Between midnight feedings and diaper changes, new moms may find it challenging to make time for exercise. But sneaking fitness into the new routine can benefit both mom and baby. Regular exercise after pregnancy not only promotes weight loss and prevents blood clots, but it also boosts energy levels and relieves stress.

“Generally, moms who have had an uncomplicated vaginal birth can begin exercising four weeks after delivery,” said Judith Gurdian, MD, an OB-GYN who delivers babies at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. “For moms who have had a cesarean section or a more complicated birth, it may take eight weeks or more. Your doctor can let you know when it’s best to begin.”

For all new moms, starting slow and setting small goals are key. Begin with a walk around the block with the stroller. Activities like yoga or Pilates are great ways to regain flexibility. And building up to 150 minutes a week of exercise, along with lifting light weights, is the best way to get back strength and stamina. No matter the exercise, it’s important to find something you love doing and commit to doing it regularly.

Naureen Alam, MD, also a Shady Grove OB-GYN, said that even with exercise, it’s possible to still look pregnant months after delivery. “Your abdominal muscles stretched to accommodate a baby, so it takes time to regain the muscle tone that was lost.

“Many pregnant and postpartum women have diastasis, a separation of the abdominal muscles, which can take weeks or months to heal,” Dr. Alam added. “Some women may even need targeted physical therapy.”

Whether exercising to shed pregnancy weight or as a way to get fresh air, Thu Tran, MD, a Shady Grove OB-GYN, said it’s crucial that moms care for themselves as they care for their newborns.

“Be patient and forgiving of yourself. Any exercise you do is better than none.”

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