Easy Ways to Get in Shape

by Mona Saint MD

Finding time to exercise and establishing a regular exercise routine is a challenge for many of us. Even though we can lose weight on a diet without exercise, for optimal health, regular exercise, even walking, at least 5 days a week should be the goal. I have found that for my patients and myself, the key to a consistent exercise routine is finding something that you love and is easy to do. Some may love the social aspect of group activities and classes while others may prefer individual activities as a time to recharge. For many busy moms, attending classes is not always practical, but sometimes getting a good exercise DVD or stroller walking with your iPod or a buddy can steal you away from reality for 30 minutes, and you will emerge healthier and more energetic.

I love the book “Five Factor Fitness” by Harley Pasternak who is best known for being the fitness trainer of the Hollywood stars. When I looked into it, I figured looking even half as amazing as Halle Barry couldn’t be too shabby! Pasternak’s program suggests varying your exercise routine and working the major muscle groups at once to reduce the amount of time you need to work out and have a maximum impact. He has 20 minute workouts that you can even do at home or at the park with kids (I’ve done it) and they are great for every fitness level. You can add more cardio at the end if you want a longer workout. There is a five factor website where you can get a weekly fitness and diet plan with shopping lists for a fee and the book is often on sale for under $10.

If you are expecting  and everything is healthy, daily exercise is the goal and has shown great benefits in many studies. The difficulty is that you often feel awful in your first trimester. So I feel it is okay to listen to your body and get that extra rest if you need it and pick up the daily exercise in your second and third trimesters, especially if you are not obese or diabetic. If you are out of shape, check with your doctor first, and start gradually with activities like walking and swimming. There are great prenatal yoga and Pilates classes and DVD’s that are good for fitness and can reduce many of the common back and musculoskeletal pains of pregnancy. And remember to keep your pulse below 140 for most of the workout.

Whatever your favorite exercise, the goal is to vary the routine and the pace to build optimal endurance. Also try to include some days of weight bearing exercise to tone muscles, help your bone strength, and actually increase your calories burned. The more muscle mass you have the more calories burned in a workout.

Finally, making a list of your specific goals and looking at them daily is helpful as well as posting up pictures of either how you may have looked when you felt really proud or even pictures of activities you enjoy to motivate you. Self.com has a great website with buddy programs for staying on track. Research has shown that buddy programs can significantly help one accomplish their goals. If you have any exercise tips or programs that you recommend please let us know in the comments so we can all work together to feel good and live our healthiest lives possible!

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Catherine Cram 02.13.09 at 9:03 am

The value of prenatal and postpartum exercise has been shown in current research. The key is to modify exercise to fit your fitness level and pay close attention to how your body feels during and after exercise.
There are several great exercise information sources for pregnant and new moms and include specific exercises and guidelines to help keep fitness safe and effective. The website http://www.babyfit.com provides maternal exercise and nutrition information and support, and is free.
My favorite book on the effects of exercise on pregnancy and postpartum recovery is “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp.
Catherine Cram, MS
Exercise physiologist/maternal fitness specialist
Author: “Fit Pregnancy for Dummies”

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