The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 30, 2000

Back into shape after baby
By Anup Deb Nath

GETTING back into shape after the birth of a baby is a scary thought for most women. No matter how slim, fit and active you are before you conceive your baby, it is almost always a hard and long road back to the shape you were in.

One of the biggest drawbacks is possibly the fact that in India most of the women are encouraged to "eat for two" while they are pregnant. This is not really needed as long as you are eating a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet and getting all the vitamins that are essential during this period. Often women eat extra with the mistaken idea that they will give birth to a robust, bouncing baby. Unfortunately, often the majority of the weight put on is by the mother herself.

Another reason why extra weight gets added on and losing it after the baby’s birth is so difficult is that very little exercise, if any, is encouraged. The fear of something going wrong makes most women stay put. That, in turn, means the muscles of the entire body go out of shape.

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Walking every day is enough to get back your muscle toneNo matter how strong the desire to get into shape, it certainly does not mean that you should go for a jog or start an aerobics class while you are pregnant. Simply going for a walk every day and staying active right through your pregnancy, as long as there are no complications or doctor’s orders to the contrary, are often adequate.

Trying to get back into shape after the baby’s birth has certain problems, and a lower level of energy is one of them. Exercise is the best way though of trying to get your body back into shape . It should be started gently and built up gradually, giving your body at least nine months to get back into the shape you were earlier.

How soon should one start exercising after the baby’s birth? It is something that differs from person to person and it is best to take your doctor’s advise on it. Ideally, it is recommended that you should start exercising as soon as you feel strong enough as the muscles are most responsive when they are healing. However you should remember that weight put on during pregnancy is mostly lost rather slowly. With the correct approach and a little time it will certainly go.

There are some areas of the body where more weight is gained during pregnancy as well as where the loss of muscle tone is the maximum. These are obviously the areas that are most directly associated with the expansion that takes place during the baby’s growth.

The stomach, hips, thighs and the pelvic region and rib cage are the more affected parts of the body. During pregnancy, the muscles in these parts of the body tend to get stretched. Often as physical activities are restricted the muscles in the other parts of the body also lose their tone.

There are exercises that can be done safely at home and ensure that you get back into shape. These will help strengthen the stretched muscles as well as the under used muscles as well as help get the organs in the abdominal cavity back into position again.

Before starting any exercise, though, it is best to ask your doctor’s advise as to when you should start exercising as well as which exercises you should try to do.

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet lying flat and your hands on your thighs. Pull in your abdominal muscles and raise your head and shoulders slightly all the while slide your hands slowly along your thighs towards your knees. Slowly slide your hands back and return to the ground. Repeat 10-12 times,gradually increasing the number to 24.

2. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Stretch your arms out to either side with the palm facing up and the hands at hip level. With your arms straight lift up your left arm and try to touch your right hand on the ground while you raise your head to look to the right. Repeat on the other side. Start with 8-10 and as you feel comfortable increase the repetitions to 24.