Working out when you’re expecting is great for you and your baby. Here are a handful of exercises you can do safely and comfortably throughout your pregnancy.
Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to be beneficial for you and your growing baby. Even if you’ve been active before you were pregnant, consult with your doctor about your exercise plans. And choose your activities wisely. These five prenatal exercises are safe and comfortable for both you and your baby. Best of all, they’ll help prepare you for the challenges of labor. Just remember, stretch lightly before and after your workout to keep your body limber and your heart rate in a safe range for you and your baby.
Imagine that you are urinating and have to stop your flow midstream. That contraction is a kegel exercise. Seems pretty easy, right? Try it and you’ll see it’s harder than it sounds. Localize the contraction to your pelvis. Don’t tighten up buttocks, legs, or shoulders. Breathe steadily and evenly. Do 20 contractions, holding for 5 to 10 seconds four times a day. You can do these whenever and wherever you want – no one else will know.
Why: Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor, which helps to protect your uterus during pregnancy and prevent incontinence after pregnancy.
A clam exercise is performed on your side with both knees slightly bent. Keeping ankles together, perform kegel as you lift your top knee up toward the ceiling. Be sure to stay completely on your side without letting your pelvis roll backward. A hint to make this easier: put your hand on your hip as a cue to make sure that your hip is staying up and not rolling backward. Start with two sets of 10 on each side performed every other day.
Why: The clam exercise helps to strengthen the external rotators of your hip. These muscles play a large part in maintaining stability of the hip and pelvis and often become weaker as the hips expand during pregnancy. This exercise will ensure that you have the hip strength needed during labor as well as when you are picking up your exercise routine after delivery.
A quadruped, or kneeling on your hands and knees, is one of the best exercise positions while pregnant since you want to avoid lying on your back because it decreases blood flow and oxygen to the baby. Start by getting into a comfortable position, with knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Then perform a kegel contraction in this position, making sure your back stays level.
Now slide your toe back while you straighten out your right knee, then alternate sides. If your pelvis is rocking significantly as you switch legs, that is a sign of instability and you may want to master your kegel contraction in this position before you progress to leg movement. Perform two sets of 20 every other day.
Why: It is easy to let your low back sag like a hammock as your belly grows. This exercise maintains good abdominal and low back strength throughout your pregnancy.
Squatting is a great leg strengthening exercise to do while pregnant. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms out in front of you. Activate your kegel contraction as you shift weight toward your heels. As you start to lower your buttock keep your knees behind toes, making sure you do not move too far inward or outward. Only bend knees to about a 60 degree angle, so you don’t overload your pelvis and put too much pressure on your kneecaps. Start with two sets of 10 every other day and increase reps and holding light weight as desired and as approved by your doctor.
Why: Squatting activates your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts, abdominals, and low back. Those muscles need to be strong as the weight of the baby grows and during delivery.
One of the possible pains (and maybe joys) of pregnancy is your expanding chest. As a woman’s chest grows so does the force and pull on her neck and shoulders. A row is an exercise you can do at the gym on a row machine with light weight or with a resistive band at home. You want the band/cable to be at elbow height.
Sit or stand, making sure that your head is over your neck and not leaning forward, and your shoulder blades are moved slightly back and down. Move band/cable backward as if you were going to elbow someone with both arms. As you do this, activate shoulder blades back and down, holding for a count of five. You should feel your mid-back working. Start with two sets of 10 and increase reps and weight to tolerance.
Why: Many women complain of neck and back pain during pregnancy and one reason for this is the increased weight of the breasts. Strengthening the muscles that stabilize the neck and shoulders limits the strain and keeps your spine properly aligned.
Do you have an exercise routine that’s working for you during your pregnancy? Share it in Comments so we can all learn from each other.