A Q&A with Every Mother founder, Leah Keller, about the best (and most harmful) postpartum cardio workouts.
At Every Mother, we teach our clients to safely return to exercise postpartum and protect and strengthen their core and pelvic floor in the process. And we’ve found that postpartum cardio plays an important role in getting back into the exercise groove, for more than just its effectiveness in getting back into shape, but also for the mental clarity and boost in mood it provides. Breaking a sweat feels good, but if you are like over 60% of childbearing women who suffer from diastasis recti, you can’t dive in headfirst without the risk of injury.
We opened up the floor to our community to submit their burning questions about postpartum cardio and diastasis recti, and EM founder Leah Keller is here with all your answers.
What should I be aware of when it comes to postpartum cardio exercise and diastasis recti?
Not all cardio exercises are created equal. Many are high impact, exerting forceful pressure on the abdominals and pelvic floor. This compromises core integrity, and in some cases, can re-injure or worsen diastasis recti. Repetitive, high-impact exercises like running and jumping can also contribute to pelvic prolapse and urinary stress incontinence, especially if these activities are performed prior to restoring core strength and function postpartum. For this reason, it is very important to work on restoring core integrity and function before reintroducing high-impact activities into your routine.
Even when performing low-impact cardio workouts like brisk walking, the key to making those activities safe and beneficial for core recovery are healthy posture (spine lengthened, pelvis neutral, ribs anchored) and breathing (engage the abs to the spine on every exhalation; allow the abs to relax on every inhalation).
Learn more about core-safe movements and find out if Your Workout is Causing Diastasis Recti.
Will slow jogging on a treadmill worsen diastasis recti? What about running?
This isn’t an automatic yes or no. In order to safely resume a jogging or running routine after pregnancy, you must restore strength to the deep abdominal muscles and pelvis so you can prevent injury and move pain-free with sound alignment. Postpartum cardio for diastasis recti is a case-by-case consideration, and it’s always best to test the waters before jumping on a treadmill or overexerting yourself by running.
Visit our Running and Postpartum Core Health article for guidelines and tips to safely run postpartum.
How much walking is needed per week to restore core strength and function?
There is no prescriptive volume of walking necessary to restore the core. A healthy target for overall postpartum fitness is to work up to 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week.
For more information, check out the CDC’s guidelines on physical activity for adults.
Are there differences in postpartum cardio for vaginal versus c-section delivery?
Regardless of the type of birth, pregnancy itself exerts some stretching and strain on the pelvic floor musculature and abdominals. A surgically assisted delivery often requires more time to heal before resuming cardio, so be patient and gracious with yourself. Follow the guidance of your doctor or midwife and listen to your body.
Check out the ABCs of core-training and the Exercises to Avoid After a C-section.
Is indoor cycling an approved workout for diastasis recti postpartum?
This can be a safe and motivating option for low-impact cardio while gradually increasing intensity. While you’re cycling, be mindful of your posture (spine lengthened, pelvis neutral, ribs anchored) and breathing. With each exhalation, engage your abdominals toward the spine. Soften and relax the belly with each inhalation to allow for adequate oxygen uptake.
Are dance workouts considered safe cardio for diastasis recti? What about ballet?
Dance cardio workouts can be great, as long as you avoid injury-inducing movements. On the other hand, ballet will likely require some modifications, especially arabesques and other positions that involve significant backbends or ribs flaring.
Visit our, Is Your Workout Causing Diastasis Recti? guide, to learn more about what exercises are safe and unsafe for diastasis recti.
Is jumping rope safe for diastasis recti? What cardio exercises are diastasis recti safe?
I would plain avoid jumping rope because it exerts excessive pressure on the pelvic floor and can lead to pelvic prolapse. Less impact is safer. Try these diastasis recti-safe cardio exercises instead:
- Dance cardio (without jumping)
- Brisk walking
- Walking on an incline (outdoors or indoors on a treadmill)
- Cycling (indoor or outdoor)
Can I go back to my regular workouts once my diastasis recti is resolved?
Some exercises will always carry the potential to re-injure your connective tissue, while others can cause abdominal separation in the first place! Implementing the principles learned in EMbody Reclaim is a great way to modify workouts that would otherwise put stress on your connective tissue. However, EMbody Surpass offers high energy, progressively challenging workouts for those looking to make greater fitness gains while building core strength and avoiding re-injury. From high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to cardio strength, from core intensive workouts to yoga, we’ll help you break a sweat, meet or even surpass your fitness goals, move easefully and maintain core integrity.
Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration— of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. Learn more about the EMbody Program™ here.