You’ll probably get a shock when you look into the mirror, post-delivery, and notice that your tummy hasn’t “snapped” back into place.
“It’s normal to look six months’ pregnant for a few weeks after giving birth,” explains Zana Morris, nutritionist and founder of The Library Gym, a private members’ training club in the UK. “After birth, your womb is 15 times bigger than it was pre-pregnancy and it takes six weeks to return to its normal size.”
She notes, “Your body releases the relaxin hormone during pregnancy to loosen your joints and help your baby pass through the birth canal. This means your ribcage and hips widen.”
Try doing the following exercises for 10 minutes daily. Or take a brisk walk. The more you walk, the faster you’ll get, the further you’ll go, and the more fat you’ll burn!
1. SLOW SQUATS This is the most effective move to tone your stomach.
HOW TO DO IT Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent and hands on your hips. Slowly lower yourself into an almost-seated position. Hold for a few seconds. Slowly return to the start position and repeat. Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulders back and tummy tight at all times.
For maximum effectiveness, use your abdominal muscles to do as much of the work as possible, particularly as you move from the sitting to an upright position. You should feel as if you are lifting your tummy up, rather than using your leg muscles to stand up.
IF YOU’RE A NEW MUM Only squat as low as you feel is easy. Hold this position for a few seconds. Start with a few squats and build up.
IF YOU’RE SIX MONTHS OR MORE, POST-BIRTH Go lower. The closer your bottom is to the floor, the harder your muscles will work. Hold a small weight in each hand. Spend four minutes doing slow squats: Perform squats for one minute, rest for 30 seconds, do another minute of squats, rest for 30 seconds, then do a final minute of squats.
“After birth, your womb is 15 times bigger than it was pre-pregnancy and it takes six weeks to return to its normal size.”
2. THE STOMACH RETRACTION This yoga-based exercise is great for tightening your tum and cinching in your waist.
HOW TO DO IT Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees slightly bent. Place hands on your hips and push elbows forward slightly. Take a deep breath, then exhale. Don’t inhale until after you’ve completed the next move. Pull the part of your tummy just under your ribcage in. Hold for a few seconds. Then breathe normally.
For maximum effectiveness, aim to produce a deep concave shape in your abdomen, right from your ribcage to your pelvis. Relax your muscles between retractions.
IF YOU’RE A NEW MUM Hold for a split second. Start with a few retractions, slowly building up to doing more over the next few weeks.
IF YOU’RE SIX MONTHS OR MORE, POST-BIRTH Suck those muscles in. Do it fully and you’ll feel a tightness in your throat. Spend two minutes doing stomach retractions. It’s important that you get your breath back between each move, but reduce these rest periods as your muscles strengthen. Start with five to 10 retractions with long rest periods, gradually building up to 20.
3. THE PELVIC TILT This exercise is good for strengthening your lower stomach muscles.
HOW TO DO IT Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Place hands — palm down — flat on the floor on either side of your hips. Think about, and tighten, your stomach muscles, including your pelvic floor. Using your abdominal muscles, tilt your pelvis upwards. You should feel as if you are tucking your bottom in and pushing it upwards. You don’t need to lift it off the floor — simply tilting it will work the muscles sufficiently. Return to the start position and repeat.
For maximum effectiveness, keep your chin lifted away from your chest. Look up to the ceiling before starting each tilt.
IF YOU’RE A NEW MUM Take it slowly. Rest between each tilt. Start with a few tilts and build up. Your stomach muscles are very weak, so be careful not to use your lower back muscles instead.
IF YOU’RE SIX MONTHS OR MORE, POST-BIRTH Work those muscles by imagining you are pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Once you’ve mastered the technique, lift one heel off the floor as you do the pelvic tilt. Alternate heels with each tilt to work both sides of your body equally. Spend four minutes doing pelvic tilts: Perform tilts for one minute, rest for 30 seconds, do another minute of tilts, rest for 30 seconds, then do a final minute of tilts.
That’s your toning done, but what about cardio? Click on…
Need cardio? Walk it out
It’s safe to start brisk walking after you’ve had your six-week postnatal check, says Emma Redding, personal trainer and member of The Guild of Postnatal Exercise Teachers and founder of buggyfit.co.uk, which runs outdoor exercise sessions for pre- and postnatal mums in the UK. Begin with a 10-minute walk, then build up to 30 minutes over a few weeks.
Did you know that you burn 222 calories during a half-hour brisk walk pushing a stroller? That means 1,554 calories burnt in a week!
How should you walk?
Start each walk slowly and gradually increase your pace. As you progress, aim for your heel to hit the ground first, then roll onto your toe.
“Maintain your posture to strengthen the muscles stretched and weakened during pregnancy,” Redding says.
If your pace dips, try accelerating for 100m or so, perhaps using the benches in a park as markers. Did you know that you burn 222 calories during a half-hour brisk walk pushing a stroller? That means 1,554 calories burnt in a week!
If you’re using a stroller, adjust the handlebars to waist height. Keep shoulders back and down, chest out, spine long and bottom tucked under as you push. This posture is important if you’re breastfeeding, as you’ll be carrying more weight in your bust area. Avoid taking a child on a buggy board, as this makes you walk with your bottom sticking out.
How will you benefit?
When you push a stroller at 5.6kmh, you increase your calorie burn by 20 per cent, compared to walking without one at the same speed. Build up to 30 minutes a day and you should start to see a flatter stomach and more toned legs and tush. The feel-good factor of exercise and fresh air starts a series of positive spin-offs. “If you’ve been out and worked hard, you are likely to make healthier, more sensible food choices afterwards,” Redding notes.