*Consult with a health care professional prior to engaging in any type of exercise. And continue to talk with your doctor throughout your pregnancy about exercising to avoid any risks.
Why Exercise While Pregnant?
- Decreases common discomforts such as constipation, swollen extremities, leg cramps, nausea, varicose veins, insomnia, fatigue, back pain, and more
- Helps prevent excessive weight gain
- Can assist in prevention of urinary incontinence, pregnancy-induced hypertension, diastasis recti and in controlling gestational diabetes
- Helps to improve posture and body mechanics, facilitate circulation, reduce pelvic pressure, and increase energy levels
- Allows a faster recovery and also can help overall psychological well-being
What Exercises Should I do?
The most important thing to do is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If something hurts or doesn’t feel right then don’t do it. Every person and every pregnancy is different. Don’t ignore any warning signs.
- Aim to exercise 3-5 times per week for 45-60 minutes
- Keep the intensity to a RPE (rate of perceived effort) of 5-8 on a 10-point scale. There is no magic heart rate number to stay under, but do not exercise to exhaustion. Instead work at an intensity you feel comfortable at
- After the first trimester avoid exercising in the supine position for extended periods of time, or avoid all together if directed by your health care provider
- During pregnancy some muscles shorten & tighten (shoulders, chest, low back, hamstring & calves) so it’s important to stretch these muscles first, then strengthen muscles that lengthen & weaken (upper back, glutes, abdominals, pelvic floor, & quadriceps)
- Walking, jogging, eliptical, swimming, stair stepper, stationary bike, light aerobics
- Stick with cardio exercises that do not require too much balance, as your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy
Stretches for Tightened Muscles
Pelvic Floor Exercises:
Pelvic floor exercises are important for a number of reasons. The muscles of the pelvic floor affect bladder, bowel, and sexual function. Exercising the muscles of the pelvic floor can help prevent urinary incontinence and pelvic pain as well as helps with control and relaxation during the pushing phase of labor.
- Kegel tighten the muscles you would use if you were trying to stop urinary flow (Drawing up the muscles between your legs). Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat. Make sure to breathe while tightening the muscles. This exercise can be done anywhere, so be sure to do it often
- Pelvic Tilt
- Bird Dog
- Cat and Cow: includes a pelvic tilt and also works/stretches back muscles
Transverse Abdominis (TVA) Exercises:
These are the deep abdominal muscles that are important in pushing during labor, can help decrease chance of diastasis recti, can help keep your abs stronger throughout pregnancy and after delivery. Strong TVA can help reduce lower back pain and is another important muscle to assist with the pushing phase of labor.
- Activate TVA: visit website to view video on how to activate TVA
- On all of the above Pelvic Floor exercises make sure you activate your TVA
Upper Back & Shoulders:
The chest size increases during pregnancy, which can draw your shoulders forward; lengthening and weakening the upper back muscles. Breastfeeding / bottle-feeding and holding / rocking a child can also draw the shoulders forward. We need to get the back and shoulder muscles strong to decrease aches and pains along the way.
Legs, Hips, Glutes:
The added weight and pressure from being pregnant can cause pain and discomfort in the hips, glutes, and legs. Keeping these parts of the body strong and flexible is important in the effort to reduce the pressure, pain, and discomfort. Strong legs can also assist in the pushing process during delivery.