Women often are eager to shed extra weight after pregnancy, but the first workouts should be gentle and follow medical advice, doctors say.
"It's important that the focus of the first two weeks be taking care of the new baby and getting sufficient rest," says Dr. Jeffrey Henke, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Newport News, Va.
Know the benefits. Exercising soon after childbirth is primarily good for mental health -- possibly guarding against post-partum depression -- not for shedding baby weight. So do what feels good, not anything exhausting. Note: Walking after a Caesarian also reduces the risk of rare but dangerous blood clots in the legs.
Listen to your body. If you're feeling well, a low-intensity workout such as a 30-minute walk is fine within days of a vaginal or Caesarian delivery. But don't try to push through pain caused by tears or scars from childbirth.
Don't worry about specific goals. You may get discouraged if you don't hit a certain length or pace right away.
Gradually build intensity. About two or three weeks after delivery, workouts that are safe for late in pregnancy generally are fine again: moderate aerobics, light-resistance exercises, modified push-ups or whatever else your doctor green-lights.
Follow post-Caesarian rules. For the first six weeks or until cleared by your doctor, avoid exercises that put direct strain on your incision. That includes sit-ups, stair-steppers or lifting weights heavier than 25 pounds; some doctors recommend lifting nothing heavier than your baby.
Work around breastfeeding. Nursing mothers need more fluids to prevent dehydration, so drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts. To avoid breast discomfort, try to nurse or pump shortly before exercising -- and invest in a good sports bra.