Women should consult their doctor before starting a new, rigorous exercise program during pregnancy.

    The Benefits of Exercise After Delivery

    • Improves cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness
    • Decreases anxiety and depression
    • Prevents postpartum weight retention that can lead to obesity

    Preparing for Postpartum Exercise

    How soon can you safely start exercising after you have the baby? Although you may be able to do some mild exercises within a few days after delivery, talk to your doctor about when it is fine to return to extended physical activity. Women who have had a cesarean section might be advised by their doctor not to begin exercising for at least 6 weeks after delivery. However, this refers to abdominal muscle exercise, and it is possible to do other exercise for brief periods and gradually increase the time. Go slow, and listen to your body. The most important guiding factors will be how you feel and your energy level.
    Pregnancy and delivery cause unique physical changes. For example, during birth, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched. Having strong pelvic floor muscles is important throughout life to prevent incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. This is a condition in which the pelvic organs lose suspension and fall through the vagina. Kegel exercises—the rhythmic tightening and releasing of pelvic muscles—are the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They can be done anytime, anywhere—even shortly after giving birth.

    Safety Tips

    When you begin exercising, remember the following safety tips:
    • Do not exercise vigorously in hot, humid weather or if you have a fever.
    • Avoid jerky, jumping, or bouncing motions, or changing direction suddenly.
    • Cool down after all workouts.
    • Stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor if you experience pain, dizziness, rapid heart beat, pubic or back pain, bleeding, or palpitations.
    • Remember to stay well hydrated.

    Tips for Fitting Exercise In

    Although you may feel psychologically motivated to get back in shape, the reality of taking care of a newborn may hinder your best intentions. Here are some tips that will help you fit exercise into your daily routine and improve your workouts:
    • Trade babysitting with other mothers.
    • Buy a jogging stroller.
    • Invest in home exercise equipment and some exercise DVDs.
    • Find a gym with reputable childcare facilities.


    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

    American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.org/


    The Canadian Women's Health Network http://www.cwhn.ca/

    The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org/index%5Fe.asp/


    Artal R. with Subak-Sharpe, G. Pregnancy and Exercise . New York, NY: Delacorte Press; 1992.

    Crowell DT. Weight change in the postpartum period. A review of the literature. Journal of Nurse Midwifery . 1995; 40(5):418-423.

    Exercise during pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 30, 2011. Accessed May 21, 2012.

    Gallo B, Ross S. Expecting Fitness: How to Modify and Enjoy Your Exercise Program Throughout Your Pregnancy . Los Angeles, CA: Renaissance Books; 1999.

    Koltyn KF, Schultes SS. Psychological effects of an aerobic exercise session and a rest session following pregnancy. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 1997;37(4): 287-291.

    Larson-Meyer DE. Effect of postpartum exercise on mothers and their offspring: a review of the literature. Obesity Research. 2002;10(8):841-853.

    Ringdahl EN. Promoting postpartum exercise: an opportune time for change. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2002;30:2.

    Wallace JP, Inbar G, Ernsthausen K. Infant acceptance of postexercise breast milk. Pediatrics . 1992;89(6 Pt 2):1245-1247.

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