Over the next nine months it's important to continue working out. The demands of growing a new human being are many, and maintaining your commitment to a weekly exercise routine can help prepare your body to handle the added stress. Exercise not only keeps your body in shape, but also helps improve circulation and reduce stress.
The healthier your body is, the easier your pregnancy is likely to be. For example, strong back muscles will help your body better adjust to the growing weight in front, while strong pelvic floor muscles can reduce your labor time. However, no one singular exercise will keep your body in shape; it’s important to engage in a variety of exercises to reap the best benefits. Here are five great exercises to help you enjoy your pregnancy.
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help to support the uterus among other internal organs. Strong, supple pelvic floor muscles can make each push count more, thus reducing the length of the labor. The best part about Kegel exercises? You can do them whenever or wherever you are. They exist as the ultimate multi-tasking exercise. You can do them in the car when running errands or driving to work. You can do them while watching TV. It’s important to target the right muscles: the muscles that stop urine flow—so the next time you hear the call of nature, practice stopping the flow several times until you recognize these muscles. The Mayo Clinic has a great how-to guide here.
Walking is an excellent low-impact cardiovascular exercise. Best of all, it can be easily modified as your pregnancy continues. Did you know that many old wives’ tales suggest that a woman may be able to walk herself into labor in the final days of pregnancy? Walking at least 30 minutes a day not only burns calories, but can help improve circulation. Easy modifications such as inclines and pace can alter the difficulty of each work out. A great playlist can help keep your motivation up. And best of all? You can still walk on rainy days—consider hitting a mall and doing a few circuits to stick with your routine.
Prenatal yoga exists as a great exercise during pregnancy. Certified instructors lead their classes through modified poses meant to strengthen the entire body, while respecting the needs of the baby. Prenatal yoga avoids poses that could be risky for a mama-to-be, while focusing on poses that realign the body and strengthen its core. One of the other benefits to yoga? Its focus on breathing. Yoga encourages those who practice it to acknowledge and consciously manipulate their breath to achieve both deeper stretches and deeper relaxation. These breathing exercises offer a wonderful opportunity to de-stress.
A simple fifteen minute stretching routine in the morning and the evening can dramatically improve your flexibility and circulation. The demands of carrying a baby can often knot the muscles. Many women also experience poorer posture during pregnancy, and daily stretching can help realign the body. For effective stretches, each position should be held at least fifteen seconds. Remember to breathe deeply through each stretch to deliver oxygen to the muscles.
5. Light Cardio
Light cardio is another great option for expecting women. Swimming or classes that incorporate dance such as belly dancing, can offer a great, safe prenatal workout. However, the key word here is “light” cardio. As you enter the second and third trimester, your body will experience more changes and become a bit more stressed. Your circulation may struggle a bit more and your center of gravity will shift. Swimming is an excellent exercise for reducing swelling in late pregnancy and in relieving pregnant joints of all the strain they’ve been experiencing. It’s important to recognize your limitations, especially in the third trimester, so never push yourself!
Staying physically healthy throughout your pregnancy can make the pregnancy itself progress more smoothly. Committing to a daily workout routine can help to reduce the many aches and pains associated with this nine-month process. It’s a good idea to vary your workouts to keep your body and mind actively engaged. And before beginning any type of exercise, it’s always a good idea to consult with your OB or midwife and get his or her okay before starting. If you opt to sign-up for a class, always verify the instructor’s credentials; he or she should be certified to teach mommas to be. These certifications are important, as pregnant women should avoid certain exercises for their own safety.
For more on exercising during pregnancy, visit The March of Dimes.
Kathryn is a baby-wearing, cloth diapering, DIY mom to her quickly growing and pretty cute toddler. When she isn't writing about natural approaches to pregnancy and parenting, she's acting out her favorite children's books or singing off-key made-up songs.