Exercise Benefits during Pregnancy (PLUS, a Few Safe Exercises!)

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pregnant mothers working outWhen it comes to exercise during pregnancy, many women tend to err on the side of caution feeling that they should refrain from exercising to avoid complications.

Staying active during pregnancy has many health benefits for you and the baby!  Always consult with your provider prior to beginning any new exercise routine when you’re expecting. If you didn’t exercise prior to being pregnant, that’s ok!  Incorporating daily walks and any type of movement is a great way to begin!  Let’s take a look at the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy.

 

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, regular exercise during pregnancy: 

“Reduces back pain

Eases constipation

May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery

Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy

Improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels

Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born.”


I would also like to add that exercising during pregnancy also prepares you for labor and delivery if you are planning on a vaginal delivery. A good way to look at it is as if you were preparing for a marathon. You wouldn’t go run a marathon without training for it.  Imagine pregnancy is your equivalent to marathon training to prepare for labor and delivery. Strength, endurance, and mindset prior to going into and while in labor and during delivery is crucial.  The more prepared you are, the greater likelihood there is of everything going more smoothly. 

Prior to having my first child, I didn’t know what I know now, so I really wasn’t prepared. Exercising wasn’t a priority, but it wasn’t encouraged. I wasn’t using my core right, which resulted in low back pain and then my back going out during the second half of my pregnancy. Like I literally couldn’t move for a week.  Then I ended up having terrible hemorrhoids after I delivered. Ouch!  We’re all moms, so is there ever TMI?!  I wasn’t prepared! I didn’t know what was best for my body or how to push the right way (hence the horrible H’s).  So, what I’m about to tell you is important!

pregnancy picture

When you’re pregnant, even prior to conceiving, it’s important to stay active, but also feeling good while doing it. Movement is medicine for your body. It lubricates your joints, enhances your heart function, helps reduce stress and anxiety, as well as many other benefits!  

During pregnancy, your whole body changes, resulting in an even greater reason to engage in regular exercise.  These changes: joints loosening due to relaxing, breast enlargement, and abdominal expansion shift your center of gravity.  Consequently, fall risks due to balance deficits and pain or discomfort may develop if you aren’t proactive. *Just a reminder that pain during pregnancy is not normal. Aches are okay, but pain is an indicator that something is not right and you should have it looked at. Getting lined up with a pelvic floor physical therapist during pregnancy, even if you aren’t having issues, is a great resource to ensure your body is strong and feeling good during pregnancy, prepare your body and pelvic floor for labor and delivery, and set you up for a better postpartum recovery. 

Types of Exercises

The type of exercise or workouts you engage in depends on what type of exercise you were engaging in prior to pregnancy, how your body is responding to pregnancy and exercise, and your current needs.  Exercise is still encouraged even if you weren’t actively participating in a fitness routine prior to pregnancy.   

Body Works PT fitness

The main types of exercise that are important to address are specific stabilization (movement control) exercises such as Pilates and Yoga, and cardio exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling are all good ways to exercise. Some people will be able to continue to do some of these activities for exercises, while some may be highly problematic for others.

General guidelines for exercise during pregnancy are 150 minutes per week or 5 days of 30 minutes moderate intensity aerobic exercise.  Remember you can always break your 30 or more minutes of exercise into 10 or 15 minute segments throughout the day if that works for you.  Find what works for you and your schedule.

What are the best exercises to do during pregnancy?  Well, that just doesn’t exist as everyone’s needs are so different. However, there are a few exercises I do love during pregnancy that you can try today!  Please keep in mind that this is not medical advice. Seek medical care if you are experiencing any pain or complications during your pregnancy and prior to beginning a fitness program.

 

5 Safe Exercises to Try During Pregnancy

1. TUMMY HUG 

tummy hug stretch

The tummy hug is one of my favorites because you’re acting as if you are giving your baby a little hug (using your abdominal muscles of course!) and strengthens your innermost abdominal muscles – your transverse abdominis.

While sitting, standing, or laying down on your back or side with a pillow between your knees and ankles,  as you exhale, gently pull your baby closer to you and up towards your chest. You should feel a slight muscle contracting along your waistline. 

 

2. DOORWAY STRETCH
doorway exercise
Photo credit: www.fitengine.com

The doorway stretch is great to open up the chest and improve your posture. While you’re stretching your chest, also take some time to strengthen those back muscles too to enhance your posture!

To perform this exercise, find a doorway or open corner. Place your hands about shoulder height apart so your arms are in a “W”.  Standing up tall with one foot forward to maintain your balance, slowly lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch across your chest and front of shoulders. You can also move your hands higher or lower to stretch different parts of muscles.

 

3. SQUATS

exercise during pregnancy

You may not know this, but you squat every day! Getting on and off the toilet, bed, chair, etc. Squats should be felt in the butt. If you’re not feeling it there, your form needs to be adjusted.

When doing a squat, start with a chair or bed behind you. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and slowly bring your butt backwards as if you are going to kiss the chair with your bottom. Keep your back straight and your chest in line with our knees. This can be performed at adjusted heights to enhance focus on performing it well. 

 

 

4. SIDE STEPS 

Body Works PT fitnessWorking in various planes is great for a full body work out. This exercise is excellent for strengthening your hips and glutes.

When performing side steps, stand with your feet about hip width apart. Start off without using a band.  You can use a band to add resistance.  Take a step out to the side without shifting your weight too much to one side and bring the other foot to hip width apart. You may either continue with the same foot, or just step from side to side.  A good rule to follow is to try to not let your head bounce up at down.

 

5. CHILD’SPOSE
pregnancy exercise pose
Photo credit: www.rishikulyogshala.org/

Child’s Pose relaxes the pelvic floor and stretch your lower back. To do this, you can get on the floor or your bed on your hands and knees. You may want to spread your knees apart to give your belly more room. Slowly bring your bottom towards your heels as you sit back, keeping your arms out in front of you.  You may also do this while holding onto an exercise ball or pillow and performing the same movement.

 

Exercising during pregnancy has many wonderful benefits keeping you physically and mentally fit and healthy.   Adding some or all of these exercises into your daily routine will help strengthen your core, stabilize your pelvis, and improve your posture. Give them a try and see which one feels the best to you!  

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