Keeping your figure through pregnancy

Many mums-to-be stress about losing their hard-won body shape during pregnancy. Our exercise guru points you in the right direction for having a healthy, active pregnancy

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Yoga is also a good choice to keep you fit in pregnancy

Q: I seem to have put on lots of weight around my hips and bum, so I am looking hugely pear-shaped with my 7 month baby bump! What can I do to target this extra weight?

A: Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to spot-reduce fatty bits – where you put on weight is simply down to genetics and, as with many women, this does tend to be around the hip and bum area. The only way to lose this fat is through healthy eating and exercise (try aerobic exercise to help burn off fat and toning work to define the muscles).

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However, it is not advisable to start worrying about weight at this point in your life! You will have plenty of time to lose pregnancy pounds after the birth, and in the meantime you can work on toning up the muscles in your lower half so that you come out of the pregnancy feeling toned, taut and with a little extra energy to boot! Concentrate on ‘lifestyle’ exercise. Walk everywhere.

Q: I was the proud owner of a flat stomach before I got pregnant, and I’ll do anything to get it back after the birth! Are there exercises I can do while pregnant to keep my tummy toned or is it a matter of starting from scratch once the baby arrives?

A: If your flat stomach was due to strong abdominal muscles and not just lucky enough to have a naturally flat tummy, then it is good news! Toned abdominals will see you through pregnancy, helping you support the growing bump with more ease than most and protect your lower back muscles from the increased workload placed upon them. You will also probably find that your bump looks more compact and supported than some!

There are quite a few exercises that you can do whilst pregnant and these will make a difference after the birth, too. For the first trimester, carry on as normal with crunches and basic sit ups. I also strongly recommend reinforcing abdominal work with ‘back extensions’ to strengthen the lower back (which will be coming under a lot of stress).

After the first trimester, any exercise which involves lying on your back is best avoided. However, several exercises, though not as taxing as your usual routine, will still make a difference. Firstly, ‘cat curls’ involve starting on all fours, hands in line with shoulders, knees in line with hips. Now try to mimic a stretching cat – dropping the head and rounding the back, while using your abdominal muscles to pull your baby bump in and towards you. Return to a flat back slowly, carefully using the abdominals to control the movement. Repeat this 10 – 15 times and then rest. Follow this up with ‘Superman’, which will strengthen the lower back and work your ‘core muscle’ group. From the basic all fours position, lift the right arm and the left leg at the same time, lengthening through the fingertips and toes, feeling your spine lengthen and stretch. Return slowly to the ground and repeat with the left arm and right leg. Alternate sides for about 10 to 20 reps, then rests again.

Just remembering to pull your tummy muscles in and towards you and walking with as perfect posture as you can manage, will make a big difference. Doing these exercises with all my pregnancies resulted in my tummy returning more or less to normal fairly quickly. Strong abdominals meant I also did not look as ‘big’ as most women during pregnancy, and I had to put up with a lot of comments about my ‘small’ bump. Just ignore them, please, and feel happy about your hard work paying off.

Q: I was extremely active before becoming pregnant. I am now 10 weeks pregnant and have stopped going to the gym, but I’m very worried about losing the figure that I’ve worked so hard to get. What exercise can I safely do, and how long will it take to get my figure back?

A: There is no reason why you should give up working out in a gym. This can be safely done all the way through each trimester with some basic alterations to suit energy levels and safety factors. Jogging is a grey area. It is purely up to personal choice. I chose to stop, but I have friends who continued running into their third trimester. Swimming is perfect, as being submerged in water keeps the exercise totally low impact and it works every muscle group. As long as you don’t decide to take up any high-risk sports, the world of fitness is still your oyster. I would recommend a combination of gym, swimming, speed walking (make sure your heart rate does not go above 140 beats per minute for safety’s sake, by investing in a heart rate monitor) and something new like antenatal yoga. If you are unsure about any exercise, talk it over with your GP first.

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As for getting your figure back, this can be a hard question to answer. You are going through a period in life where Mother Nature is taking over and it’s best to listen to her! It is very important to take time to come to terms with this and try and enjoy your pregnancy. Your pre-baby fitness levels will come to the fore after the birth and you will find it reasonably easy to get back into shape. It may take some effort but it will be worth it in the end.

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