The Benefits of Postpartum Exercise

The benefits of exercise in general cannot be denied. However, there are benefits of exercise that are unique to the postpartum period. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, many women have a challenging time returning to pre-pregnancy weight. The average woman holds onto 1.1 to 8.4 lbs after pregnancy. And almost 20% are more than 11 pounds heavier 6-18 months after having baby. While I am not advocating for any immediate focus on weight loss or even focusing on it at all, attention to healthy lifestyle choices after baby have a lot of benefits. This includes exercise specifically.

Difficulty returning to pre-pregnancy weight is linked to inadequate physical activity, poor nutrition, and excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Left unchanged, these things can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions. While the challenges to exercise in the postpartum period deserve their own post entirely, today we'll focus on the benefits of exercise. Rather than just say you should exercise after baby, here's the "why" behind that statement.

The benefits of postpartum exercise (according to the American College of Sports Medicine) include:

  • Reduced fatigue and increased vigor
    • It seems counter-intuitive but exercise has been shown to increase energy levels rather than diminish
  • Improves mood states and mental acuity
    • Improves symptoms of anxiety and depression
    • Increases sense of general well-being
  • Improves overall fitness
    • Aerobic fitness and endurance are improved by up to 25% in the postpartum period by exercising
  • Promotes return to pre-pregnancy weight
    • Which in turn helps all the other things
  • Decreases risk for developing future chronic health conditions
    • Improves our "good" HDL cholesterol
    • Improves insulin response after meals
  • Provides mom with some alone time and possibly social interactions
    • Also great for mental health!
  • No negative effect on breastfeeding
    • There is no definitive evidence that exercise has any negative effect on breastfeeding ability
  • May encourage regular physical activity in your kids (eventually!)
    • Interestingly, one study found that children of active mothers were two times as likely to be active in their childhood than those of non-active mothers

You can find more posts on how to begin to incorporate exercise into your postpartum routine here: 5 Exercises to Start With in the 4th Trimester. Keep an eye out for future posts about how to make exercise a reality with a newborn! 

For a comprehensive guide on returning to exercise and improving recovery postpartum, check out our guide.

Many reputable medical entities endorse postpartum exercise including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You can read their position statement here:

The American College of Sports Medicine that I referenced also endorses postpartum exercise. You can read their brief statement here: .

Other Resources for this post:

Larson‐Meyer, D.E. (2002), Effect of Postpartum Exercise on Mothers and their Offspring: A Review of the Literature. Obesity Research, 10: 841-853.


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