Exercises for just-moms

Getting rid of post-pregnancy fat needs a lot of commitment and determination, but the result will make all your efforts seem worthwhile

Exercises for just-momsIt's a pretty tough challenge being a new mom. And, often the motivation to get moving and back into shape can go kaput amidst frequent feedings, diaper changing and caring for the rest of the family. Exercise is something usually forgone in your sleep-deprived life.

But, if you are determined to get back into shape with regular exercise you'll be glad that you jumped up and got things under control instead of saying "Gosh, only if I would have just started earlier I'd be where I want by now."

Why exercise?

Exercise should be a priority - especially during this period of your life - as it is important to re-educate the muscles that have become weak during pregnancy. Exercise not only boosts the metabolism, but also provides you with energy to deal with life more effectively, giving you time to relieve mental stress and body tension.

Regular exercise will:

  • Increase your metabolic rate
  • Shape and tone your body
  • Re-educate muscles that have become weak or lazy during the last nine months
  • Provide a great outlet for stress.

How soon after delivery can you start exercising?

According to the American Collage of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, you can start exercising as soon as you feel you are ready. If you had a delivery with no complications, your doctor will probably advise you to resume certain exercises immediately, such as Kegel exercises. The pelvic floor muscles are traumatised during delivery. Resuming Kegels are important as this will help the healing process of the pelvic floor.

After your six-week postpartum check-up, you will gradually be able to get back to your regular exercise routine based on your personal capacity.

Should you favour certain exercises over others?

If you have exercised right until delivery, you can safely perform low- to-moderate intensity exercises such as walking, strength-training exercises and stretches. Include aerobic activity for at least 20 minutes everyday to burn calories. In addition you can do modified abdominals crunches, back exercises, upper and lower body exercises and kegels to firm-up your post-baby body.

Diastasis Recti, which is partial or complete separation of the abdominal muscle is common during the third trimester and immediately postpartum. Before progressing to abdominal exercises, make sure the gap in your abdominal muscle narrows to only one to two finger widths. Otherwise you could impede abdominal healing.

What is the best time to exercise?

Always exercise after nursing your baby. Research suggests that if a mother attempts to breastfeed immediately after vigorous exercise, the baby might be disinclined to the feed. The distaste for breast milk [due to accumulation of lactic acid] passes in about 30-60 minutes after the workout.

If you've never exercised, but would like to get back in shape, what should you do?

If you are a newcomer to fitness, exercise progression should be gradual and monitored. Remember, your ligaments and joints are relatively weak and loose for about 3-5 months after delivery. So, be careful with your movements to avoid injury.

What is the best way to lose weight?

A combination of healthy eating and regular exercise is the best way to lose weight. A sensible goal would be to lose one kg in 2-3 weeks.

How long can it take to get back to pre-pregnancy shape?

It depends on individual time, metabolism, commitment and determination to get back in shape. It could take from six months to one year. Above all, you have to be careful not to strain your body, or limit your calorie intake too much during this time. Though you need to get back in shape, you need to stay healthy too.

Remember what you've just been through.

Don't be hard on yourself about your post baby shape. You're looking exactly how you should be. Research has shown that if you accept and understand weight gain after pregnancy your results will be quicker.

Work out at home.

Get some home exercise videos. The good thing here is that when the baby naps you can put the DVD and get few minutes of exercise.

Push the stroller.

Get moving. Even it's just pushing the stroller around the block.

Don't think of your exercise programme as something you have to do.

Find an exercise form that you enjoy and that you will do on a continual basis because it makes you feel good.

Reward yourself for sticking with it.

Treat yourself to new clothes, a massage... something that you look forward to. It's a victory every time you watch your size getting smaller or you feel fitter and more energetic.

Exercise options

Here are a few exercises that will help you get back to shape after having a baby.

Kegels

Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for a slow count of 10, and then relax them. [Try stopping the flow of urine - that is tightening or contracting the pelvic floor muscles]. You can do this even when you are sitting at the desk, in the car or doing just about anything. Try to do four sets of 25 contractions a day.

Isometric abdominal contractions

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Take a deep breath in, and exhale as you tighten the abdominal muscle by pulling your belly button into the floor. Inhale as you release. Do 12-16 counts.

Back extension

Lie on your stomach and place your hands on your lower back. Lift your upper body off the floor. Keep your eyes on the floor and your chin in a relaxed position. Slowly return to starting position. Do 12-16 counts.

Squats

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding dumbbells in your hands. Keep your back straight and bend your knees to about 90-degree, allowing your body to slightly lean forward until it is at right angles with your thighs. Return to starting position. Do 12 counts.

Modified push-ups

Place your hands directly under your shoulders and keep your fingers pointing forwards and your back straight. Your knees should be rested on the mat, and then, slowly lower your upper body bringing your chest close to the floor, and then return to start position. Do 12-16 counts.

Calf lifts

Stand with your heels off the edge of a step or a bench. Now, slowly raise yourself up on your toes [tensing your calf muscle] and then lower down. Do 12-16 counts.

Cat-camel stretch

Come up on all fours [with your palms and knees resting on a mat]. Arch your back [like a cat] and hold for 10 seconds, round your back [like the hump of a camel] and hold for 10 seconds. Do this 3-5 times.

Hamstring and calf stretch

Lie on a mat or carpet, bend one leg and place it on the floor. On the arch of the other leg wrap a towel. Hold the ends of the towel and straighten the leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Switch legs.

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Namita Jain
Namita Jain is a Mumbai-based certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight management Consultant from the American Council on Exercise [ACE] and certified Health and Fitness Instructor from the American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]. She is the Founder of LiveActive, a wellness company that delivers effective and holistically designed wellness programmes based on individual needs.

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