Years ago, expecting mums were urged to reduce or even avoid exercise during pregnancy – crazy right?! Not only is it okay to exercise during pregnancy, but it can have a positive impact on both mum and baby.
There are many amazing benefits to exercising during your pregnancy such as:
- Sleeping better. Exercising helps manage restlessness and the constant disturbed sleep we can encounter during pregnancy.
- Reducing your stress levels. While pregnancy is supposed to be an amazing achievement of what our bodies can do, it's also quite stressful on our bodies too, triggering an emotional rollercoaster during what seems like the world's longest nine months.
- Lifting your mood. Exercising boosts your levels of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood, leaving you feeling happier, healthier and stronger.
- Relieving constipation – something I was never told would happen during pregnancy! Thank you tiny humans! By moving more with exercise, you can also get movement in your intestines.
- Helping with a faster return to your pre-pregnancy healthy weight. Exercising during pregnancy means you will gain less body fat, which makes it easier to lose the excess kilos once your baby is born.
- Preparing your body for the physical strain of labour. Childbirth requires plenty of stamina, lots of focus and of course determination – the healthier you are, the better equipped you will be for giving birth.
I take my clients through a number of exercises during their pregnancy that will strengthen their muscles (to help with carrying those extra few kilos), make their joints stronger and ease their backache. Here are some of the exercises that are safe during pregnancy:
Pelvic tilt exercises
- Go on all fours with knees shoulder width apart.
- Relax your core so your lower back and abs are in neutral positions.
- Draw your tummy in towards your spine and hold while breathing deeply.
- Without moving your thighs, push your hips forward so that only the pelvis moves and your lower back flattens. Hold. Release. Repeat this up to 10 times.
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which, as we all know, come under significant strain during pregnancy and childbirth:
- Sitting or kneeling, lean forward slightly, keeping a straight back.
- Squeeze (and lift) the muscles as if you are trying to stop a wee.
- Hold the squeeze as you count to 10.
- Relax for 10 seconds. If you can’t hold for 10, just hold as long as you can.
- Repeat this as many times as you can, about 8 to 12 squeezes. Repeat the whole thing 3 times.
- Remember to keep breathing while exercising. Try not to tighten your glutes.
Other safe exercises:
- Braced squats and plie squats are great for strengthening the leg muscles (quads, hamstrings and glutes) and they also help improve balance.
- Seated or kneeling lateral arm raises are great for strengthening the arms, back and shoulders.
- Glute bridges/pelvic bridges increase the muscle strength in the transverse abdominals, glutes and lower back.
- Incline push ups (standing against a wall) are great for the chest and arms.
- Seated or kneeling bicep curls.
Returning to exercise after baby
I am often contacted by new mums wanting to get back into their workouts quickly after their babies are born and more often than not, I have to tell them to wait. Returning to exercise shortly after childbirth can actually reduce your pelvic floor muscle strength and cause you long-term bladder and bowel problems or even pelvic organ prolapse. It is always important to check with your doctor, midwife, or physio before returning to any form of exercise after childbirth.
Pelvic Floor First have a great general guideline that gives you a starting point to plan your return to postnatal fitness. See more at pelvicfloorfirst.org.au.
Important: You should consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. Everyone is unique and your doctor is the only person that can safely give you the green light. If the pregnancy is complicated (such as expecting multiples, or if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, pre-eclampsia, or risk of premature births) it is best to talk to a doctor.
Read our article Earning your mummy stripes here.
Carly McQuire is the owner of The Bod Squad, and has a passion for helping busy mums achieve a healthy, happy and fit lifestyle. Find out more at www.facebook.com/thebodsquadhealthandfitness or call Carly on 0413 751 410.