Yes, Exercising While Pregnant is a Thing!
When I was pregnant and I was looking more and more like a balloon every day, I used to sit and think about how happy I was that I didn't have to be out farming or whatever. Okay, bear with me, this is going somewhere I promise. Because, if you think about it, it wasn't all that long ago that life was very different, and both men and women had to some very hard labor to scratch out a living. Now, can you imagine hoeing a field while carrying around little Junior in your belly? But women actually did it!
This is all my very strange and roundabout way of saying that our pregnant bodies can take more activity than we sometimes give them credit for. These days many of us are far less active in our daily lives simply because we have so many wonderful modern conveniences. You might even say that having to find time to be active is a luxury. Same goes for when you're pregnant. On top of that, the fatigue, the swelling, the mood swings, the wildly changing center of gravity may have us saying "No thank you" to the barbells and yoga mat, but it is precisely for all these reasons that exercise is good for you while your little human incubates.
Why exercise while pregnant?
Ugh, pregnancy is hard enough already! Can't I just take a nine month break while this little creature grows in my belly? I promise I'll get back to exercising when I'm only eating for one again. These are all things you may be thinking to yourself when it comes to exercising while pregnant, and these thoughts are understandable. But exercise has many benefits for soon-to-be mothers. Such as…
- Preventing you from gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, especially when those inexplicable cravings for cheese whiz on graham crackers are calling your name.
- Strengthening muscles will help ease the transition of a rapidly changing body and will curtail lower back pain as your belly starts to grow.
- Exercising during pregnancy can help you avoid a preterm birth, a cesarean, gestational diabetes or hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia
- Can help avoid low birth weight
- Improve postpartum recovery.
- Reduce stress, depression, or anxiety.
What exercises can you do while pregnant?
Firstly, there are certain exercises you shouldn't do while pregnant. Any contact sports or anything that might result in a fall should be avoided. Hot yoga is also advised against, as is anything that requires you to lay on your back for extended periods of time. Most importantly, make sure you speak to your doctor before embarking on any exercise plans just to be extra double sure that you and the baby will be safe.
If you're very active before pregnancy, chances are you'll still be able to keep up many of your activities while pregnant once you get the thumbs up from your doctor. Just keep in mind that these activities may have to be modified as your belly grows.
Other recommended activities include:
- Swimming or water workouts
- Riding a stationary bike
- Low-impact aerobic classes
- Strength training
While you can do these activities for pretty much the whole nine months, there are certain exercises that are recommended for each trimester.
In your first trimester, most health practitioners give the green light for continuing your regular workout routine if you have one. This is also a time to prepare for the changes your body will soon be undergoing. Any activities that will help you improve posture, or strengthen your abdominal wall or pelvic floor are very useful. These exercises include:
- Pelvic curl
- Pelvic brace and kegels
- Kneeling (or regular) push ups
- Lying glute bridge
In the second trimester, you may be experiencing a boost in energy as your body changes and you get excited about the new addition to your family. Now is an excellent time to be physically active, but it's also a time to be more aware of your physical limits as your belly and uterus grow. In your second trimester, avoid high impact or endurance sports, as well as jumping, running, balance, or exhaustion. In this trimester, continue to work on your abdominal muscles while placing more focus on stability strength. Do these exercises…
- Narrow squats or single leg squats
- Incline push ups
- Hip flexor and quad stretches
- Side-lying leg lifts
- Mermaid stretch
In your third trimester, you may notice a bit of a slowdown as your belly extends even further than you ever thought possible! Give yourself permission to take it easier if you need to, or opt for modified yoga or pilates, swimming exercises, or walking.
Most of all, don't punish yourself if you're feeling tired. Go at your own pace, and remember that this isn't a beauty contest. Forget all those airbrushed Instamoms and always remind yourself that you are fabulous and that you absolutely glow with this new life inside of you. Exercise should always (but especially during pregnancy) be about making you feel good. So do what makes you feel best mama!