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Thursday, Sep 29, 2022

How do I get rid of my belly pouch after delivering a child?

Strength training and core muscle activation can help you get back in shape, says pre- and post-natal coach Vinti Maheshwari, who is working with celebrity mothers like Debina Bonnerjee. A fad diet won't help but distribute your carbs, proteins and fats throughout the day, she says

You can include some breathing exercises and gentle movements during the initial weeks. (Representational image: PIxabay)

My hormones are acting up and my belly pouch is increasing post-delivery. What are the best exercises to lose weight and balance them for better and faster result?

First of all, I would like to mention that there are no short cuts to anything, especially when it comes to weight loss. Your body goes through tremendous changes, stress and pressure while bringing a new life into the world. Respect your body and show some love to it by giving it time to rest and heal. I would say take it easy for at least six weeks. Your body will change significantly in the first 12 months post-partum and will take approximately a year to recover .

You can include some breathing exercises and gentle movements during the initial weeks. Once you are cleared by your healthcare provider after six weeks, you can then start with some basic mobility and strength moves. Focus on strengthening your core and pelvic floor muscles.

There is a saying, “once a postpartum, always a postpartum.” Your body anatomy after childbirth is permanently changed. This is because there are several changes that occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy and post-partum that often have lasting or life-long effects on her health and quality of life. Eat healthy nutrients and fibre-rich food. Have your portion of protein, carbs and healthy fats. And yes, mind your portion and caloric intake. Don’t fall for those midnight cravings.

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Once you are strong enough and cleared by your obstetrician-gynaecologist, you can start with a mix of strength training (3-4 days a week) and aerobic exercises (2 days a week) for 30-40 minutes per session. Most importantly, speak to your doctor and get yourself tested if you feel that your hormones are acting up.

How do pre-natal exercises help? What combination is ideal? Do they help manage stretch marks and saggy skin?

I would recommend strength training but only after clearance from your doctor and in the absence of contraindications. This is most important. Once you’ve got the green light, strength training can decrease the rate of gestational diabetes, blood pressure, edema and even chances of a caesarean birth. It helps in controlling urinary incontinence and eases constipation, reduces your back pain and elevates your mood so that you do not sink into post-partum depression. It improves your cardiovascular health, sleep quality, prevents bone density loss and excessive weight gain. You can do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity workout every week.

If you maintain good posture and body alignment during strength training, then it helps the baby sit in a position that allows for an easier labour and childbirth experience. A would-be mother will find it easier to carry extra weight in her breast and uterus rather comfortably.

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During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens and relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and widens the cervix. But this can also lead to compensatory movements and overuse of muscles. Strength training improves the movement pattern and reduces the risk of injury. Besides, it can alleviate symptoms of nausea, fatigue, morning sickness and headache. I would recommend a combination of mobility and strength for 2-3 days and some moderate aerobic work at least two days a week.

Stretch marks and saggy skin largely depend on the amount of weight you put on during pregnancy, your hormones and skin elasticity. So stick to your exercise routine and stay hydrated at all times.

What are post-natal exercises that you would recommend? Which are the most effective ones?

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Those that increase your connection to breath, improve pelvic floor (PFM) core muscle activation and strength and gentle mobility moves. I recommend moves to heal and strengthen your PF and core like Cat-cow, bird dog, glute bridges, pall-off hold, pall-off press, body weight squats and other mobility exercises to target your shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings, quads and calves.

When should these exercises be started?

Those that establish connection to breath and ensure gentle mobility to improve the circulation, can be started immediately. The other exercises that are mentioned above can be started after six weeks of delivery, provided your doctor has cleared you.

Can a 40 plus mother do these as well?

Yes, definitely. The exercises that I have mentioned above can benefit all women irrespective of their age. Even a 50 or 60-year-old would benefit from those moves.

Should post-natal exercises be done in case of C-section?

The recovery after C-section is highly variable. Some women experience severe discomfort and pain while some only experience mild discomfort. Recovery experience depends on many individual factors.

• Mothers should start with regular breathing exercise (connection breath), perform gentle mobility moves like ankle pumps (to avoid risk of blood clots), and gentle walks as early as possible. These improve the circulation and stimulate the digestive system to reduce the chances of constipation.

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• Once the woman is cleared by her gyanecologist, we follow our assessment process. We ensure that the scar is fully healed. And recommend and teach our client scar tissue mobilisation massage

• After six to eight weeks, and doctor’s clearance, you can start with strength, mobility and light resistance training. Increase the intensity gradually.

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Do not forget to always monitor for any unusual symptoms like pain in the abdomen or any change in scar tissue.

Are some workout routines more effective than others?

I would highly recommend, and I practise it myself, the mix of mobility and strength training with proper core and PFM activation. It keeps your joints healthy, improves your posture, reduces the risk of any injury, osteoarthritis, improves your movement efficiency, builds strength and improves body image.

How do these exercises impact childbirth?

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I so wish I had somebody to guide me about this when I was pregnant some 16 years ago. There are innumerable benefits. First, they reduce the risk of caesarean birth or the need for interventions like epidural induction, forceps and so on. Second, the routine may make your labour a little less challenging and shorter. It may reduce the risk of pre-term labour and help a woman in the “pushing phase” of the labour, the part that many of us dread the most. It helps in maintaining good posture and alignment and can help the baby sit in a position that allows for easier birth.

Is weight training for weight loss better than cardio? Or should I mix cardio and resistance training for best results? If so, how?

So this is the most frequently asked and searched question. And people are still so confused and uneducated about the same. Both cardio and strength training are equally important. Ideally you need both. But if you have to choose between the two, I would say choose strength training. In addition to boosting your heart rate and burning calories (the sole purpose why people indulge in cardio), it also works for you even when you are not working out. Increased muscle mass allows your muscles to burn more calories even when your body is resting throughout the day.

Strength training helps you reduce the risk of osteoarthritis as you chronologically age and slow down the pace of your biological age (chronologically you may be growing old, but biologically it keeps you young). I recommend three to four sessions of strength training (at various intensities) per week with just two sessions of cardio. Always remember that “cardio is for fun, weight is for transformation.”

What is the best weight loss exercise plan that will help me avoid a plateau?

As I mentioned earlier, strength training is for transformation. Switch your routine every four to six weeks by increasing load, intensity, interval and your rest period. Check your diet. As much time as you put in your workouts, if you are not giving your body the nutrients it needs, you may be sabotaging yourself, which is the most common factor when it comes to hitting the plateau. Lastly, do not skip sleep.

Do I have to give up carbs to lose more fat?

I am a firm believer of a balanced diet that includes all the major nutrients. Carbs are the chief source of energy for all body functions and muscular exertion. They also help regulate digestion of protein and fat. Maximal fat utilisation cannot occur without sufficient carbs. It also provides essential fibre, vitamins and minerals. Portion control is the key and excess of any nutrient can make you put on weight or be a hindrance in your weight loss journey. You put on weight when your caloric intake is more than the calories your body burns, and therefore in order to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. For fat-loss or muscle gain, carbs should generally make up the highest percentage of macro nutrients, around 45 to 60 per cent of the total caloric intake.

How many calories should I eat and what should my macros be if I want to burn off the stubborn fat from my belly, hips, and thighs?

I have noticed people getting misled by impractical diets on social media. All these diets, be it Atkins, Keto or the Zone, are not sustainable for a longer period of time. Sustainability and consistency are the key to achieving anything in your life. Weight loss is achieved when calories consumed are less than calories burnt. Distribute your carbs, protein and fat throughout the day and schedule no fewer than four meals a day. Each meal plate should have 40 per cent carbs, 35 per cent proteins and 25 per cent fat.

(Maheshwari is a corrective exercise specialist and a certified personal trainer. She works with celebrities)

First published on: 07-09-2022 at 01:16:25 pm
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