Exercise after c section is recommended; you need to return back to your normal routine and restore your body’s strength. It may be difficult, and I’m not going to lie: it will hurt. The rule of thumb is to always ask your doctor when you can return to exercise.
Since every c section is different, you may have to wait longer than the average person to return to your routine.
But once you get the green light from your doctor, you’ll be able to start exercising and strengthening your body. There’s also the major benefit that you’ll be able to slim down and lose a few extra pounds (or all the baby weight) by following a proper workout routine.
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You’re Cleared for Exercise: Start Slow
The best exercise after c section is to take it slow. I know it’s tempting to jump right back into your normal routine, but you’ve just underwent a massive surgery. And your body is still exhausted from your pregnancy, too.
A lot is going on all at one time.
Mentally you may be ready, but physically, your body needs a break.
Most c sections are cleared for exercise somewhere around the 6 week mark. Of course, this will be dependent on any complications you may be suffering from, such as infections which are never fun. But what does being cleared really mean?
It means start slow.
Light and gentle exercise are the best option at this point.
Starting Exercises After C Section
The c section was the hard part, and things only get easier from here. I am going to be honest right now and tell you that your dreams of running after c section are going to have to be put on hold. You can run again, but you need to avoid any exercises that can cause you damage while you recover:
- Leg raises
- Heavy weights
I recommend starting with a walking routine.
Walking Routine After C Section
Your baby needs a lot of attention, and you will want to walk them outside to show them to the world. The good news is that you have a baby stroller that can also accompany you on your journey. The good news is you can start walking around your house when you get home.
Of course, you do need to give your body a break for a few days first.
Once cleared, and often well before, you can begin light walking. Walking is great for the body, and it will allow you to start to rebuild your muscle mass. A schedule may look something like this:
- 3 times a week for 20 minutes 6 weeks after c section
- 3 times a week for 30 minutes 7 weeks after c section
- 4 times a week for 30 minutes 9 weeks after c section
Build up your stamina and get into a routine with walking with your child. This will be so good for you, and it will also:
- Help you lose weight
- Increase blood circulation
- Reduce swelling
- Promote healing
Eventually, you can start walking faster and maybe even break into a light jog. Gradually increase the time you’re out walking and listen to your body when you need a break. Ideally, you’ll get up to walking for an entire hour per day at a moderate pace allowing you to rebuild muscle mass and start building up your cardiovascular health, too.
Stretching and Weight Bearing
Stretching will help loosen up your joints and muscles that have been tight for too long. The ideal way to begin is to start walking (as mentioned previously), and then start stretching to help break up any of that scar tissue that may be forming in your stomach area.
A few of the great ways to begin stretching are:
- Bridge Pose– Bridges are great for helping restore your core strength, improve flexibility and help strengthen the butt. You’ll want to lie on your back, bend your knees making sure the feet are flat on the floor. Next, push through your feet lifting your butt and back off the floor. Perform this great exercise holding the pose for 3 seconds before going back down. Increase the time you hold as you progress.
- Plow Pose– An exercise that should be performed only when you feel comfortable. Start slow and lay down on the ground. Lift your hands above your head and work until you can bring your feet above your head, too. This will take some time to do, but it’s a great exercise to work up to.
Also, make sure to stretch your hips, lower back and ankles. Your body has been under a lot of pressure during pregnancy, and these are the areas that tend to ache often.
Return to Exercise and Strength Training
Most women want to lose that extra baby weight and return to their normal size pants after pregnancy. And if you’ve ever exercised before, you know that you need to increase your cardio and start burning more calories than you consume to lose weight.
But, you want your walking to be your cardio for the first few months after c section.
Remember, exercise after c section must be light. I recommend that when you feel comfortable going back to a strength training routine, you do so with very short workout sessions. An ideal workout plan following c section starts with:
- 2 sessions per week
- 15 – 20 minute sessions at most
I recommend starting at the 15 minute mark and increasing the time you spend in the gym by 5 minutes every two weeks.
After a month and a half, you’ll be at the 30 minute session mark, and you’ll be able to make your own judgment whether or not to increase your sessions per week to 3 or 4.
Start slowly and don’t try going back to your normal routine. You need to lift very light weight, and a lot of trainers recommend:
- Using bodyweight
- Resistance bands
- Light weights
- Suspension trainers
When we’re talking about weight, you’ll want to stick to something very easy: 5 pounds and move your way up.
A few of the starting exercises that will help you begin to restore your strength and build muscle are:
- Bodyweight squats (start with a half squat and eventually progress to a full squat)
- Rows using resistance bands
- Curls using resistance bands
- Band pull apart
And remember to continue performing your bridges and add in forward bends to stretch out those hamstrings.
Gentle exercises can be added in as you increase your time. Avoid direct abdominal training for months as your stomach will continue healing.
Low-impact exercises are best.
Eventually, you can move up to higher weight and even start doing shoulder, back, bicep, triceps and chest exercises with little weight. As long as you start slow and listen to your body, you’ll find that you can get right back into the exercise groove.
Returning to High Impact Exercise
The best exercise after c section for the first few months will be the slow and steady walking. Walking engages a lot of the body’s main muscle groups, and walking also engages the core which will need to be strengthened, too.
Most women will not be able to start running after c section until:
- 6 – 9 months after surgery
I’m a firm believer that you always need to consult with your doctor and find out what they recommend when trying to return to exercise. You may be an exceptional case that can start running after 4 months, or you may have had an intense c section, so you may have to wait 9 months or more for the body to fully heal.
If you do impact exercises too fast, you risk bleeding and complications – not a good thing.
Diets and Avoiding Diet Pills
If you’re a mom that’s nursing or you’re still recovering, you can’t chance harming your baby by dieting too strictly. You should maintain a healthy diet, but this doesn’t mean that you should lower your caloric intake to the point where you’re causing harm to yourself and potentially your baby, too.
Diet pills are a big no-no at this time, too.
Follow a healthy, calorie sufficient diet while the body is healing and the baby is still nursing. Remember that the breast milk will contain the medicine or pills you take, so a diet pill can have some of the fat burning properties transferred to baby.
And this can lead to malnutrition or severely underweight children.
Eat healthy but also eat enough to satisfy the needs of yourself and your child. If you find that you want to lose weight, as most women do after a c section, you’ll want to follow the exercise guidelines above and aim for slow and steady weight loss,
A nutritionist can help you devise a meal plan that allows you to lose weight, maintain all of the vitamins and minerals needed to heal and also pass on good nutrients to your child in the process.
When in doubt, consult with your doctor and find out what he or she recommends you do to lose the baby weight. In most cases, exercise will be recommended to restore your muscle and allow you to maintain maximum mobility.