Want to get back in shape after giving birth? For many mums, the solution is right in front of them.
After giving birth to a beautiful daughter, Dena Cates took a look at her body and was aghast at what she saw. “I felt wobbly, nasty, horrible and generally frumpy” the 34-year old Londoner says. But what to do about it?
She hated gyms and didn’t fancy yoga, pilates or any of the other indoor answers to postnatal fitness. So, in the end, she dived into a pool of naked irony by reaching for the symbol of her physical “ruin” – the baby buggy – and making it the tool of her salvation.
She joined thousands of other new mothers who were clawing their way back into shape at buggy fitness classes, wheeling a fully loaded push-chair through a series of fierce walks as the basis for a strenuous, muscle-toning work out.
Classes go on all year round, even in foul weather: modern buggies provide great protection for young children and many mothers are happy to throw on a coat and plough on.
Standing exercises are slotted in between up-tempo walks, often uphill, in moves designed to burn calories and strengthen muscles weakened by pregnancy and childbirth.
Emma Redding, who runs Buggyfit, one of the longest-established companies, is stunned at how quickly her enterprise has blossomed. She started her first class near Thame, Oxfordshire, in 2003 with no ambition beyond a small-town success. Then a women’s magazine mentioned her group as an example of new work-out regimes, adding that she operated “throughout the UK”.
“I didn’t,” says Emma. “I had three classes in sunny Oxfordshire, that’s all. But it booted me up the bottom because I started getting 150 e-mail inquiries a day.” Inspired and intrigued, she took professional business advice and has since set up 72 licensed classes throughout Britain, with more poised to open.
The truth is that good science lies behind these gently testing regimes. A survey for Mother and Baby magazine found that more than half of women felt “lonely and isolated” after giving birth. A study at Queensland University of Technology in Australia showed that women who took pram-pushing classes twice a week for three months shrugged off many of the symptoms of postnatal depression.
The regime tones the mother, introduces the newborn to the idea of exercise, gives a taste of the outdoors and throws in a bit of chat and childminding to boot. And it makes a great joke, turning the symbol of motherhood into freedom’s key.
“People look at us in the park all the time,” says Dena, “but they don’t laugh. They look at us as if to say: ‘Good on you.’”