How to Get Back into Shape After Pregnancy
Motherhood is life changing. There are so many experiences to cherish, such as giving birth, bringing your baby home, seeing your little one’s first smile and hearing their first coo. On the other hand, there are many physical challenges to deal with such as weight gain, sagging breasts, swollen ankles, stretch marks, back pain and thinner hair. These are all consequences of a normal pregnancy but they can stress some mothers who crave their pre-pregnancy body. If you are a new mom looking for ways to lose postpartum weight, this blog is for you. Here’s a guide from experienced personal trainers on how to get back into shape after child birth.
5 Tips to Get Back into Shape After Giving Birth
1) Give Yourself Time
Readers who have landed on this blog to get some solid fitness advice might be surprised to read this point. But the fact is immediately after giving birth is not always the best time to lose baby weight. Let your body return to its pre-pregnancy hormone levels. That means waiting for at least 8 to 12 weeks, or the time advised by your doctor, before restricting calories or exercising to lose weight.
2) Go for a 30-Minute Walk Every Day
Once your doctor clears you to start working out, begin with short walks. This is great exercise that provides moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on joints. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, after having a baby you should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This can be divided into 30-minute walks five days a week or into smaller 10-minute sessions throughout each day.
3) Eat Healthy Meals
Drastically cutting down calories when you are breastfeeding is a bad idea. In fact, breastfeeding itself helps you lose weight, as it uses up 300 to 500 calories a day. One of the best ways to lose weight safely is to eat healthy food instead of skipping meals. Eat five to six small meals a day with healthy snacks in between, rather than three larger meals. Breakfast is a must as it will give you the energy to start your day. Include foods with fibre and protein, like raw bell pepper or carrot, apple slices, peanut butter on a slice of whole-wheat toast or hard-boiled eggs. Choose low-fat dairy products and avoid fried foods, sweets/sugar, as well as saturated and trans fats as they contribute to weight gain.
4) Perform Kegels and Pelvic Tilts
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that supports organs such as the bladder and bowels. These aid urinary control, continence and sexual function. Since these muscles weaken after delivery, do exercises like Kegels and pelvic tilts to strengthen them. They help lower the risk of vaginal prolapse, increase blood supply to the perineum, give better bowel and bladder control, and improve recovery after childbirth. Here’s how to perform it.
A Kegel exercise is like pretending you have to urinate and then holding it. The exercise involves relaxing and tightening the muscles that control urine flow.
Ø Step 1: Make sure your bladder is empty and then sit or lie down.
Ø Step 2: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. (You can feel them if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet.)
Ø Step 3: Feel the muscles lift up as a result of the squeezing.
Ø Step 4: Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
Ø Step 5: Release the muscles and rest for 3-5 seconds.
Repeat 10 times, three times a day (morning, afternoon and night). Make sure you breathe deeply when doing these exercises. But don’t overdo it as it can lead to straining when you move your bowels or urinate.
(b) Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilt exercise helps strengthen your abdominals, stretches your lower back muscles and helps you recover after delivery.
Ø Step 1: Lie on your back in a neutral position with your knees bent.
Ø Step 2: Flatten your back by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly.
Ø Step 3: Tighten your gluteus and hip muscles as you tilt your pelvis forward.
Ø Step 4: Hold this position for five seconds.
Doing this exercise in five sets of 20 repetitions will help your spine get into the correct neutral position. You can join postpartum exercise classes near you or hire an in-home personal trainer to guide you and monitor your progress.
5) Do Basic Crunches
As mentioned above, regular exercise after you have a baby is necessary to strengthen and tone your muscles and get you back in shape. Apart from low-intensity workouts, go for basic crunches – but on one condition. Watch for a separation in your abdominals by placing your finger just above the belly button as you perform them. If you can get three or more fingers between your abs, you have abdominal separation or diastasis recti. This means your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened as a result of pregnancy. This condition can cause lower back pain, constipation and urine leakage. Doing crunches is a big no-no if you have diastasis recti. Consult a physician for treatment. However, if your abdominal muscles are not separated and you feel able to take further steps, a few crunches under the supervision of a personal trainer can strengthen your core.
- Get plenty of rest as disturbed sleep cycles can adversely affect metabolism which makes it hard to lose pregnancy weight.
- Consider some natural weight loss remedies such as green tea or taking lime and honey in water a couple of times a day. Eating a cabbage dish daily is low in calories and high in fibre.
- Do not rush into losing weight but do not be too relaxed either.
- Once your body adjusts to pelvic floor exercises, get into strength training and small bursts of cardio to burn the baby fat.
No matter how eager you are to lose pregnancy weight, your body should be given enough time to recuperate and restore its normal processes. Remember, weight may not fall off as quickly as you would like. You should not do activities that stress your joints just to get back in shape. Plus, pay close attention to the warning signs. Do you have abdominal pain, excessive bleeding and extreme shortness of breath? If not, your body is adjusting successfully to moderate exercise and you are on the right track.