Long And Short Term Potential Effects Of Early Return To Moderate- Vigorous Exercise Postpartum Part 1
There is no shortage of messages that pushes women to rush back to high level workouts ASAP postpartum. The question is, what are the risks and benefits of choosing to do so? It seems as if the story is different depending on with whom you speak and with what website you find. Finding answers about what to do and when can be exhausting. Let's talk about the Risks and Benefits of High Intensity Exercise during the early postpartum months. This blog will outline the Risks and Benefits. Part 2 will go over some tips and guidelines.
When I had my first child 10 years ago it was standard to wait 6 weeks whether you had a c section or uncomplicated vaginal delivery, and you would be magically cleared to return to your previous workouts. Recently, I have read some articles that say you can return to exercise within a few days of delivery and others that recommend the 6 week waiting period or more! It is impossible to not be confused. The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends a slow progression of activity and full resumption of prior level of activity at 16 weeks postpartum. The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) notes that there is a variance in what is an appropriate return to exercise based on the pregnancy and delivery, but does note that some can begin exercise within days of giving birth. It recommends exercises such as lifting weights, sit ups, push ups, yoga and pilates. It also recommends Kegels. The ACOG recommends women start with simple postpartum exercises (but doesn’t list a single one or any references) and suggests a progression to moderate and vigorous exercise. This makes it very difficult for women to make smart choices with regards to their postpartum return to exercise. The terminology- return to light exercise is vague and open to interpretation. How long should one take to progress to vigorous exercise? The timeline is variable based on several factors.
The Variables That Impact Return To Exercise Include:
The Short & Long Term Benefits of Exercise Postpartum
There are 6 guidelines worldwide that discuss the benefits of postpartum exercise. Some benefits include:
The Short Term Risks of Early Return to High Impact Exercise
The Long Term Risks of Early Return to High Impact Exercise
Take Home Message
There are short and long term consequences for everything and you cannot prepare for them all. We each need to take into account the long and short term benefits and risks of each choice. There is no dispute that in most cases return to light exercise (walking, proper breathing technique) is beneficial postpartum. But, when and how to progress to moderate-vigorous exercise is more complicated.
Is a mom of two, life long exercise & nutrition enthusiast, women's health specialist & physical therapist.