I Want My Body Back! Our easy-does-it guide to getting you back into shape, by Health Editor Radhika Holmstrom.
If you’re gazing at your pre-pregnancy wardrobe with longing, wondering when you’ll be able to downsize from your maternity jeans, you’re not alone. “Your body goes through an enormous amount of change during pregnancy,” says Mervi Jokinen of the Royal College of Midwives. “Your pelvis has changed and it’s slightly larger, your muscles have been stretched and there’s more softness around your body.” Theold saying “nine months up, nine months down” is pretty sensible, when you really think about it…
So don’t despair – and definitely don’t try crazy crash dieting, as you need all the energy you can get at this stage! But do start getting active. You may not be fully up to it until your six-week check-up, depending on how your labour and delivery went but it’s an excellent idea to get out of the house and get moving.
Even if you were quite athletic before your pregnancy, be realistic about what your body can do early on. Apart from anything, you’re still quite likely to have pregnancy hormones in your system, softening your ligaments (especially if you’re breastfeeding), and you’re definitely likely to be more exhausted!
Make some practical plans, too. If you’re breastfeeding, feed the baby before you go out – and invest in a seriously supportive bra. And without getting too personal, if your pelvic floor’s still a little, er, undependable, you might want to prepare for that eventuality too!
Hold it Firm
Some forms of exercise home in on those ‘core muscles’ that hold you in and tighten up your tummy; Pilates is an obvious example (and it’s great) but it’s not the only option. Along with the ‘hot new craze’ activities (see next page), some long-standing favourites like aqua aerobics are terrific belly-flatteners too. And don’t forget that pelvic floor exercises work that core too; pull your tummy in, draw up your pelvic floor and while you’re at it pull in your bottom muscles as well…and it’s a win-win in every direction.
Get Together With Others
One of the big advances in the past decade has been the boom in exercise classes for new mums, from post-natal Pilates classes to pramming in the park. It’s a great way to meet local people in a non-pressured way – you’ve all
got something in common, but at the same time the focus isn’t just on the baby! So check out noticeboards in the park, library, cafés and baby-equipment shops. Anywhere where mummies gather, in fact, is a good place to look.
…Or Go Solo
On the other hand, if you’re finding that taking life moment by moment is quite enough for you at present, spare yourself the extra strain of having to turn up on time for a class and just get moving on your own. A power-walk with the buggy doesn’t have to be scheduled; just grab the baby and go!
Head Into The Green
Finally, do try to get outside in a bit of green space. Exercise is great for your mental as well as your physical health. Even if you’re totally blissed-out with your new arrival, this is a pretty emotional time, when you’re likely to feel the lows as keenly as the highs. And research from the University of Exeter has found that just five minutes of exercising in nature can start lifting your mood – so getting to the local park, even at this time of year, is an excellent idea.
Do Try This At Home…the hottest fitness trends across London
What is it? Exercising as hard as you can for four minutes per day. That’s it? Well according to fans, it can be any kind of aerobic exercise – skipping, cycling, squats etc. done in 20-seconds bursts with 10 seconds’ rest in between.
Is it suitable? Any exercise will have a benefit but you might not keep this up.
Best to avoid if: You have high blood pressure or heart problems, and for a few months after birth.
What is it? A mixture of physiotherapy, massage, breathing and yoga poses. Fizzy, or Physiyoga, is about strengthening the body. And with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge rumoured to have taken ante-natal yoga, it’s a good all-rounder.
Is it suitable? It’s gentle but intense stretching helps strengthen your body.
Best to avoid if: It’s one of the safest forms of exercise, so go for it!
What is it? The dance fitness craze teamed with Latin music. Easy choreography blends aerobic and dance steps in a workout,which is claimed to burn up to 1,000 calories per hour!
Is it suitable? Previous dance experience is not required, and with no age limit, it is suitable for pretty much everyone.
Best to avoid if: For the first 12 weeks after giving birth if possible.
What is it? Kelly Osbourne and other celebs use hula hooping to target tums and waists. Start with a weighted hoop – easier to keep going than a flimsy one. Work up to ten minutes a day, and swap directions often.
Is it suitable? Yes, and can be enjoyed in the privacy of your own home too.
Best to avoid if: You have chest pain or dizziness when doing any kind of physical exercise.
What is it? The new version of pirouettes and pliés, barretone is a workout based on ballet moves that stretch and tone, with fantastic results. Fans include Miranda Kerr and even Mick Jagger.
Is it suitable? It can increase wellbeing and alleviate pregnancy-related conditions. It redefines muscle tone and can help you lose weight.
Best to avoid if: The doctor has ordered you to