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How to Safely Workout Postpartum in the COVID-19 Era

Women exercising with infant.

Key Takeaways

  • You can safely and effectively work on regaining your strength postpartum, even in the era of COVID-19.
  • Walking is a great beginner exercise so long as you're taking proper COVID-19 precations
  • Online and virtual fitness groups for moms are a great way to connect with other women.
  • Slow and steady is the most important thing to remember. It took 9 months to grow your baby, it will take equal if not longer time to regain your strength.

Let's face it: a pandemic pregnancy is not what anyone had in mind when picturing the experience of growing a tiny human. Research shows anxiety and stress are high for many pregnant individuals as they navigate this season of appointments without support from their partners, COVID-19 tests, masks during delivery, and much more.

As a woman who personally experienced the highs and lows of a pandemic pregnancy myself, I know firsthand how difficult this time can be.

While I began to prepare for the new challenge of postpartum life with a toddler and infant, I knew fitness was going to be my saving grace to provide stress relief and a mental health break. But, what could I safely do, knowing my comfort with the past stroller fitness groups wasn't quite there with a newborn in the COVID-19 era?

Immediately I fell down the Google rabbit hole wondering what a new mom could safely do postpartum to regain her fitness during the pandemic. Unfortunately little turned up, which made me realize how much this piece was needed.

So, I reached out to the experts in the field to get the facts on what you should know about safely returning to working out postpartum in the time of COVID-19. Here's what they had to say.

When Can You Return to Working Out

First and foremost, remember it took 10 months to grow your baby, so it will take that long (if not longer) to return to your pre-pregnancy strength. Both Dr. Angela Jones, MD, FACOG, and Dr. Derek Libby, DC of Activate Chiropractic, recommend listening to your body above all else.

While some patients are cleared to return to their workouts six weeks postpartum, others may need more time to heal.

Angela Jones, MD

For women that underwent a c-section, I don’t recommend any exercises that require core engagement until you’re at least eight weeks out.

— Angela Jones, MD

Dr. Jones shares, "If you feel “up” for it, ease into an exercise routine, if it hurts choose another activity. For women that underwent a c-section, I don’t recommend any exercises that require core engagement until you’re at least eight weeks out. That gives your body an adequate amount of time to heal."

While a high-intensity interval training workout is likely off the table for some time until you regain your core and pelvic floor strength, pre and postnatal fitness trainer Lindsay Bomgren of Nourish Move Love recommends her clients take small walks when they are able to get outside between feedings just to get fresh air.

As a mom herself, Bomgren suggests once cleared by your physician, "incorporating these walks with two to three days of strength training, even if just for 10 minutes, can really help to begin to rebuild strength."

What Moms Should Focus On Strengthening First

Birthing a baby is often compared to running a full marathon (that's 26.2 miles remember!) Pair that with the 10 months prior of carrying that baby with an additional 15 to 35 pounds of stress on your joints... ouch!

Needless to say, moms have a lot of TLC they need to give their body postpartum with specific focus areas to nourish first. Erica Friedman, CPT, pre and postnatal fitness specialist suggests one of the very first things you can begin doing at home is diaphragmatic breathing. "Your breath is your powerhouse, and learning how to do so correctly is the single most important thing you can do to help heal your body postpartum."

From there, Dr. Libby, Bomgren, and Friedman all agree that the pelvic floor and core are the next areas new moms need to focus on postpartum to regain their strength.

While both Dr. Libby and Bomgren note exercises that often provide strength for these areas aren't the most exciting (think bird dogs, cat-cow poses, and deep belly breathing), they offer the fundamentals to repair and strengthen a woman's body.

Erica Friedman, CPT

Your breath is your powerhouse, and learning how to do so correctly is the single most important thing you can do to help heal your body postpartum.

— Erica Friedman, CPT

Bomgren also suggests moms work on their glute strength as well. Given your glutes are involved in so much work with your core, strengthening this in conjunction with your pelvic floor and core will only provide more stability as you move through your new workout regimen.

Workouts That Are Safe Postpartum During COVID-19

From safe social distancing walks outdoors to at-home virtual workouts with other moms, there are a plethora of safe exercise options for new moms to look into postpartum thanks to technology these days.

Dr. Jones recommends her patients to find what works for them in this new season of life. "With vaccines rolling out at full throttle and warmer weather, moms can feel more comfortable taking a stroll outside as well; with adequate distancing and avoiding crowded areas, this can still be a “go to” activity."

Friedman agrees and suggests looking to social media for local mom groups that are meeting virtually or in small groups to do their fitness classes.

She says, "From personal experience I’ve found connecting to other moms via Facebook groups and social media communities in my local city has been helpful. There are several well qualified coaches and studios offering virtual classes for pregnancy and postpartum moms. Giving virtual high fives in group classes can still give that sense of camaraderie."

Plus, Dr. Libby and Friedman add that seeking support from qualified members of the extended treatment team, like pelvic floor therapists, perinatal chiropractors, and postpartum physical therapists, are also great to consult with to help design the at-home workout program that is right for you.

But, regardless of the type of workout moms engage in Dr. Jones reminds us that they need to invest in good exercise gear (shoes, clothing, etc). This not only helps decrease the risk of injury but also vaginitis, a condition that can lead to bacterial overgrowth in women when exposed to moisture and heat. And lets face it moms, after the marathon of delivery, you don't need anything else to worry about there!

What This Means for You

Regaining your physical strength after giving birth is an important part of postpartum recovery, but it's critical to do so safely. The added threat of a global pandemic makes this a bit more difficult for new mothers to achieve, so be sure to talk to your doctor about your fitness plan.

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  1. López-Morales H, del Valle MV, Canet-Juric L, et al. Mental health of pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study. Psychiatry Res. 2021;295:113567.

  2. Stone J, Skibiski K, Hwang S, Barnes C. Physical therapy in addition to standard of care improves patient satisfaction and recovery post-Cesarean sectionJ Womens Health Phys Ther. 2021;45(1):10-19. doi:10.1097/JWH.0000000000000187