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Post-Natal Fitness: Part 1

By Bette Williams, RN, BSN, CCE, CPFI, CIME, CBC

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Pregnancy and the birthing process are a marathon, not a sprint. So consider yourself a marathoner, and your prize is a beautiful new baby! In between thoughts of feeding schedules, diaper changes, and lots of picture taking, many new mothers’ attentions turn to their weight – what is the best way to shed these extra pregnancy pounds? Not only will losing that baby weight give you a boost of self-esteem, you will reduce your risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and a whole host of other ailments that accompany being overweight. Plus, any good habits you set now will be in place for the life of your baby, starting them down the path of a lifetime of good health.

In addition to a balanced, healthy diet (which is especially essential if you are breastfeeding), exercise is the number one way to reduce post-pregnancy weight, but for the new mother, this can often seem like a difficult task. You may feel tired or be plagued with aches and pains. And since caring for a newborn is a full time job, finding time to workout can sound next to impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. A multitude of fitness choices are at your fingertips. Once your doctor approves you to begin an exercise and weight-loss program, it’s up to you to take that first step towards better health.

As with any exercise program, there are safety guidelines that should be followed, but new mothers have a few more:

Start slowly and increase your intensity gradually. Do at least a 5 minute warm up in the beginning and another 5 minute cool down at the end.
Stay hydrated! Drink at least 6-8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise.
Wear supportive gear. Sports bras, tights, and pregnancy belts provide extra support for new mothers during exercise. Some women may even need to wear two sports bras.
Be patient – it takes time to get back into shape. Don’t push yourself so hard that you become injured. Stop any activity that causes unusual pain or discomfort.
Use good posture, especially if you have problems with back pain.
• If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby prior to exercise to help ease discomfort.

A good fitness program should include cardiovascular, strengthening, and stretching components and should be done on a regular basis – at least 3 days a week. However, how you fit all of those components into your workout is up to you. Some gyms, churches, and community centers offer mother/baby fitness classes. If no classes are available in your area, you can get a good workout by walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, or using fitness DVDs, just for starters.

“But who will look after the baby?” I hear you asking. If you don’t have childcare available, there are many easy ways to fit your baby into your workout sessions. Strollers are a mother’s best friend. They can be pushed when walking or jogging (good for developing extra arm and abdominal strength) or pulled behind a bicycle (look for a model specifically designed for use with a bike). If you don’t have a stroller, fitness DVDs may be your answer. You can put baby nearby in a crib, car seat, or jumper seat while you exercise to the DVD. Then you can start and stop your workout to attend to the baby as needed. As your child gets older, they can even join you in exercising to the DVD, creating good habits and fun memories for both of you.

In my next article, I’ll discuss specific ways to do the stretching and strengthening aspects of your workouts at home, and I’ll even give you more ways that your new baby can join you in your workouts. Remember that good health is a choice we make everyday; your baby needs you to choose good health for the both of you.

For more information on post-natal exercise, call 463-0022 today!