Fitness Q&A: Pregnancy exercise tips

Fitness expert, Namita Jain answers readers’ questions on fitness. Get your doubts cleared and see them featured on our FAQ page every Thursday.
This week’s answers:

1. I am currenlty 55 years and my weight is about 85 kgs with over size tummy. Otherwise, I look OK with no other problems. I walk every morning for 1 hour. Kindly advise the tips in order to reduce my weight and tummy as well.

Include abdominal exercises such as:
Lie on your back with your knees raised at a 90-degree angle and your lower back pressed gently down on the mat. Support your neck by placing your palms behind your head. Keeping your chin off the chest, slowly contract your abs and lift yourself up, and then lower yourself down.

Obliques for the waist
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor with your lower back pressed gently down on the mat. Support your neck by placing your palms behind your head. Keeping your chin off the chest, slowly contract your abs and lift yourself up twisting to the right side, then to the left side and then lower yourself down.

Back extension for the back
Lie on your stomach and place your hands on your lower back. Lift your upper body off the floor; keep your eyes on the floor and your chin in a relaxed position. Slowly return to starting position.

Take exercise breaks
Take exercise breaks, regularly. You could stretch mid-morning, or take a walk at lunchtime, or climb up the stairs whenever possible.

Weigh yourself once a week
This way you can gauge the smallest fluctuations in your weight. The quicker you do that you can catch your behavioural slips and get back on track.

Hydrate yourself
Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Also eat high water content foods that will help you lose weight. Examples are watermelon, oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, and cucumber.

Fuel right
If you want a sense of well-being and energy, fuel your body right so it performs well. The body has an internal clock and the metabolism is regulated by regular cycles. If you learn to respect these cycles slimming will be easier.

Make lighter food choices when possible
Eat egg white instead of the whole egg. Whole-grain, instead of refined products. Low-fat instead of full fat. Did you know? Skim milk gets 5 percent of its calories from fat, while whole milk gets 51 percent from fat.

2. Hi Namita, really impressed with your guidance. I am 32 years/165cms/85kgs. I have reduced 20 kgs in last 8 months by walking 100 min daily and avoiding oily and junk food. But off late though I am on same diet plan and exercise but I am not able to reduce even a kg. Is it winter or now my body has adapted to this. Please help me out.
The truth is that initial weight loss is rapid and after awhile the body plateaus. Also, the closer you are to your ideal weight, the harder it gets to shed off weight. And, if you are too hard on yourself, it becomes difficult to sustain the effort.
Here are simple strategies to get to your goal

Build muscle
You can increase muscle mass by adding resistance training to your workout. Try lifting weights, using dumbbells, dyna bands or exercising on machines. This will not only improve your metabolism, but also tone and define your body and improve body strength.

Lead an active life
Keep your mind and body active to avoid lethargy from setting into your routine. Nothing is worse than that for slowing down the metabolic rate.

Change your routine
Vary your workouts every six weeks. When you find your body has adapted to the demands of your existing routine, give yourself a new stimulus to break out of the plateau. Remember, change creates change.

Consult a trainer
It is a good idea to consult a qualified fitness professional to meet your goals. Sometimes you need to be sure that your workouts are working for you.

Eat slowly and sensibly
The faster you eat, the more you consume. This results in increased storage of fat. Eat slowly and sensibly – consume foods that are low in fat.

1. Understand your body’s needs.
2. Schedule meal times in daily planner.
3. Notice your energy, appetite and mood after a balanced meal.
4. Modify portions, foods consumed according to your body’s signals.
5. Take into account your personal health issues when you plan your requirement.

Establish a pattern of eating regularly
Nourishing your body by eating regularly throughout the day can prevent extremes of hunger that lead to overeating, binging and fatigue. Work toward a pattern of five to six meals a day — breakfast lunch, dinner and two or three snacks.

Be positive
An apple a day, a brisk walk a day, and a good laugh a day… don’t forget to create a positive outlook to life.

It is possible to break out of a plateau and kick your metabolism into a higher gear. When you stay focused you will find yourself moving forward consistently – and finally reaching your goal.
3. Hi. I am 32 years old housewife. My weight is 71 kgs and ht is 5.5. I have lazy leg syndrome and get leg cramps at night. Please advice
Here are some tips to prevent leg cramps:

· Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time. Ease the load on your legs – put your feet up as often as you can.
· Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes when you sit, eat dinner, or watch TV.
· Massage your calves and thighs with oil or cream daily. Indulge in a Foot massage & reflexology
· Exercise or take a walk every day.
· Avoid getting too tired. Alternate periods of activity with periods of rest.
· Stay hydrated during the day by drinking water regularly.
· Avoid wearing high heels and tight shoes
· Wear support hose during the day.
· Apply warm compress to the cramped area.
· Take a warm bath before going to bed to relax your muscles.

4. Dear Maam, please can u suggest exercises for my sister who is in her second trimester.
Walking and swimming are safe exercises. Here are some important considerations:

It is important to discuss your exercise plan with your gynaecologist, as each pregnancy is different. In general, healthy women who have uncomplicated pregnancies can continue their exercise programme with slight exercise modification. It is also safe to start exercising (if you have not exercise before) during pregnancy if given the all-clear signal by your doctor.

You will need an additional 100 to 200 calories to compensate for the calories you burn during exercise. If you are consuming the extra calories and still not gaining the required amount of weight, you could be overdoing exercise.

For every 30 minutes of strenuous activity you need water to compensate for fluids lost due to perspiration. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.

Your centre of gravity shifts during pregnancy. That’s why you should take great care when you shift positions. Getting up quickly can make you dizzy, and cause you fall.

Never exercise to the point of exhaustion when you are pregnant.

Minimise exercise in very hot and humid weather; don’t use saunas, steam rooms or hot tubs during pregnancy. Research has shown that exercise or environments that raise a pregnant woman’s temperature by more than 1&1/2 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit are dangerous – since blood is shunted away from the uterus to the skin as the body attempts to cool off. Exercise in cool, airy rooms at cooler times of the day.

In pregnancy your centre of gravity shifts forward with the uterus affecting your sense of balance, hence you should proceed with caution. Be aware of the added risk of injury due to lax joints, even absentmindedness. Drop exercises that could compromise your safety – like walking, jogging, or cycling on wet surfaces; or playing sports such as basket ball, ice-hockey, scuba diving, soccer or any activity requiring sudden movement.

Though you must have heard stories of athletes who have continued intense exercising till the ninth month – it is unwise for you to do so. Stay with low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling and swimming.

It is not advisable to lie on your back and exercise for over 60 to 90 seconds after the fourth month of pregnancy as the weight of your enlarging uterus could constrict major blood vessels, restricting circulation. If you are lying on your back and symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or shortness of breadth occur, roll onto your left side to re-establish blood flow.
5. Hi Namita, is there any way to get rid of varicose veins, I have thin red lines on my calf muscles and thigh. I am 47 yrs old and walk a lot.
Varicose veins may be genetic. You’re more likely to get them if other members of your family have had them.

Here are some tips to prevent or at least minimise varicose veins:

· Strive to keep within the recommended weight range for your height.
· Elevate your feet and legs whenever possible. Use a stool to rest your legs on when you’re sitting, and keep your feet elevated on a pillow when lying down. Try to spend about ten minutes each day in a position in which your feet are raised above your hips. You could prop your legs up against a wall or a bed / sofa.
Don’t sit or stand for long periods without taking breaks to move around.
· Avoid tight fitting clothes. Tight jeans, tights and stockings restrict circulation exacerbating varicose veins.
· Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help avoid excessive fat build-up; will maintain good circulation and tone the blood vessels. Such as gentle walking, swimming and pregnancy exercise classes are wonderful.

6. I am aged 31, height 174 cms, weight 79kgs. . My Cholesterol levels are higher than the normal due to heredity. Suggest a method / yoga to reduce the blood cholesterol.
Please consult your doctor to advise you if you need any medication to control cholesterol. The cholesterol level in the body is determined partly by genetics, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise and even psychological stress. High cholesterol build-up can occur gradually over-time without causing any symptoms.

For those who are overweight dietary reduction of saturated fat, exercise and weight loss are the cornerstones of treatment and prevention. Making gradual and permanent changes in your diet and lifestyle is the most natural way to lower cholesterol levels.

· Reduce total fat and cholesterol from your diet.
· Eat more foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
· Eat lean meat or fish instead of red meat.
· Consume skim-milk and low-fat dairy products.
· High-quality proteins from vegetable sources (example – soya products) are good substitutes for animal sources of protein.
· Increase your level of physical activity (walk at least 45-minutes daily).
· Maintain a healthy body weight.
· Find ways to de-stress.
· Lead an active life.

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