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Postpartum Fitness
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By Nawaz Modi Singhania  

Are you a young mum, looking to get back into shape fast post delivery? If so, you've come to the right place!

As you already know, it's only a combination of a sensible diet & exercise that's going to do the trick! But there's a huge grey area on when, how, what, & more…. So let's get a few things straight here.

You'll need a well-balanced combination of both cardio & resistance/ strength training in. Get 4-5 cardio sessions a week in, of about 40-50 minutes each, along with 2-3 30-40 minute sessions of strength/ resistance training per week. Preferably join a fitness centre & let the professionals tweak your workout for you, for maximum result & to ensure safety.

There are many do's & don'ts to postpartum fitness, & these will naturally be incorporated into your routine by your trainer.

Having said this, incase you'd like to workout on your own time at home, here are some exercises that are particularly relevant to the postpartum exerciser.

  1. Kegel exercises- to keep the pelvic floor firm & maintain control.
  2. Anterior tilt exercises- to counter a common postural deviation of pregnancy, lordosis, or the swayback, which the pregnant woman tends to unconsciously adopt in order to compensate for her changing centre of gravity due to additional weight around the mid-section. If not corrected, this leads to a back ache. Post delivery too, this is best continued for a while.
  3. Lower back stretches & strengthening exercises. The lower back is a common site of pain & discomfort during & post pregnancy. Keeping the back relaxed via stretching exercises, & strong via strengthening exercises can alleviate back pain & discomfort.
  4. Upper back stretches. One of the effects of lordosis (swayback) is that it throws the shoulders backward excessively, causing the upper back to ache & even cramp from time to time. Upper back stretches will ease the area out & get rid of any pain & discomfort.
  5. Quadricep strengtheners. It's important to keep the muscles in the front of the thighs very strong during & post pregnancy in order to help the knees (which are a weak joint essentially) cope with the extra postpartum weight.
  6. Hip toners. As many women spread out & sag at the hips during pregnancy, gluteal (butt muscle) exercises will help counter this problem.
  7. Abdominal exercises will help pull back & tighten your overstretched & sometimes sagging belly. If you've had a C-Section not too long ago, exercise caution when working those lower abs.

There are many specifications to the above. Workout preferably under adequate supervision, under a qualified prenatal fitness trainer's care.

Remember that every individual is different & what is/ isn't appropriate for each person may vary vastly.

Get postpartum medical clearance to exercise. Those who've had a C-Sec need to start exercise later than those who've had a normal delivery.

As in pregnancy, of particular importance postpartum is the increased intake of proteins, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, fibre & complex carbs, for feeding mothers. A qualified nutritionist or your obstetrician would be the best person to determine & quantify each individual's specific dietary needs.

Protein, the basic building block of growth, can be consumed in the form of fish, other seafood, poultry, eggs, meat, milk & milk products, soya, lentils & sprouts. A feeding mother requires 1,600 mg per day. It is usually recommended that part of this be consumed in the form of supplementation, & part from food.

Some iron-rich sources of food include dark meat of chicken, watermelon, strawberries, black raisins, spinach, dark green, & leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C will keep your immune system boosted, which tends to be at a low postpartum. Citrus fruits & Vitamin C tablets are usually recommended.

Eating small snacks at regular intervals right through the day, as opposed to 3 large meals & no snacking, will pull your weight back under control. Consuming complex carbs, such as rice, potatoes, vegetables & fruits will also do the same.

Cut back on the oils, sugars, pastries, the whites, mayonnaise, butter, & cream. Avoid anything which has an extended shelf-life. To extend the shelf-life of foods, oil, salt, preservatives or sugar will be added by manufacturers, all of which will lead to weight-gain, aside from the fact that it's unhealthy.

Never take supplements without consulting your medical practitioner.

NB- This article gives one general guidelines, but a qualified nutritionist & a Fitness Professional (in conjunction with your gynaec) would be the best persons to determine & quantify each individual's specific dietary & exercise requirements.

  1. Kegel exercises- to keep the pelvic floor firm & maintain control. These are the muscles that shut off the urine flow. Contract them while exhaling, hold for a few moments, & relax them while inhaling.
  2. Anterior tilt exercises- to counter a common postural deviation of pregnancy, lordosis, or the swayback, which the pregnant woman tends to unconsciously adopt in order to compensate for her changing centre of gravity due to additional weight around the mid-section. If not corrected, this leads to a back ache. Post delivery too, this is best continued for a while. Stand with your back against a wall, feet shoulder width apart & about 6 inches away from the wall. Press the mid back into the wall & tilt your pelvic forward while doing this. Hold this position for a few seconds while breathing normally, & then relax.
  3. Lower back stretches & strengthening exercises. The lower back is a common site of pain & discomfort during & post pregnancy. Keeping the back relaxed via stretching exercises, & strong via strengthening exercises can alleviate back pain & discomfort. An easy way to stretch the lower back out is to lie down on your back & then hug your knees into your chest. To strengthen the back, lie on your stomach with the arms extended up overhead. Lift the opposite arm & leg up by about 4” off the floor simultaneously while exhaling & lower while inhaling. Switch the arm & leg. Ensure that the legs remain totally straight when doing this exercise, & that when lifting, it is done straight up & not at a diagonal.
  4. Upper back stretches. One of the effects of lordosis (swayback) is that it throws the shoulders backward excessively, causing the upper back to ache & even cramp from time to time. Upper back stretches will ease the area out & get rid of any pain & discomfort. A simple way to do this would be to hug yourself really tight, rounding the shoulders inward & trying to walk the fingers as close to your spine as possible.
  5. Quadricep strengtheners. It's important to keep the muscles in the front of the thighs very strong during & post pregnancy in order to help the knees (which are a weak joint essentially) cope with the extra postpartum weight. Squats & lunges are a good way to do this.
  6. Hip toners. As many women spread out & sag at the hips during pregnancy, gluteal (butt muscle) exercises will help counter this problem. Back lunges are a great way to tone up the butt.
  7. Abdominal exercises will help pull back & tighten your overstretched & sometimes sagging belly. If you've had a C-Section not too long ago, exercise caution when working those lower abs. Modified sit-ups, crunches & reverse curls are good exercises to begin with.

On all of the above strengthening exercises, begin by doing 2 sets of 10-12 reps. Regarding the stretches, hold each stretch for 20-40 seconds while breathing normally.

For a large variety of prenatal & postnatal fitness classes, pilates hub & gym sessions, contact the writer's centre, Body Art on 022 2380- 5929/ 2380- 2602.

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