I get it, cardio can help you feel better physically and mentally. Getting a sweat on can make you feel happy and clear-headed!
However, if you’re among the over 60% of Moms who experience diastasis recti, jumping into cardio exercises without caution can lead to injuries. It is crucial to choose safe and appropriate cardio options that won’t make things worse.
If you do too much too soon, there is a risk of worsening diastasis recti. You could also possibly injure your back and pelvic floor, leading to worse or new symptoms such as low back pain, pelvic prolapse, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence.
Below I have gone through some common cardio options.
HOWEVER, before starting any high impact cardio I suggest you see a pelvic floor PT or do initial corrective exercises like you will find in the FREE Beginners Program or the Pelvic Floor Freedom program while focusing on low impact cardio workouts so that your core has a good foundation before increasing the intensity.
This will adequately strengthen your deep core (pelvic floor and transverse abdominis), start healing your connective tissue, AND reduce the gap without the possibility (and PROBABILITY) of hindering your progress.
Safe Postpartum Cardio Exercises for Diastasis Recti
If you ever feel any symptoms of pelvic pressure, vaginal heaviness, or leaking urine, then you need to stop that exercise, as that is a sign you have done too much too soon.
Reduce the intensity of the exercise (either by time or impact) and focus on diastasis recti exercises until you strengthen your core and pelvic floor sufficiently to safely manage your chosen activity.
Here are some safe cardio options that you can look to do while you heal diastasis recti and pelvic floor:
Low Impact Options
This is my favorite, get out into the fresh air for a walk. Focus on breathing while walking, allowing your belly, pelvic floor and back to expand and relax on the inhale and a gentle contraction on the exhale.
If you are pushing a stroller, keep it close to you so you can maintain good alignment with your rib cage stacked over your pelvis. Slightly hinging at the hips will help with this.
Biking either outside or inside on a stationary bike can be a good option.
You want to keep your spine in a neutral position. This often means you need to adjust a bike at the gym so the handle bars are up higher.
Be careful of bikes that promote you to “hunch” over the handle bars as this will put pressure on your abdominal wall.
“Standing” while biking can be very hard on the core, and watch that you are not holding your breath and bearing down when pushing the pedal if you have increased the resistance.
NOTE: biking can tighten the hips and cause pelvic floor tightness so I don’t recommend biking as your only cardio option, and make sure you are also doing a lot of hip mobility with it.
Is a great low impact exercise that is gentle on the joints and allows for different movements.
If your chest is tight and shoulder mobility limited you may find that certain strokes are an issue, so I suggest testing them out on land in front of a mirror first to make sure you don’t see doming.
Aqua running is a good option for cardio which will allow you to focus on your breathing at the same time.
Whilst this is a low impact exercise, it is hard on the core and to maintain good alignment and breathing.
If you were previously a rower, then it maybe fine, but I would suggest getting someone to video you and make sure there is no doming at the end of the stroke.
If you haven’t rowed before I would initially choose another form of cardio initially, and then when you think about rowing make sure you keep a neutral spine throughout – don’t round your back as you come forward or flare your ribs as you pull back.
This is a good low impact option at the gym.
When using this machine focus on your alignment and breathing. Make sure you are using your arms for the pul-push motion and not twisting at the waist with it.
If in doubt, get someone to video you from the side (to check that you are stacking your rib cage over your pelvis) and from the front (so you can see if you are doming or bulging).
If you notice doming or bulging try using the machine without the arms or reducing the resistance to see if that helps.
If you are doing a class at a gym, you may initially need to go slower and keep your arms below shoulder height (if you dome when you lift your arms above your head).
Stop if you feel any pelvic pressure, vaginal heaviness, or leaking urine, or urgency.
High Impact Options
As you get stronger and your core more functional you may want to start higher impact workouts.
Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and monitor your body’s response over the next 24-48 hours.
If you find you are getting any of the below symptoms reduce the intensity (either by time or impact level) or choose another activity as your body is not ready for it yet. But don’t worry it won’t take long to get stronger keep working on your core and try again in another week or two.
- Increased bloating
- Increased urgency (needing to go to the toilet more often)
- Increased back or hip pain
- Heaviness in the vagina or increased pelvic pressure
- Leaking during the exercise, or an increase in leaking in the 24-48 hours after.
Also, if you are not getting the results you are expecting from your core exercises this could also be an indication that the other workouts you are doing are not right for you yet and you may want to consider stopping or changing them for a month or two while focusing more on regaining core function and strength.
Running is something many moms want to get back to.
But given your core acts as a major stabilizer of your pelvis when you run. If you have diastasis your ability to load your core may be ineffective, which means so is your pelvic stability. This can lead to many injuries.
So before getting back to running you will need to check your alignment, glute strength and running technique.
I normally suggest about 6 weeks of weights first and then sprint training.
You should also be 12 weeks postpartum and have good core control and good pelvic floor strength.
Getting sign-off from a pelvic floor PT is also a good idea.
If you didn’t do this BEFORE you had diastasis I wouldn’t start until after you have a functional core again – due to the twisting motions that are often involved.
If you are already a keen kickboxer, here are some modifications you can make:
Do not punch ACROSS your body, replace these punches with ones straight front to reduce the danger of SHEARING your diastasis recti.
Make sure punches come from the hips.
Kicks can be ok – keep them low so you can keep your TVAs engaged and your back in neutral. Often if we aim to kick too high we tend to hunch over to help reduce the stretch on the hamstring. Also don’t do any kicks that go from the left to the right side of your body (or visa versa) – which will also cause shearing. Kicks that stay on one side and these should be fine with your diastasis recti as long as your back and pelvis stay neutral.
Other martial arts such as Jujitsu can be hard due to the twisting and “unknown” movement that is coming next which puts you in a lot of awkward positions that is hard to control the core in.
Or other higher impact dance cardio workouts. In general these are fine after you have done the beginners program, just be aware of any twisting movements from the waist, and keeping a neutral spine. Also be aware of your ribs thrusting if you bring your arms up overhead.
Again stop or lower the intensity if you feel any pelvic floor issues or an increase in bloating in the next 24 hours.
Wait Before Doing …
- Tennis (or other racket sports)
- Martial arts, such as jujitsu and karate
If you are looking for safe, fun workouts I have over 300 on Confident Fitness 4 Moms. All of which are safe for diastasis recti. There is everything from core workouts to cardio, mobility to weights, pilates to glutes and workout levels vary from beginner to advanced so there is something for everyone.
You can check out Confident Fitness 4 Moms here >>>