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Pushing stroller can help the pounds roll away

| Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006

It can be hard to find time to exercise with a little one in tow, but moms now can get and stay fit with workouts designed to accommodate them and their babies.

After the little bundle of joy is born, pregnancy pounds linger, frustrating women who want to be healthy and fit. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a woman with a healthy weight before pregnancy will gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds.

Lorre Shawgo gained an unusual 50 pounds when she was pregnant with her son. After he was born, she began looking for a way to lose the extra weight.

Shawgo became certified as a Strollercize instructor, a national exercise program that incorporates the stroller in the workout. Now she says she's in better shape than before she was pregnant.

"It's a total body workout, and the nice thing is, the baby's with you and you don't have to hire a baby sitter," Shawgo says.

Shawgo started Stroller Babes and now teaches Strollercize in Ross and McCandless.

Strollercize is a walking and stretching regimen. Common exercises are given "mommy names," such as the side lunges, which are called peek-a-boos, and engage the baby in the workout.

The same rules for weight loss pre-pregnancy apply to new mommies and include healthy diet and exercise. A safe rate to lose weight is one to two pounds per week. Moms can start exercising as soon as they get the OK from their doctors.

Tracy Spitz, a physical therapist at UPMC Passavant hospital, helped design the Mom and Baby Exercise classes at Passavant and teaches them.

Trained as a Moms in Motion instructor, Spitz helps new moms get back into shape by concentrating on strength, flexibility and stamina. She says her goal is to offer an improved level of physical fitness for new mothers and their babies.

The one-hour class is based in physical therapy, designed for mothers with infants who are not yet crawling. The classes aim to provide the safest exercise program during the postpartum phase. Infant massage and movements to foster the child's range of motion are integrated into the class.

All exercises are designed to include the infant or have him or her near the mother. Spitz says the classes' structure benefits the mother and child on many levels.

"It's nice because moms bond with other moms and bond with their newborns," Spitz says. "The baby is included and it's easy to do."

The classes cater to each woman's physical ability, providing different degrees of difficulty for each movement. Spitz also instructs women in safe body mechanics, which protect the muscles when lifting and interacting with the child.

Spitz encourages all women to remain active after the child is born.

"Exercise helps build your stamina, and exercise increases energy levels which is important after pregnancy to care for your child."

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