'Oh Baby!' gives new moms chance to work out with their babies

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When Tami Smith gave birth to her son in January 2016, she said she found the region's lack of "mommy and me" fitness classes frustrating.

"I have had to find ways to squeeze in workouts at home in the 'cracks' in my day when the baby is still asleep or napping," said the Williamstown, Mass., resident. "I would have loved to be able to attend a fitness class where I could bring my baby along — this takes out the stress of finding a sitter and the guilt we often feel when we leave our babies behind. I believe it is so important to be able to take care of yourself so you can best take care of your family."

So Smith took it upon herself to become certified to teach"Oh Baby!" fitness classes for women during and post pregnancy where babies are incorporated into the routine.

The classes — which she will soon start teaching at Frog Lotus Yoga in North Adams, Mass., and Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness in Pittsfield, Mass. — begin with a prenatal toning, fitness and yoga combination, Smith said. A 20-minute warm up of aerobic and cardio work is followed by 20 minutes of strength training — it ends with a yoga, relaxation, stretching and meditation cool-down. Babies are somehow part of all the exercises — a portion of the exercise is done with the child in a front carrier — and Smith said she hopes to bring the workouts outside during the summer to work with strollers.

"My hope is to help other women find a community and help them to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle throughout their motherhood journey," she said.

Exercise during and after pregnancy can have a number of positive effects on women's health, according to Dr. Malcolm Paine of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center OB/Gyn, who suggests talking with your doctor before you take on any exercise routine when you're pregnant.

Joining a hockey team or going water skiing is not ideal to take on while pregnant, however, following a moderate exercise routine that includes walking, yoga or group exercise classes is more rational. But if you're an avid exerciser to begin with, Paine suggests you continue with your routine as long as your doctor permits it.

"Exercise is fine all the way through pregnancy," Paine said. "It's not so much where they are in the pregnancy [but] are they used to doing exercise already? And if they're not, but they want to start because they want to be healthy, they can really start anytime."

Benefits can include reducing back pain, easing constipation, a reduction in weight gain and it could help with weight loss post-pregnancy, Paine said. A woman who is in shape could also have a less taxing labor due to the amount of stress that's placed on the body. Exercise can also help women sleep through the night and lessen mood swings.

If you're new to exercise and decide to start while pregnant, go slow and gradually add on instead of jumping into something that's high intensity, Paine said. With the danger of falling during contact sports, Paine said to keep exercises low impact. This could include shoulder stretches, wall squat with a ball, triceps extension, seated side stretch and a seated ball balance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to exercise for about 150 minutes per week. Walking, swimming, cycling and aerobics can keep the heart and lungs strong, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Things to keep in mind while exercising: consume plenty of water to avoid overheating, keep the workouts low impact and be conscious of your change in gravity, weight and joints.

There's not a point in the pregnancy where exercising should stop, Paine said, but rather one should be aware of possible health issues that can cause you to stop.

"If you get high blood pressure, or obviously if you have certain pregnancy complications like preterm labor or if your water breaks ... stuff like that," he said. "If you're really anemic, if you have certain things like a really bad seizure disorder ... It's a little bit of common sense. Talk to your doctor if you're not sure about medical complications that would prevent you from exercising."

Some women can resume exercise within days after giving birth, while others take longer to recover. Paine said to wait about six weeks for the postpartum checkup before doing anything that puts too much stress on the abdomen. To participate in Smith's 8-week "Oh Baby!" fitness class, which starts April 10, medical clearance is required.

For new moms, Smith hopes the class not only offers a way to fit exercise into their new, often hectic routines, but also build a community.

"As a new person to the area, I was seeking not only a way to exercise with my baby but also a way to meet and interact with other new moms and dads as I feel having a community of support is vital for new parents," Smith said. "These classes truly combine two of my greatest passions, motherhood and fitness. I'm sure many moms would agree with me that finding the time to workout with a baby at home is extremely difficult. ... By having the chance to go to a fitness class with your baby, you are able to get in some time to do something for yourself while also bonding with you baby and forming relationships with other moms who are in the same boat, so to speak."

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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