For mere mortals not genetically built to snap back into our size 10, 12 or whatever, the months after having a baby can be a heady mix of bonding, feeding, sleeping (or not), and often vain attempts to lose the excess weight. Here’s our overview of suitable postnatal exercises options to lose it the healthy way.
For the best chances of losing weight healthily and safely after birth, good habits should begin during pregnancy. Dr Jasmine Mohd, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at WC Cheng & Associates at Thomson Medical Centre, suggests, as a rough gauge, a weight gain of between 11kg and 15kg during the pregnancy.
“Weight gain should be gradual over the course of the pregnancy; an average of 1kg to 2 kg per month. If you gain a large amount, say 4kg to 5kg over a few weeks in the third trimester, I would suggest checking for pre-eclampsia – pregnancy-related high blood pressure that causes significant water retention.”
Dr Jasmine recommends eating healthily, taking no more than an extra 300 to 400 calories a day, avoiding foods with empty calories such as fast food, anything deep-fried, oily, or containing excessive amounts of cheese, sugar or cream, and opting for more fruit, vegetables and lean protein.
“Regular exercise three times a week or so should moderate the weight gain, for example gym work with resistance machines, swimming, brisk walking, yoga or Pilates.”
Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause the mother to develop gestational diabetes, which in turn can result in very large babies and a higher likelihood of caesarean sections.
Before you start your weight loss plan…
Don’t start too soon. Give your body time to recover from giving birth, and allow yourself time to get used to being mum to a newborn, whether it’s for the first or fifth time.
Take it slowly, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Restricting your diet can affect your milk supply.
Don’t set yourself unattainable goals: be realistic. For many of us, our post-pregnancy body will never quite match our pre-pregnancy shape, so it’s important to embracing what we end up with.
Only embark on an exercise plan after you have received your obstetrician’s blessing. The next step is deciding what kind of fitness programme will suit you. For first-time mums, group exercise can be an ideal way to lose the weight and make some new friends in the process. These types of classes often encourage you to bring your baby along, and some even incorporate the stroller into the exercise programme.
Owner of Ooberfit, Sam Blakey, currently runs two Baby Boot Camp classes in the Botanic Gardens, on Monday and Friday mornings. She focuses on a 30-second active period, followed by a 30-second rest period, carried on throughout a one-hour session. “Having a small group of six to eight people allows me to work the mums at their own level, slowly building their fitness levels and areas such as their abdominals.”
Hayley Andersen, an Ooberfit client and mum to one-year-old Harry, started Baby Bootcamp six months ago. “I joined eight weeks after arriving here from the UK, and was looking to lose some weight, to get fitter and stronger. At first I attended once a week, as that was all I could manage, but later I went twice a week. Harry sits and watches us jumping around, and it’s been a great way to make friends. I’m now at my pre-baby weight, and I’m building up my strength, which had been quite low since I had Harry.”
Group Exercise (see a larger guide to fitness bootcamps here)
Bloom n Fit’s Strolltastic classes in the Botanic Gardens are a chance to get fit, lose weight, tone up and have fun with your baby and like-minded mums. Workouts include cardio, body resistance and resistance band circuits.
Ozfit offers a wide range of classes, including SheFit, exclusively for women, in the Botanic Gardens and at a new location in Bishan Park. The classes combine plenty of cardio, interval, strength and resistance band training to build long and lean muscles.
UFIT runs its Mums and Bubs bootcamp-style class on Monday mornings in the Botanic Gardens. It also runs other bootcamps in locations such as Holland Village and Fort Canning, and has recently introduced more indoor classes.
The personal approach (see more personal trainers here)
If the thought of a group session is enough to have you reaching for another slice of cake, personal training sessions could be the answer. “One-to-one sessions ensure proper monitoring of progress and execution of exercises,” says personal trainer Kevin Chiak. “They also allow for a more tailored programme that is critical to progress and safety, particularly as new mothers’ fitness levels can be affected during pregnancy.” Although Kevin will happily carry out home sessions, he recommends gym visits to make the most of your programme. “Included in the training fees is the use of our well-equipped gym on Joo Chiat Road, where you will learn more skills with the equipment.”
Kevin recommends three one-hour sessions a week as ideal, but also notes that success will come if four main criteria are satisfactorily met: intensity, frequency, type of exercise and diet. Most of Kevin’s exercises for new mums will not exceed an exertion level of 7 out of 10, and weight-bearing exercises will be restricted to 20 to 25 repetitions. “Most will be isolation exercises to concentrate on the hot spots, namely hips, legs, upper back and triceps, but all other body parts will be worked out too.”
Importantly, Kevin advises all clients to manage their expectations, and not be too ambitious. “Baby steps should be advocated so that the client does not feel too much stress, which would get in the way of the fitness regime.”
Feel the Burn: In one minute, you could burn…
Push ups: 6 calories (done moderately)
Jogging: 8 calories
Jumping jacks: 10 calories (vigorously)
Kettlebell training: 20 calories in a minute of Kettlebell swinging, according to personal trainer Alvin Francis Fok of Alvin Fitness. It provides high-intensity, interval-style training, and is an effective way to lose fat.
(All calorie counts are estimated and depend on individual weight.)
Turning to technology
Sometimes, no matter how stringent the diet and exercise plan it’s still hard to shift weight from specific areas of the body. For many women, these are the stomach, thighs and buttocks, which can be altered noticeably by pregnancy. The HYPOXI method is a studio-based exercise programme using equipment that focuses on a combination of compression, vacuuming and fat burning. It encourages blood supply to the lower part of the body, where trouble spots can be targeted and fat burnt.
The equipment is safe for new mums, but the Dermology machine is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers: it applies high and low pressure to the skin, which could affect milk supply. The studio carries out a body analysis before you start the programme, and ensures you have clearance from your doctor.
“This is for anyone interested in reducing the size of their stomach, waist and buttocks,” says studio manager Margaret Cermak. “They’ve usually done what they can at home, and now it’s time for them to come to us and kick-start things again.”
Studio trainer, Tanya Strinich, is a mother of three children who used the HYPOXI method after her second and third pregnancies before she began working for the company. “I was one of those people who would put on 25kg during pregnancy, and although I’d lost the bulk of the weight after my second, I was getting frustrated and finding that gym work only helped up to a certain point. I also found I had a tummy that I didn’t have with my first, and I had saddlebags from hell. Using HYPOXI helped reduce my waist, stomach and thighs, and I recently bought a pair of jeans without realising they were two sizes smaller than I used to fit into.”