It’s so exciting when new research comes out showing what a positive impact working out can have on pregnancy. Not so long ago, researchers found that exercise during pregnancy can improve baby’s heart health, even after birth. Then just recently, a new study showed that being a fit mama-to-be helps stimulate your baby’s brain.
So long as your doctor gives you the okay to exercise during your pregnancy, working out can be hugely beneficial for your health and your baby’s. While you can safely continue most exercise you were doing before you got pregnant, the following exercises are particularly helpful during pregnancy. Make sure you keep your breathing consistent and always stop if you feel any pain or discomfort while working out.
Squats are awesome when you’re pregnant. Squats will help you build lower body strength and endurance, and are an excellent way to train yourself to pick up heavy weights (like your baby!) without using your back. It’s also a great position to try when you’re in labor, so it will help to be comfortable with the position ahead of time.
When you’re pregnant, abdominal exercises become more about stabilization rather than movement. Skip the crunches and sit-ups, which will become difficult to do as you get bigger anyway, and stick to exercises that use your abdominals to hold a position. Great moves to try include a plank or a side plank. You can always modify these plank movements by doing them against an elevated surface, like a bench, or a couch, or by dropping to your knees to hold the position.
As your baby bump grows, a lot of the time your posture begins to suffer. Arched lower back and rounded shoulders start occurring as you try to alleviate the front-heaviness of pregnancy. To help preserve your posture while maintaining upper body strength and flexibility, focus on rowing or pulling movements when lifting weights or using cables and bands. As you row, bring your shoulders back, keeping your back strong, and focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together.
Anytime you’re working out during your pregnancy, be aware of your pelvic floor muscles, and start working on keeping those strong. This will aid you during pregnancy, labor, as well as help you bounce back after you have your baby. Kegels are the main exercise for the pelvic floor muscles, and you can do them anywhere, in any position. Not sure how to do a Kegel? Next time you’re peeing, try to stop. I know, it sounds weird, but this contraction is exactly how you do a Kegel. The muscles you’re contracting to stop peeing are the ones you want to be contracting, starting at 5 second holds for 10 repetitions, then build up for longer holds, and more repetitions as you get stronger.
A great way to finish a workout is to do a few active stretches, which will help to alleviate discomfort in your back as your baby gets bigger. The first is a pelvic tilt, again an exercise you can do in any position. To do a tilt, just imagine you are trying to tuck your tailbone under you. Also helpful are the yoga moves cat and cow. In a hands and knees position, slowly round your back up, dropping your head, then raise your head as you drop your back into a low arch, with shoulder blades squeezed. In this same hands and knees position, also try hip hikes, which feel amazing on your lower back. These saved me during my third trimester! Keeping your upper back still, try to hike one hip up, then the other. You can also do these hip hikes standing.
Along with cardio, these strength and flexibility exercises are especially helpful for pregnant women. Are you working out during your pregnancy? Is there any exercise you love while pregnant?