Walk Away the Pregnancy Pounds
Karen Asp - Live Right Live Well
Pregnancy pounds. Baby weight. No matter what you call it, it's probably on your mind if you're a new mom.
And while many exercise options can help you get back in shape, few offer the triple benefits of stroller walking: 1) You do it with your baby, 2) It provides an opportunity to meet and hang out with other moms and 3) It works!
In a recent study, 15 women walked on a treadmill while pushing a stroller carrying 35 pounds -- roughly the weight of a 1-year-old child plus diaper bag. Their pace ranged from 3 to 3.5 miles per hour with the incline increasing every four minutes from flat to 7.5 percent.
As expected, stroller walking burned more calories -- about 20 percent more -- than walking without a stroller, reports researcher Kris Greany, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
In other words: Take your baby out for an hour-long stroll, and you'll burn anywhere from 372 to 444 calories while walking on flat terrain. Add hills, and the calorie burn rises.
Want to try it? Here's how to get started:
Check with your doctor
If you've just given birth, get your physician's approval to begin exercising. Most docs will give the thumbs up when you're about four to six weeks postpartum.
This is especially important if you haven't exercised for a while. Greany recommends starting with 10-minute increments and gradually building up until you're walking 30 to 40 minutes. The key is to work at a pace that challenges you but isn't exhausting or painful.
Consider a class
While you can stroller walk alone or with friends or your spouse, a class like Stroller Strides, Strollercize or StrollerFit provides additional benefits:
- Instructor-led classes often combine stroller walking with resistance training. "Resistance training is crucial not only for maintaining muscle mass -- [which is] especially [important] because women lose muscle mass as a normal part of aging -- but also for building strength to carry your child," Greany says. In a Stroller Strides class, for instance, you alternate between power walking and strength exercises like push-ups on picnic tables, squats and lunges. After the 45-minute walk, you finish with core-strengthening exercises and stretching.
- Classes provide motivation and structure to help you reach your goals. In fact, some women have lost close to 100 pounds through Stroller Strides classes.
- "You get to connect with other new moms so you have immediate social support," says Lisa Druxman, founder of Stroller Strides and co-author of Lean Mommy (Center Street 2007). "Plus, because we use songs and other activities for babies, it's an enriching time for them as well," she says, adding that Stroller Strides classes are open to moms with kids ages 6 weeks through preschool.
Choose a good stroller
Although any stroller will work (as long as it's not prone to tipping), some are better than others:
- Druxman prefers three-wheeled jogging strollers. The larger wheels are better for road surfaces than strollers with four small wheels.
- Adjustable handles allow you to set them at a comfortable height, making it easier for you to maintain good posture.
- A good brake system is key. Druxman likes foot brakes over hand brakes. She's found that hand brakes can loosen up and aren't as secure.
- Extra goodies worth considering include a reclining seat for your baby, shock absorbers, a five-point harness for safety, storage pockets and a cup holder.
- Another must do: Before buying a stroller, "test drive [it] and practice opening and folding it yourself," Druxman says. You should be able to open and close the stroller in one step.
Finally, since the hectic life of a parent often makes it difficult to stick with an exercise program, it's important to "find a routine that fits into your lifestyle," advises Druxman. For some new moms, that means signing up for a class; for others, it means phoning a friend to go stroller walking at a time and place that suits you. No matter how you do it, enjoy the time you get to spend with your baby while you walk off the pounds.
Karen Asp is a fitness/health writer who writes for numerous publications, including Fitness, Natural Health, Men's Fitness, Prevention, Self, Shape and Women's Health. Asp is also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.
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