Exercise is a great way to boost feel-good endorphins throughout your pregnancy. Maintaining general fitness can even help ease labor and quicken recovery. Not to mention -- keeping a healthy body during pregnancy has been shown to help baby’s future health!
It’s recommended that you are active or exercise 30 to 20 minutes most days during pregnancy to increase your energy, reduce backaches, and improve your strength and endurance. Exercising during pregnancy will also make it easier to get back in shape after your baby is born.
Join Cheryl Mashack, one of our exercise physiologists, as she walks through several pregnancy exercises which are safe for you and your baby.
The first exercise is the basic squat. You start with your feet shoulder-width apart toes pointed forward. Arms are out to counterbalance. It's important to maintain the strength in your trunk, your hips, and your back during pregnancy. With the growth of the baby, your back could start to move backwards and your shoulders could round. The weight of the baby takes on mechanical changes and so does the weight of enhanced breast changes. So with a squat, feet shoulder-width apart, toes forward, arms out to counterbalance, lower your tailbone down to the floor, making sure the knees do not go past the toes, but sticking out your butt, dropping your pelvis down and coming back up. The idea is to lower your hips down as low as comfortable and for what the body allows, dropping down so that the thighs are parallel to the floor, breathing exhaling as you come down, inhale as you come up, keep the chest open and the eyes forward. Complete 15 repetitions at your own speed. The next exercise is a basic wall push-up. It's a safe exercise because your body maintains an upright position. Pretending this is my wall, I'll place my hands up against the wall shoulder-width apart, the bend of my wrist even with my shoulders. My back is straight and my toes are about 12 inches from the wall. You will bend your elbows and start to lower your shoulders, and your hips, and your ankles towards the wall. Make sure that you breathe, exhaling on the way out, inhaling on the way in. Lower your nose about an inch from the wall. Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. If you find that your wall position is not comfortable enough, you can make it a little more difficult and challenging by stepping further away from the wall, lowering your hands down, and then bringing your chest to the wall/ Complete 15 repetitions. The next exercise we're going to do is on the floor (grabs yoga mat and pillow). If you have joints that don't like to be on a hard surface, find a mat. A yoga mat, fitness mat, or folded-up blanket under your knees will give you extra comfort. This exercise is called pelvic tilt - your hands between your shoulders, your knees between your hips. Sometimes with pregnancy, women retain fluid and lose their range of motion (in the wrist). If putting your hands flat on the floor is uncomfortable, an option is to make a fist, pushing your knuckles into the floor maintaining a neutral position of the wrist. We're going to focus on the tailbone, tucking the tailbone between the hips, drawing the navel to the spine, squeezing the pelvic floor slightly, holding for two seconds, and release into a neutral spine. We want to avoid hyperextending the spine. Again, pelvic tilt forward, tucking the tailbone between the hips, holding for 2 seconds, and release. Complete 15 repetitions. The next exercise is called "Bird Dog." You start on your hands and knees. Your hands shoulder-width apart as well as your knees hip width apart. Start by extending one arm up, palm towards the center of the room, thumb up. The hand should be shoulder height. If this feels comfortable to you, the next progression would be to extend the opposite leg holding that position for a count of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The goal is to keep your hand shoulder height and your ankle hip height. We want to avoid rocking your hips to the side. It's very difficult to maintain this position--good balance is required. Draw your navel to the spine, squeeze the buttocks slightly and remember to breathe as you hold this position. And then we will switch sides keeping your hips square is essential in this exercise. Sometimes I tell my students to envision a tray of coffee or tea on your hips, holding and maintaining that balance to try not to spill the coffee or tea. You will complete 15 repetitions. The opposite arm, opposite leg being one set the opposite arm, opposite leg being a total set as one. The next exercise I will be doing is a simple leg lift. I would encourage you to find a decorative pillow or bed pillow to keep your spine neutral (places pillow under head and shoulder). As you roll onto your side, starting on the right or left doesn't matter, as we will be doing 15 repetitions on both sides. Keeping your spine alignment neutral is important. Without this pillow (moves pillow away), my head could move, of course, this is exaggerated, extending my neck to the side which is uncomfortable, or a position like this (hand propped behind head, elbow on mat) is unnatural too for my neck. So maintain that neutral position is optimal. We'll start with our legs together and just brought forward a little bit in what we call a banana position. Draw the navel to the spine, squeeze the buttocks together, and put your free hand on top of your hips. Stacking your hips one on top of the other is important to this exercise. We will start by lifting this top leg up to a height that's comfortable for you and then dropping back down. If your bottom leg starts to move or tense up, you have lifted that leg up too high. If the hips start to rock and you feel your shoulders roll backwards, you've also lifted the leg up too high. Lift and lower with control, pointing or I encourage flexing the foot to alleviate some foot cramps. Exhale as you lift up, inhale as you come down. Complete 15 repetitions and do the other side. The next exercise is called "Clam." Again, we encourage you to find a decorative pillow or a bed pillow to maintain neutral spine and the cervical and thoracic spine. You'll start with your legs together (*laying on your side), bending your drawing your knees to your hips, Again your free hand stacked on top of the hips to maintain the neutral position. Keeping your feet glued together, lift the top knee off the bottom and bring it back down. Exhale as you come up, inhale as you come down. If the bottom leg tenses up as you lift the top leg, you've lifted the leg too high. If your hips start to roll and your shoulders roll back, you've also lifted the top leg too high. Navel to spine, squeeze the butt. Exhale as you lift up, inhale as you come down. Complete 15 repetitions on this side and then switch for another 15 on the other side.
Exercises That Are Safe For Pregnancy
Pregnancy exercises are a great way to keep you and your baby healthy! Here are 6 safe pregnancy exercises to add to your routine.
This is an important exercise because it helps maintain the strength in your trunk, your hips, and your back during pregnancy. With the growth of baby, your back could start to move backwards and your shoulders could round.
Basic Wall Push Up
This is a safe exercise at any stage of pregnancy because your body maintains an upright position.
This exercise will be done on the floor, use a mat or blanket for extra comfort, if needed. Sometimes with pregnancy woman retain fluid and loose range of motion. If it’s uncomfortable to put your palms to floor, make a fist instead.
This exercise will also require you to be on the floor on your hands and knees. Use a mat or make your hands into fists if that’s more comfortable than placing your palms on the ground.
Simple Leg Lift
With this exercise, using a pillow can help keep your spine neutral. This exercise will be performed on your side. You will lift your top leg up as far as you are comfortable, if your bottom leg starts to lift or tense up, you’ve lifted your top leg too high.
Again, this exercise will be performed on the floor and using a pillow will greatly help with keeping your spine neutral.
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