Getting back in shape after pregnancy isn’t always easy, but with good exercise and nutrition habits the pounds will come off and your fitness will return.
It’s no secret that our culture is obsessed with body image. With celebrities constantly posting selfies of their fabulous post-baby bodies, you may begin to wonder why your own pregnancy weight isn’t coming off that fast. (Hint: It may not be just genetics and willpower. Perhaps you don’t have the personal trainers, nutritionists and nannies that make it possible to maintain a single-minded focus on becoming fit and lean again.)
Getting back in shape isn’t just a matter of vanity, though. If you’re like most women, you want to be fit and healthy, and that usually means returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and form within a reasonable amount of time after giving birth. The goal is to lose the weight gradually and safely, following healthy habits that you’ll be able to maintain over the long term.
Swimming can definitely help, as it offers a great cardio workout that burns calories, boosts your metabolism and tones all the major muscle groups. Because of the water’s density, every movement gives your body a resistance workout, shaping and toning while building lean muscle.
The number of calories you burn while swimming varies greatly (based on factors such as your weight, stroke style and swimming intensity) but generally ranges from somewhere around 400 calories per hour for an easy swim to nearly twice that for a hard effort. To lose a pound you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you take in. You don’t want to drop the extra weight too suddenly, especially if you’re breastfeeding, but losing 1 or 2 pounds a week won’t affect the quantity or quality of milk you produce. Ideally, once your doctor gives you the all clear to start swimming, you should work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise on most days.
While an exercise program is important in helping you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight and fitness level, there are other things you can do to help the process along as well:
– Make healthy eating a priority. You can reduce your calorie intake to lose weight, but don’t go on a crash diet; just eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Be sure to allow yourself occasional treats. If you feel constantly deprived you won’t be able to sustain the change over the long term. Minimize temptation by keeping healthy snacks like fruit and nuts on hand to make it easier to avoid junk food when the munchies strike.
– Drink mostly water. Liquid calories don’t make you feel full, but the calories in sugary drinks can add up quickly. Replacing other drinks with water can sometimes feel like less of a sacrifice than reducing the amount of food you eat, and sugary drinks contain mostly empty calories that your body is better off without anyway.
– Breastfeed. While losing weight is certainly not the most important reason to breastfeed your baby, it does burn about 300 to 500 calories per day.
– Incorporate as much movement as possible into your daily activities. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk wherever you can (or at least park a bit farther from your destination), play vigorously with your dog or older children, or clean the house energetically. Every bit of activity helps!
Do you have any other good tips to share with new mums looking to get back in shape?
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