Post Pregnancy Fitness: Lose Postpartum Pounds (cont.)

LEDDY: No, it's not too late to start. Exercising prior to conceiving and during the first trimester is most beneficial to mother and baby, research has shown. Yoga is a safe and effective exercise for pregnancy so yes, start yoga now. Your yoga instructor should be modifying moves as your pregnancy progresses. Your body will start to be conditioned for yoga moves, and you will be able to carry out your exercise regimen of yoga and walking throughout your whole entire pregnancy. Yoga will help tone your body, relax your mind, and reduce stress, which are all key components of a healthy and fit pregnancy.

Walking will help you increase your energy and stamina, combat depression, and prepare your body for the rigors of labor, as well as help heal your body faster after delivering.

MODERATOR: Do you recommend a specific pregnancy yoga class, or will most yoga instructors know how to help with a pregnant practitioner?

LEDDY: If you can find a prenatal yoga class, that's wonderful. If you can't, then ask the yoga instructor about his or her credentials and how familiar they are with pregnant women performing yoga. Ask them how they would treat and modify yoga routines for pregnant women. For example, one key is you should never lie on your back for a long period of time after the second trimester. This reduces blood flow to the mother and baby. Educate yourself on safe exercise for pregnant women so that you can also be an advocate for yourself.

MEMBER QUESTION: I had a C-section and am worried about my stomach muscles. Are they permanently damaged from the C-section? Can I do sit-ups and other abdominal exercises without hurting myself? Will they do any good if I can?


"Can I do sit-ups [after a C-section] without hurting myself?"

LEDDY: No, your muscles aren't permanently damaged. You can train them to be stronger and well toned after cesarean sections. For instance, I worked with a woman throughout her pregnancy who delivered for the second time by C-section. Upon delivering in the hospital, she was able to lift her torso off the bed so the nurses could change the sheets. The nurses were very impressed by her ability to do this. They asked if she exercised throughout her pregnancy and she said yes. She was also able to twist in her bed to pick up her infant lying next to her, which she was unable to do with her first pregnancy.

MEMBER QUESTION: I'm going to be a single parent and I also work 48 hours a week, what can I do to relax?

LEDDY: One thing you can try is during work seeing if you can take three 10-minute walks sometime throughout the day. For example, as soon as you get to work, take a walk around your building, if that's possible, for 10 minutes. Then at lunchtime, after eating or before eating, take another 10-minute walk. Before leaving for the day, take another 10-minute walk.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that accumulated exercise totaling at least 30 minutes each day improves a person's overall health. This means reducing stress, managing weight, preventing disease, and giving a person an overall sense of well-being.

Try this for up to six months. After six months you'll need to be creative with other ways to get exercise into your schedule, because your body will have become accustomed to this exercise regimen, and it will need to be challenged in order to continue reaping overall benefits from exercise.

MODERATOR: Thinking about this mom, who will be away from her baby for so long each day, it seems that exercising at home might take more time away from holding her baby. Can she do any exercises safely, besides walking, while using a baby sling or front pack? Or is that just asking for trouble?

LEDDY: Baby slings and front packs don't really support the baby's head and neck very well. For exercise-type walking a jogger stroller is your best bet; the kind that tends to hug the baby.

MEMBER QUESTION: Do any exercises help tone the skin and diminish stretch marks?

LEDDY: Exercise will help tone the overall body. It won't help with stretch marks. Saggy skin will most likely go back to being taut if you burn fat and perform strength-training exercises.

MEMBER QUESTION: How soon after delivery can I go back to spinning and aerobics?

LEDDY: Again, I would suggest you would start slowly after consulting with your doctor. If you gave birth vaginally the bike seat may not be too comfortable, especially if you had a traumatic vaginal birth, such as extreme tearing. If you gave birth vaginally or by C-section, you may attend classes four weeks after delivery. If there were complications, such as tearing, you may need to wait six to 10 weeks. Again, consult your doctor and don't push yourself in the beginning.

A good rule is to take exercise easy the first three months to condition your body back to the level it was before becoming pregnant. After three months you can push yourself a little bit more, making sure you are fully hydrated and eating well and that you are not fatigued, so that if you are breastfeeding, your milk supply will be full and not diminished.

Key things to look out for when exercising while breastfeeding are to make sure your urine looks very clear, which means you are well hydrated, and making sure your baby's growth is along normal, healthy lines each time you have a visit with your child's pediatrician.

MODERATOR: Are there any books or web sites you recommend for new moms who want to read up on fitness?

LEDDY: Yes. First of all, you can feel free to call me, free of charge. My number is (603) 566-8375.

I highly recommend a book titled Exercising Through Your Pregnancy , by James Clapp, III, MD, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Clapp is the leading authority when it comes to exercising throughout pregnancy and post-partum. I've done a lot of research on the topic and Dr. Clapp's clinical studies overwhelmingly pop up.

A web site you'd want to look up is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (acog.org). They can send you a pamphlet of information.



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