Q: I’m worried about getting muscle tone back in my stomach. What exercises should I do after my baby’s born, and is there anything I can do in pregnancy?
A: During pregnancy, your stomach muscles support your growing baby and keep your lower back muscles safe from stress. From the second trimester, you’ll have to avoid basic abdominal exercises (lying on your back), but ‘cat curls’ (targeting abdominals) and ‘superman’ (strengthening lower back and core muscles) can still be done. Then, after the birth (usually six weeks later for a ‘normal’ delivery and 12 weeks for a Caesarean section), start exercises such as pelvic tilts, sit-ups and waist exercises when you feel capable. By this point, I doubt tummy exercises will occupy your every thought!
Q: I want to get in to a regular exercise routine after my baby is born, and it would be much more convenient to do something that will also include mu son or daughter. What activities can we do together that will be safe for a newborn baby?
A: The key is to begin slow and steady. The basic guidelines for returning to exercise after the birth are 6 weeks for a natural birth and 12 weeks for a c-section. However, you should make sure you get the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife first.
The simplest exercise to begin with is walking. From a gentle stroll with a pram through to a brisk walk (add some hills for extra bonus points) with your baby in a sling, walking is one of the most effective low-impact forms of fat-burning, cardiovascular exercise. Depending on where you live, you might be lucky enough to find a qualified postnatal exercise teacher who is holding classes for new mums like yourself (I used to run some!). These classes would be specifically tailored towards not only your initial needs, but also with all the important safety and health factors of being a new mum considered. You will be able to bring your baby along and get to meet other new mothers in the process. Otherwise, have a look for a local yoga class along the same lines.
If these options aren’t practical I would suggest investing in some fitness DVDs (either simple aerobics or yoga) and setting aside 20 minutes a day to exercise at home. Your baby will find it fascinating to watch you in varied positions, and you will find that you can adapt a lot of the exercises to do with your little one on the floor next to you/ Remember that you don’t have to do the whole DVD (just do a quick warm up first), and you can always forward to the required section. Charity shops are a great place to pick up a multitude of DVDs at a bargain price!