Health care providers have long offered six weeks as the minimum length of time for women to wait after delivery before resuming their exercise routines, but the six-week rule of thumb often doesn't apply. In many cases, fit women who went through uncomplicated deliveries may safely begin exercise within days of giving birth. Consult with your health care provider about the best waiting period for you, given your overall fitness and the relative ease of your delivery.
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If your delivery involved a C-section, extensive vaginal repair or any other complications, you might need to wait longer before you can begin exercising regularly. BabyCenter estimates a minimum wait time of about six weeks for mothers who have had C-sections; however, if you feel comfortable on your feet, it's advisable to regularly walk at a leisurely pace following the C-section delivery, as you can reduce the risk of further complications, such as blood clots, which are exacerbated by sedentary habits.
Types of Exercise
If you're hoping to start exercising as soon as possible after birth, set your initial exercise goals fairly low. For example, you might aim for walking, gentle stretching and light calisthenics within several days of giving birth. After about a week, you might be able to walk on a treadmill at a moderate to slow rate for a half hour at a time. As you regain strength, build up the number of walks, their intensity or their duration. If your gym offers yoga or other organized group classes, participate in their least strenuous offerings. Resist the urge to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, even if it means you don't keep up with the others for a few weeks.
Resuming Your Regular Routine
While fit moms might start moving around within just days of giving birth, don't expect to resume your old level of exercise right away. In most cases, your joints and ligaments will be looser than usual following birth, which could lead to diminished coordination and potential falls. Wait three to five months before engaging in vigorous or high-impact exercise.
Establishing a Weight Loss Routine
Most new mothers lose more than 10 pounds during childbirth and additional weight during the first weeks following giving birth. Take your time after delivery to assess your body's continuing changes. To burn off the extra fat stored during your pregnancy, adopt a gradual exercise plan. Even when you are fit to resume vigorous activity, don't aim to lose more than a pound per week. Your body might require several months to readjust and return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Even if you do lose all the pounds from pregnancy, your weight might shift and your body type might be different from what it was before.
Make Exercise Convenient
During the first months of your child's life, you'll have plenty of adjustments to your schedule to deal with, so make exercise as simple and convenient as possible. Work it into regular activities that you enjoy, such as jogging with your baby in a jogging stroller or attending a postpartum exercise class with fellow moms. Build light exercise, such as stretching, into your mother/baby time, letting your baby lie on the floor beside you as your stretch.