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“The first six months are critical,” says Lovelady, who notes that while you can lose the baby weight after six months, your risk for obesity is higher the longer you wait. Lovelady also notes that exercise has other advantages, such as strengthening the heart and helping prevent type II diabetes. Not to mention the mental benefits: While Gifford is pleased with her weight loss, she says she now runs “as much for my sanity as for weight loss.”
Losing those post-pregnancy pounds starts with simple baby steps. To get started, choose your favorite activity from the four below, or combine the four how-to moves shown—one from each activity—for a complete full-body workout. You can begin exercising six weeks after delivery (wait longer if you had a Cesarean section), but be sure to check with your doctor first.
Get Started: Try a Stroller Fit or Stroller Strides class. These outdoor classes mix toning exercises with walking or jogging, and moms exercise with their bambinos. Ready to run? Check out fitness writer (and mom) Sarah Bowen Shea’s blog, marathonmoms.blogspot.com.
How-To: Stand tall, keeping your abs in and shoulders back. Walk straight ahead as you strike the ground with your heel and roll through your foot. After a few weeks of regular walking (and with your doctor’s approval) incorporate running into your routine. Alternate between 1 minute each of fast-paced walking and light jogging. Cool down with a slow walk for 5 minutes, then stretch your legs and lower back for 5 minutes, breathing slowly.
Get Started: Stretch and tone while your baby naps by following Element: AM & PM Yoga for Beginners , a DVD featuring yoga master Elena Brower, who has led Gwyneth Paltrow through countless poses.
How-To: To do a Plank (shown), come to all fours, placing your wrists under your shoulders. Keeping your neck straight, pull your abs in and straighten your legs until your body is in a straight line from head to heels. Tuck your tailbone under, squeezing your buttocks. Hold this for 10 seconds, working up to 1 minute.
Get Started: Take a pilates class to ensure you get the nuances of the moves right. Go to pmapilatescertified.com to find well-trained teachers in your area. Once you master the mat-based moves, you can do Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners , a DVD led by Brooke Siler, who has trained Madonna.
How-To: To do Hundreds (shown), lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head. Inhale, then exhale as you contract your abdominals and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle, then extend your arms, palms down. Pump your arms rhythmically, inhaling through your nose for 5 counts, then exhaling out of your mouth for 5 counts. Work up to 100 counts, total.
Get Started: Grab a copy of Weight Training for Dummies . Written by new moms Suzanne Schlosberg and Liz Neporent, the exercise guide includes easy-to-understand instructions and how-to photos.
How-To: To do a lunge (shown), stand with feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips and pull your abs in. Step forward with your left foot, bending your left knee to a 90-degree angle as you lower your right knee toward the floor; then, step back with your left foot. Repeat, stepping forward with your right foot. Do 5 times on each side, building up to 20 times, total.