5 Tips for Returning to Exercise Postpartum

Published - Apr 15, 2021

By Dr.Heather Salzer PT, OCS, CF-L1, IRG Physical & Hand Therapy – Anacortes

1. Go off of feel, not off of time. General time frames can provide guidance for the return to a
variety of activities after delivery. However, return to exercise should be based off of
symptoms and how one’s body feels while carrying out different movements. Risk factors to
look out for that indicate that one may be doing too much too quickly include:
 Heaviness, bulging and/or pressure in the pelvic area.
 Incontinence.
 Musculoskeletal pain (such as back or knee pain).

2. Think low and slow by starting with lower impact activities at a slower pace. Great exercises
to start with in the first few weeks postpartum include:
 Deep breathing with legs elevated.
 Side-lying clamshells.
 Squat-to-chair.

3. Be sure to fuel properly by consuming enough food. Many women do not eat enough
during the postpartum period as a result of perceived pressure to start dieting to return to
their pre-baby body and/or weight. Instead, try to be patient, and focus on getting strong.
Under-eating will put individuals at risk for injuries in addition to contributing to fatigue and
low energy.

4. Avoid comparison, especially to other women’s postpartum journeys and one’s pre-
pregnancy abilities and recovery from previous pregnancies. It is important to listen to one’s
individual body, doing what is best for oneself.

5. Build strength before adding impact. Before making the return to running, jumping, cycling
and other higher impact activities, focus on building back foundational pelvic floor, hip and
core strength. A few good tests for determining readiness to return to activities such as
those above include the successful completion of the following:
 Squatting with a single leg to a chair.
 Holding a side plank for 30 seconds to one minute.
 Sitting down and standing up with hands on hips, 10 times per leg, without one hip
dropping below the other.

If any of the above are difficult, additional strength work may need to be completed prior to
moving forward with higher impact activities.

Schedule an appointment with an IRG Physical Therapist trained in postpartum care for
individualized recovery guidance after delivery. We provide patients with the tools to build and
progress strength and manage post-delivery symptoms such as incontinence. Our physical
therapists will conduct an intake assessment to gage current ability levels, working from there
to create a personalized plan get individuals back to the activities they love most.