Many women who love to run ask themselves this question at some point during their pregnancy:
“When can I start running again after having a baby?”
If you’re wondering about when you can reintroduce running into your postpartum routine and how to make sure running is safe for you, these guidelines from the Washington D.C. physical therapy team at District Performance & Physio can help.
Start Slow (and Welcome Walks!)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says women who had healthy pregnancies and normal vaginal deliveries can resume exercise “just a few days” after giving birth. Postpartum exercise offers many important health benefits—from preventing postpartum depression to improving energy and assisting with weight loss—so it’s no wonder leading women’s health organizations encourage new moms to get moving again so soon.
But since running is a high impact form of exercise and places a greater demand on the body compared to lower impact activities like walking, most new moms are advised to wait until 12 weeks postpartum before hitting the road. You might be able to start sooner than this, but it’s best to speak with an expert first (and always wait for the greenlight from your healthcare provider if you’ve had a cesarean section or a complicated pregnancy).
If you were a committed runner prior to pregnancy, you can work back up to long and vigorously intense workouts over time. Patience is key! Here’s what this might look like:
- Walk first. Walking is an effective and highly underrated form of exercise that can help you gradually increase your activity level over those first several weeks after pregnancy while still allowing your body to recover.
- Before running, spend time building strength in your lower body, core, and pelvic floor muscles. A pelvic health physical therapist can help you select specific exercises for your needs.
- Once you’re ready to start running, begin with short intervals, even if it’s just 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Gradually build up to 20 to 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise on most days of the week. At this intensity, your heart rate should be up, you’ll get a bit sweaty, and you can still talk but not sing.
Watch for Symptoms of Intolerance
Common warning signs of exercise intolerance in postpartum women include:
- Pain, especially in the pelvis, back, hips, or groin area
- Urinary leaking
- Excessive shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness that affects balance
If you notice these or any other concerning symptoms, stop running and check in with your provider.
Pump (or Nurse) Before Hitting the Pavement
If you’re breastfeeding, be sure to nurse or pump before heading out for your run. This should help you avoid discomfort from engorged breasts.
And let your worries go by the wayside: as noted by ACOG, regular aerobic exercise will boost your fitness level without negatively affecting your milk supply or your baby’s growth and development.
When in Doubt, Consult With a Professional
As a new mom who wants to get back into running, you can benefit greatly by consulting with a physical therapist (PT) who specializes in pelvic health and women’s health. Your PT can:
- Assess your posture and breathing as you run and do other daily tasks (such as picking up your newborn from the crib) to make sure you’re using good technique and minimizing excess strain on your body
- Teach you specific exercises that will restore the strength, alignment, and motor control of your core and pelvic floor muscles, which can reduce the risk of postpartum issues like urinary incontinence and improve your tolerance to running
- Implement drug-free and non-invasive techniques to alleviate common postpartum aches and pains
One final reminder: fuel yourself well with nourishing foods, plenty of water, and sleep (when you can get it).
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).
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