Swimming and Diastasis Recti

swimming and diastasis recti

As a physical therapist that specializes in core rehabilitation, I get a lot of questions about swimming and diastasis recti. Many of our clients were told swimming is one of the many exercises that should be avoided. When I was struggling to heal my own diastasis, I also was told by many physicians that swimming would make diastasis recti worse. I swam competitively for years and to be told I couldn’t, was a little heartbreaking.

swimming and diastasis recti

Kelly Swimming the 50 Fly after healing diastasis recti

As a PT and a competitive swimmer, I soon realized this is not the case! Swimming naturally elongates your core and allows you to engage the transverse muscle. I’ve healed my core and returned to swimming on a competitive team and not only is my diastasis still closed, but my core is stronger than ever. So this vlog is for all the swimmers out there (not just competitive athletes) who want to swim but are concerned about conflicting information about swimming and diastasis recti.

If you are in need of core rehabilitation to help reconnect to your deep core muscles and close your diastasis, we’d love to work with you! We have very comprehensive and effective online core rehab programs and we offer virtual appointments.


20 responses to “Swimming and Diastasis Recti”

  1. SJ says:

    Thanks for the video! I’m also wondering if swimming is safe for prolapse (assuming only front crawl)? I have a grade 2 cystocele and DR as well, 5 months postpartum. I’m doing physio. Any tips?

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Hi SJ,

      Swimming should be fine for prolapse as well. The focus should be on understanding how to exhale and elongate your core. Be aware of your symptoms though. If swimming is causing the prolapse to worsen I would bet you are holding your breath and bearing down in some part of your stroke. The great thing about swimming is that it is anti-gravity and naturally elongates you.

  2. Gemma Speck says:

    Hi! Do you have the same advice on swimming during pregnancy? I healed a previous 4 finger DR. Im now at 24 weeks and 2 fingers wide and wondering if the swimming is causing it to worsen. My breathing is correct and not 100 % sure about my posture. I believed that the benefits outweigh the risks during pregnancy but now Im not sure!

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Hi Gemma,
      Swimming is likely not causing it to worsen. 2 fingers is pretty common in your second pregnancy. I would recommend our Prenatal Core Training program to work on that core connection and posture/alignment out of the pool though.

  3. Andrea Masna says:

    Hi!Our daughter,who is nearly four,has Diastasis Recti. We desperately need help because our doctor does not reflect it and in our country it is not common to exercise with children suffering from DR. There are several controversial opinions on this problem and we do not know how to deal with this.
    We would like to know if swimming can couse any harm. If not, which swimming style is preferred?
    Thank you so much for your answer.

    Masny family.

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Hi, I am so sorry. We know personally the frustration of not getting clear information about diastasis recti and how to effectively treat it. Everyone has a diastasis when they are born as the abdominal wall separates to allow for the umbilical cord. In most children it naturally closes by 2-4 years. The most common reasons for a DR to remain open past 4 are: chronic constipation with breath holding and bearing down, chronic respiratory issues with coughing, or low muscle tone. Often we look at resolving those issues and the diastasis closes. As far as exercise, you want to encourage normal play for kids, swimming, monkey bars, climbing etc not crunches or exercises that are focusing on collapsed postures or rounded torso. I think swimming is great as it naturally recruits the core and focuses on elongating. But at 4 years old the key is to look at what might be contributing to the DR. We can do an eSession with you to help you problem solve this if you would like.

  4. Irene K Baguma says:

    This has been helpful. Thanks

  5. Amanda says:

    Thanks for this video — it’s great to get the perspective of a physical therapist with swimming experience.

    I am 20 weeks into my first pregnancy and already experiencing a 3 finger wide gap. I was shocked because I am so active and also am avoiding all abdominal crunches. My physical therapist is concerned that swimming on my stomach (i.e., freestyle) will only add weight against my abs and make the stretching worse. However, she admitted she’s not a swimmer. I am sad because I’ve already committed to giving up road biking for the same reason. And swimming during pregnancy has been such a blessing — it’s safe, I don’t overheat, and I come out of the water feeling much more relaxed and mobile than I went in.

    But I imagine that 1) being facedown in water is different than leaning over on land, because of the buoyancy of water, and 2) if I properly engage my core I should be able to continue.

    You mention engaging our core when you exhale; are you also engaging it as you breath in, or are you letting your tummy naturally expand?

    Thanks again for this great resource!


  6. TheTummyTeam says:

    Hi Amanda,
    First…Congratulations! So a 3 finger DR is not uncommon especially if you have been a competitive athlete in the past or have had a bunch of poorly balanced abdominal work prior to pregnancy. I would not panic but instead prepare. I would highly recommend that you do our Prenatal Core Training online program as it will retrain your core and alignment in the foundational strength and connecting required to start healing your DR now and keep it from worsening. In addition it will prepare your core and pelvic floor specifically for the rest of pregnancy, labor, delivery and birth recovery.

    In terms of swimming, I actually believe it can be the best form of exercise for you. The surface pressure of water mixed with the buoyancy basically eliminates the gravitational pull of being in that face down position. Plus it is an elongating and naturally core engaging sport. The key is to not flare your ribs or brace (bulge and bear down/out) on your tummy. The breathing will make so much more sense after Prenatal Core but basically you stay elongated, when you inhale you allow your tummy to naturally expand without completely letting it go and your focus on drawing the tummy in (while elongating) on every exhale. Sometimes if you have really tight pec/chest muscles and weak back muscles then you don’t fully extend your shoulders and get the rotation that is key to keeping good pelvic/rib cage alignment in swimming. So some gentle releases for your upper body and activation of your lower traps/lats can be key. We talk about this in our program too.

    I hope that helps. Thanks for reaching out.
    – Kelly

  7. Jess Visher says:

    Wow this was super helpful, thank you!

    Had a quick question that I can’t find the answer to: so I know how to activate my TVA and have been exercising that muscle for awhile now but I notice that when I stand in water (like a pool) and I draw in my TVA, my belly still feels soft. If I get out of the water and draw it in it’s hard. Is that normal? Or could I be doing it wrong all this time?

  8. TheTummyTeam says:

    Muscles feel different with the buoyancy of water so focus more on how you feel on the inside not on the outside, if that makes sense. And the transverse activation is less about tension and more about lengthening and a lighter more connected feeling. Sometimes tensing those stabilizer muscles actually causes your body to compensate with other muscles too.

  9. Zanne Massey says:

    Had a full DR with a 3 finger span at the center. Would “running” upright in the pool worsen the DR or help the TVA muscles to tone?
    A different way to approach the same question: If swimming (face down/up) elongates and activates TVA. Can upright walking/running motions in the pool assist in healing, or, hinder progress?

    Thank you. ZM.

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Actually upright water running can be great for core work as the natural water resistance requires you to activate your core. I think the multi-tasking of the core with the resistance will assist the healing process as long as you keep neutral pelvis/rib cage as the focus and resist the temptation to hold your breath or brace your tummy. Be intentional and it would be a great addition to your healing process.

  10. […] swimming, but how tight your chest muscles and your shoulder range of motion.  We have an entire video blog for swimmers out there concerned about negatively impacting their healing.  With diastasis recti […]

  11. […] swimming, but how tight your chest muscles and your shoulder range of motion.  We have an entire video blog for swimmers out there concerned about negatively impacting their healing.  With diastasis recti […]

  12. Emma gunn says:

    When I swim doing the breast stroke, I keep my head completely out of the water – am I still ok to swim with diastesis recti or does your advice regarding Breast stroke only apply if you lift your head in and out of the water?

    • Admin: Grace says:

      If you keep your head out of the water for the entire stroke really make sure you are keeping your chin tucked a bit so you don’t hyperextend your neck and therefore flare your ribs. Otherwise, yes the advice is the same. Keep your ribs knitted together to be sure you are keeping your core in the best alignment.

  13. Mariah Lenz says:

    Hello! I am four weeks postpartum from an Emergency C section with my beautiful daughter. Swimming is one exercise encouraged for women who have had a C section. I also have about a 6 fingertip gap with my Diastasis Recti, I have been a competitive swimmer my whole life, and even swam through pregnancy. I’m super nervous about getting back, because I know I will have to take it slow. Any tips or ideas of some stuff I should do before getting into the pool again?

    • Sierra Myers says:

      Hi Mariah! Great question. When considering going back into any kind of exercise, it is best to first rebuild your foundational core strength you need for everyday life. We have a wonderful Core Foundations course that I highly suggest taking. With this course, we help you close your diastasis and regain your inner core strength. As long as you maintain optimal form, staying elongated & your core activated (as Kelly goes over in this video), swimming is a great exercise to promote the closing of your diastasis. As you may have already learned, our Founder Kelly Dean, MPT is also a swimmer and has great suggestions regarding this. So if at any time you would like to speak to her face-to-face, we also offer eSessions. AND, be sure to keep an eye out for summertime deals we have this coming Monday! If you have any more questions, feel free to email us through our client form!

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