Expecting and wondering what to do to stay fit and healthy? Here is a guide on best and recommended exercises during pregnancy, what to avoid and frequently asked questions
Exercise and Pregnancy-Why stay Fit when Expectant?
Pregnancy requires that you maintain a regular routine of exercise in all the trimesters. This will help you stay healthy for yourself and the baby you are expecting.
In fact, there are studies that associate healthy living marked by physical exercises during pregnancy with increased intelligence in babies.
There are benefits that are accrued to you including making you decrease pain and discomfort from a change in posture that comes with the extra weight.
You will also be able to avoid some medication that you need not take for some complications that you get during pregnancy.
It is recommended that you have a schedule for your routine physical exercises in such a way that you make it regular and easy to monitor. It is even good if you were observing this routine before you got pregnant.
Well, this time, you will need to be a bit lighter on yourself ensuring you don’t beat yourself too hard. This is the time to do just what will be enough for you and safe for the baby. This is why low impact aerobics are indicated and has been found to work so well during pregnancy.
In order to benefit greatly and sufficiently from the exercises that you do, it is pertinent that you consult your obstetrician or a qualified health care provider with such experience. You will save yourself the tendon tear and muscle cramps.
You will be surprised to get a walking prescription, a physical activity you might consider really meagre. Unless you have a complication during pregnancy, you will get prescriptions of not less than 30 minutes of exercises each day if endurable or on alternating days (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
As mentioned before in this material, pregnancy exercises are really beneficial. In order to get motivated, you need to start considering doing these exercises as an investment that should last you a whole life.
This means that you will not be the only one benefiting, but also the baby in utero and even afterwards as the baby grows and develops holistically. Here are some reasons and benefits that you will be able to reap from pregnancy exercises.
It makes labor and delivery relatively easier:
Exercises strengthen your muscles and the cardiovascular system hence enabling you garner enough strength and endurance ahead of the pushing required during delivery.
There have been suggestions on the beneficial effects of prenatal water with studies indicating that they are able to save you need for analgesics for the alleviation of pain during labor.
Reduced risk of gestational diabetes
During pregnancy, diabetes might occur and hence referred to as gestational diabetes. In this type, the blood sugar level rises increasing your risks for diabetes and may be harmful to your baby too. Incidences of gestational diabetes have been for a long time now, known to increasing the chances that you might have a preterm baby and/or deliver one who is overweight and diabetic. You might want to prevent this by keeping fit.
Weight gain is low
Pregnant women who lie around and engage in nothing throughout their gestational period are likely to gain pounds of weight which puts them at high risk for other co-morbidities. These may include hypertensive states such as preeclampsia or eclampsia.
Such disease states complicate delivery and may warrant an invasive surgical procedure such as C-section so as to reduce the risks of losing the mother. Working out puts you within the normal healthy range. You also reduce the chances of weight gain after delivery.
Boost your mood
Pregnancy comes with stress and depression. The most zestful expectant mothers are those who are involved in some aerobic classes. This is because physical exercises boost the production of enzymes and neurotransmitters that are known as ‘happy hormones’ including enkephalins and endorphins.
Reduce the incidence of lumbago: back pain comes with the extra weight the fetus exerts on the hip bone and this ends up radiating to other parts of the back especially the lower back.
In fact, lower back pain or lumbago could be brought about by a dislocation of the spinal facet during such exertions by the weight. Those expectant mothers who register and attend yoga classes and other work outs have lower cases of lumbago.
Constipation is reduced
One of the interventions that is instituted as first line in constipation is normally non-pharmacological. Such interventions are principally physical exercises.
Not only in expectant mothers, they have been shown to be beneficial in normal day to day treatment of constipation.
Physical exercises when fortified with a sufficient quantity of fiber, keep your gastrointestinal tract in optimal motility and trans-sectional transit times are maintained at physiological values.
Physical exercises boost your energy
The production of ‘happy hormones’ brings some happiness to your life. This is in fact optimal in the morning before you start on anything during the day.
Physical exercises during pregnancy improves sleep:
Pregnancy Exercises Third, Second & First Trimester
For each trimester explain what factors will determine the kind of exercise that will be required then briefly highlight the specific exercise(s). The exercises can be any from the ones the following subsections or any from your research
This period refers to the last three months of your gestation period. During this stage, the fetus is developed and of an almost optimal weight. Therefore, you will tend to be extremely fatigued due to the weight. There have been mentions that this period presents immobility at its peak making you feel overwhelmed by the need to move your limbs and body once in a while.
Performing pregnancy exercises provides a relief during this trimester with a refreshing feel afterwards that leaves you swamped with enormous energy. Therefore, you could do the following exercises:
- Horizontal cycling: just as the name suggests, this exercise involves you lying down on your back and move your legs in a cycling manner as if riding a bicycle upside down.
- Side-lift: during the horizontal cycling, you can also couple it by lying on either side of your body and lifting your leg away from the center in an up-down fashion. Do a repeat of the same with the other leg by lying on the opposite side of the body.
- Do some butterfly stretch: this exercise involves up and down movements of your limbs once you are seated, have flexed or bended either side of your leg and placed it as far as you can on the other leg’s thigh. Then synchronous deep inhalation follows on bending the knee further by pulling with your arms closer or towards the chest. Exhalation follows relaxation of the knee, which is a movement away from the chest. Do this with the other leg while doing 10 lift-ups for each leg. Do this as planned in your schedule.
- Performing a stretch pose: while lying on your back, you can place both your hands behind your head holding the occiput. Make then interlock then bend your knees in such a way that the soles of the feet are on the floor. Now twist your head in either direction.
This trimester is marked by a slightly higher level of a ‘feel-good’ effect as it has less fatigue involved and you have just successfully passed the first stage, the first trimester. The latter is usually marked by reduced energy and emesis which is quite undesirable. If you weren’t working out in the first trimester, then this si the time to do so. Keep in mind that this is the trimester that will really need your energy put to good use.
Here are some types of exercises that you could do:
- Squats: this shouldn’t be as hard as the ones done in the gymnasium. Make it as simple as you can and you can have a support such as a table or chair on which you can hold yourself. Therefore, hold a table edge and have your legs apart then go down while flexing your knees, sticking your bottom out and making a forward lean with the waist in a common position. You will know you have reached the optimal bending level when your thighs and the ground lie on a parallel plane. Repeat this severally making sure that you do not fall.
- Do some cycling: unlike the horizontal cycling in the third trimester, you can do the cycling of either leg when seated. Start with a leg about 15 times then the other.
- Tummy sucking: this pattern of breathing should be the opposite of what happens during normal breathing. This is because during exhalation, you are required to pull the muscles of the abdomen, the rectus abdominis towards the area of the spine. During inhalation, focus on your tummy area and use the abdominal muscles to ‘fill’ the ‘abdomen’ making it bigger. Repeat this severally while holding exhalations for about 3 seconds before releasing.
- Do some Kegel exercises: this exercise will involve squeezing your pelvic floor muscle. You are required to hold tight for about 10 seconds while assuming that you are deterring yourself from peeing.
This must be a really hefty trimester. You are fatigued with systemic signs of vomiting and nausea. The reason this trimester is considered a challenge is the care that you instigate upon each move and the new feeling that comes with a developing fetus.
This is why pregnancy exercises are really necessary in this trimester so that it can boost your mood, your digestion and reduce pregnancy-attributable discomforts.
You will need to do a schedule with your obstetrician before you can start any exercise. Make it as simple as you can. At this point, there are varieties to choose from including yoga and anaerobic.
You need to stick to your schedule and make it regular without tire or fail. At the end of the day, you will only require 30 minutes daily. Start slow then increase the frequency of times you do an exercise. Before you start doing an exercise, do a warm-up such as walking on a treadmill or walking around your compound.
Then most importantly, ensure that you are taking enough fluids to rehydrate yourself.
Note: For each of the following exercise highlight its importance, how it is done right. Where possible mention variations and how not to do it.
kegel (Pelvic floor) exercises during pregnancy
While doing this exercise, you will lie down on your back. Then you will have to assume that you felt like peeing and you had therefore the only option to hold your pelvic floor muscle to prevent so from happening. Thus you will squeeze the pelvic floor muscle and hold tight for about 10 seconds.
This exercise strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.
Safe ab exercises during pregnancy
This form of exercise comes when people ask whether they can work their abs during pregnancy. The answer is ‘yes’ though this comes with a lot of caution. This is because you can easily fall and injure the fetus. Therefore be careful. There are a number of abdominal exercises that you can do including:
- Doing kneeling side reaches: in which you balance on the knee of the left leg and the left arm with your right leg stretched straight and the right hand lifted up. Do the same with the other side.
- Side plank: balance on the left lower arm on the ground and the legs together stretched with the right arm placed on the hip bone of the right leg.
- Bird dog: you will place the knee of the left leg on the ground and stretch the right leg backward straight while balancing on the palm of the right hand with the left hand stretched forward. Repeat for the other side.
- Do some dumbbell side bends: if you can access a dumbbell, then you can hold it tightly in your left hand first then bend towards that side. You can do this about 10 times then go to the right hand.
Other ab exercises that you can do during pregnancy in all trimesters include standing side crunches and the cat/cow pose.
Pregnancy fitness ball exercises
With a ball, you can get the right support for various exercise and birth positions such as squats and kneeling while on your fours. You can practice the pelvic tilt, pregnant push up, kegel and ab exercises.
You need to choose the best size of the exercise ball during pregnancy. When selecting a ball, look for one that is resistant to bursting and one that is easy to inflate. It should not be easily punctured. The correct size may be 55 cm if you are shorter than five feet and 4 inches while taller than this needs a 65 cm ball in diameter lengths.
Deep breathing exercises during pregnancy
In this exercises, you will observe a slightly different breathing pattern from your normal. During normal breathing, the muscles control the autonomic process without your input. In this case however, when you exhale for instance, you are required to pull the abdominal muscles towards the spinal cord.
While during inhalation, you push the abdominal muscles to make your abdomen ‘inflate’. In a way, it is like going against breathing patterns which is good as it provides a load to push or pull against hence strengthening your abdominal muscles. Remember to hold your breath for about 3-5 seconds when you exhale.
Abdominal exercises during pregnancy
Safe abdominal exercises that you can do during pregnancy in any trimester are analogous to the ab exercises mentioned in a previous sub-section in this section. Here is the list of exercises while you can always refer to the sub-section on ‘Safe ab exercises during pregnancy’ for further detail.
- Doing kneeling side reaches
- Side plank
- Bird dog
- Do some dumbbell side bends
- Standing side crunches
- The cat/cow pose.
Before you do these exercises remember to consult of inform your health care provider so that you can be advised appropriately. Make sure that you always listen to your body so that you can make necessary adjustments when need arises.
Core exercises for pregnancy
Exercises after pregnancy are meant to make you tone your body and return your body shape to normal before you got pregnant. Good thing is you can begin to exercise as soon as a day after you have had a spontaneous vaginal delivery.
This delivery preferably should not have been complicated leading to unprecedented occurrences such as tear of the vagina or may have warranted a C-section. You will therefore need to acquire a green light from your obstetrician or doctor. You might have to wait for a few weeks to elapse if you had a C-section in order to allow your incision to heal.
Therefore you can do the
- Straight-up crunches
- Oblique exercise
- Breathe exercises
Pregnancy hip exercises
In order to strengthen the hip muscles you can do the following exercises:
- Side leg raise: involves standing while supporting yourself and raising your leg sideways then repeating with the other leg.
- Flexion and extension of your hips: flex your hip as you let the thigh move towards the chest slowly for both legs. After doing this, do an extension which will involve bending your hip backwards.
- Have a seat and stretch: sit on the ground and move your legs inwards towards the center of your body and retain the position for about a minute or so.
Yoga exercises in pregnancy
There are many yoga positions that you can assume. They are good for allowing for a shift in the center of gravity and reducing the incidences of lumbago. Some of the best positions include the standing and the supported triangle.
The former method will involve you raising your hands adjoining them at the center and bending backwards while inhaling and exhaling slowly but deeply which is actually really good for relaxation too.
Pilates pregnancy exercises
This exercise focuses on strengthening your lower abdominal muscles. It is also effective in making your pelvic floor robust hence able to support the back and make movement efficient.
There are Pilates equipment that you can purchase such as the reformers and the trapeze tables. There are smaller items that could aid you too including exercise ball. Rubber bands that provide resistance upon stretching are also options you could use.
Swimming exercises during pregnancy
While in the water, use the chance to exercise all your muscles. You can do the previously mentioned exercises in water but in a rather modified version. You can do squats, flexion and extension of the knee, some flutter kicks and cycles in water.
Pregnancy exercise for normal delivery
If you are looking to have a normal delivery, then here are some few that you should try:
- Swimming exercises
- Do some walking
- Kegel exercises
These should be able to relax your mind and make your more tolerant and stronger in the face of labor and delivery.
How-to-lose weight in pregnancy exercises
In order to lose weight, you can opt for more involving exercises. Walking has been shown to the most effective though aerobics really do help. Walking is a cheaper option and you can do so while doing other exercises on your own as well as find a chilling spot for your yoga.
Make sure to maintain a regular routine so that you can monitor any weight changes.
Exercises to relieve sciatica during pregnancy
Sciatica or lumbosacral radicular syndrome results in a sharp pain that radiates to the thigh and starting from the lumbar or lower section of the spine.
In pregnancy, sciatica occurs due to muscle tension and the weight of the baby resulting in unstable joints and sacroiliac joint problems what is known as piriformis syndrome.
In order to relieve such, you can try the piriformis stretch while seated. If your right side is the one affected, then you can place the ankle on the left leg then bend forward and retain that position for a minute then pull back after wards. Other methods include flexion of the hip and table stretch. The latter is simple with your hands on the table and abdomen stretched far, legs straight. Bend your body downwards then upwards.
Exercise for leg cramps during pregnancy
If you are cramping, stretch your calf muscles by straightening your leg. Flex your heel then your toes towards the anterior part of the foot. Once you have done this, massage the muscle cramping with some warm water and do some slight walking.
Pregnancy strength exercises
This will require some weight lifting though simple. You will need to check with your instructor about this and the best way to do the weight lifting so that you use a proper weight-lifting technique.
There are things you shouldn’t do such as doing weights while lying on your back.
Most pregnancy exercises including those that exercise the abdomen and while lifting weights with a side-flex require that you are standing. You should be trained on proper breathing technique too.
Exercise to reduce lower back pain during pregnancy
You can do the famous squats for your back. This is because during the process of doing these exercises, you bend your waist backwards while making down movements. In pregnancy, this is a bit modified to make it easier for you.
Use a chair to support yourself so that you do not fall on your back as you may hurt it. When you have properly secured your position with legs apart, now stick your bottom outwards then make a forward lean towards the chair.
One you have these two positions in place, move your upper body backwards towards the stuck our butt. Now make down movements while flexing or bending your knees.
You are required to stop and move back upwards once your thigh and the floor are perfectly parallel to each other. Do this 10 times but start off with lighter notes. Don’t push yourself too hard.
Butterfly exercise for pregnancy
You will need to be seated while doing this exercise. Once you have, flex your right leg and place it on the thigh of the left leg. Try pull it as farthest high as you can be able. Now start off by pulling the right leg towards your chest while doing an inhalation at the same time. While doing the relaxation of the leg, you should exhale as you move the leg away from the chest. Repeat with the other leg and do about 10 up and downs for each leg.
Exercise bike pregnancy
There are two ways in which you can do exercise bike for pregnancy. You can do the:
- Vertical cycling: in this exercise, you will make cycling movements of either leg while seated on a chair about 15 times for each side.
- Horizontal cycling: you will however lie down on your back and move your legs in a cycle.
You should note however that each of the mentioned cycling methods are meant for different trimesters. The vertical cycling will be harder in the third trimester and you will therefore do the horizontal cycling.
In the second trimester, you are able to do the vertical cycling and is hence indicated for this period of time in your pregnancy.
Best Pregnancy exercise apps Review
One of the most convenient ways people have been able to stick to exercise schedules and acquire grand ideas that are on a day-to-day basis designed to improve benefits in pregnancy, are the development of applications.
Applications may be linked to a main server or website and may on a frequent basis remind you and even keep a schedule for you.
If you have an iPhone or an android, you are able to get these applications in app stores. There are applications that are specifically designed for iPhones or Androids while some are in both. Some of the applications that you might come across include:
Some of the applications in both android and iphones on pregnancy exercise include:
- Kegel Trainer
- Pregnancy pelvic floor plan
- Pregnancy work out today
- Pregnancy work out advisor
- Prenatal work out
- Sculpt my pregnancy
- Pregnancy and FIT!
All the above mentioned applications are the best in the market according a ranking done by Healthline. The disadvantage with most of the iPhone applications such as the Pregnancy and FIT! is that they are to be purchased while those marketed on android are free. These were selected on basis of being intuitive and easy to use
Safe Post pregnancy exercises
When is it safe to exercise after pregnancy?
If you have had a spontaneous vaginal delivery without any complications then you can start a day later. However, any complications and C-section deliveries should wait for about two weeks or as long as your doctor says so. Diastasis recti may extend the wait to about 3 months.
Exercises for diastasis recti post pregnancy
You can exercise your abdominal muscles but be mindful of the fact that it may take longer than 2 weeks to the extent of a month for the ab muscles to close. This comes after abdominal separation.
This is what is known as diastasis recti and is nothing to worry about as it heals on its own once you have given birth. You can however start to improve the condition earlier by exercising the abs so that the gap is reduced.
While doing the exercises allocated for each trimester, you can do another check for the opening of the ab muscles by the 12th week mark. At this point you can do the straight-up crunches and the oblique exercises. These work out the sides of the abdomen.
Exercises to tone tummy after pregnancy
If you are looking to tone down your post-belly, here are some options for you:
- Pelvic tilt: lie on your back on a pillow under your buttock and another between your knees with the feet flat on the ground. With hands aside, inhale then exhale while tucking your abdomen inside and tucking in your pelvis.
- Pelvic bridge: about a month after giving birth, you can do as in the pelvic tilt but this time inhale and exhale as you push your abs outwards and then towards your spine.
Other safe Exercises after pregnancy
Another method that you can do is the Towel pulse. While lying on your back and knees bent, tie a towel across the upper shins and hold each end. Pull the ends and squeeze the thighs while inhaling, exhaling and drawing your abs in.
Exercises to avoid during early and After Pregnancy
It will be good if you avoided the following exercises during early pregnancy
- Weight lifting when lying on your back
- Crunches and seat ups
- High intensity work outs
- Sumo deadlifts
- Hot yoga
- Scuba diving
Is over exercising during pregnancy safe?
Pregnancy exercises are safe depending on how you do them. This is why it has been stressed severally in this material to have an input from your obstetrician on any exercise plans that you may have.
This will help you reduce the risks that are associated with some of the exercises. However, when done correctly, they are really helpful. Exercises may also lead to cramping or harm you when you don’t do it regularly and/or do it too frequently.
Does exercise during pregnancy help labor?
Yes it does. Exercises have been shown to improve the delivery time and ease labor. The pelvic muscle strengthening exercises also make it relatively less painful during labor.
When to exercise during pregnancy?
You can do some exercises during any trimester. You are however advised to:
- Make changes when in a different trimester as different exercises are meant for different trimesters
- Have a regular schedule of work-outs so that you are able to stick to it and acclimatize faster.
- Take exercises less frequently then step up periods of time and intensity with time as you get used to it
- Take 30 minutes of your morning hours and allot it to work-outs
Why cramps after exercise during pregnancy?
Cramping occurs due to oxygen deprivation or insufficiency provided to the skeletal muscles. During pregnancy, your system is configured to support two beings, you and the child and therefore, metabolic rates will be elevated to cater for this.
This means that you require more oxygen and nutritive quantity so as to provide for the deficit. This is why you are require to take very simple and basic exercises. When you overdo the exercises or fail to have a meal afterwards, you may have skeletal muscle pain resulting from oxygen insufficiency.