For many years, it was thought that engaging in exercise while pregnant was not good for the baby. We now know that is a myth. The truth is that exercising while pregnant is great for both the mother and the child. There are many benefits to remaining active during your pregnancy. You will sleep better, your delivery will be easier, returning to your pre-pregnancy weight will happen faster, and the boost of energy and “feel good” endorphins from your workouts will improve your mood. Try taking a walk around the block or doing a couple of yoga stretches to see how your body feels afterwards. These benefits also apply even if you are not pregnant.
The core muscles are specifically important to exercise while pregnant. These muscles include the muscles that are supporting the baby and are going to be used during the delivery. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. These muscles can be worked by contracting the pelvic core muscles. For example, when you stop your stream of urine, you are using these muscles. You can contract these muscles anytime, hold the contraction for three to four seconds and then relax. Repeat ten to twelve times. You can repeat this exercise several times a day.
The lower back is often the forgotten part of the core. When pregnant it is important to work this muscle group because it compensates for the extra weight. It is also important to work these muscles before becoming pregnant to condition them. My personal favorite lower back exercise is The Pointing Dog. Kneeling on all fours, lift one arm straight out in front of you, then lift the opposite leg straight out behind you, hold for 3-5 seconds and return to starting position. Then repeat with the opposite side. Perform 10 repetitions. As your pregnancy progresses, modify this exercise as you may not feel comfortable getting down on the floor. Stand at the edge of a desk or table and put one hand on top of the table, and do the same as you would on the floor. It is important that if you start feeling strain on your lower back that you do not do any lower back exercises.
A pool is a great exercise tool when you are pregnant. The water adds resistance to all of your movements. Swimming raises your heart rate without the impact of other cardiovascular exercises. A few other exercises that are low impact and great during pregnancy are stretching, walking, pregnancy yoga, and low impact aerobics.
During pregnancy, there are some exercises that involve risk. Avoiding these types of exercises until after you deliver is a good idea. Exercises that involve balance, pose a risk of falling and injuring the baby, so hold off until after you deliver. Heavy lifting should also be taken out of your workout routine because you do not want to take any chances of straining the muscles that are used to support and deliver the baby. It is not safe to start an exercise program if you were not doing a constant exercise program before the pregnancy. It is recommended that you consult with your doctor before starting a new program. So check with your doctor first, and then once you have the A-OK, prepare to enjoy the many benefits of exercise (whether you are pregnant or not)!