Pregnancy is such an amazing time and the changes your body goes through along the way are nothing short of incredible. It is important to help your body be at it’s best through good nutrition, hydration and staying active! Which brings the question, what exercise is safe to do through pregnancy?
The first thing we recommend is to talk to your GP or Obstetrician. They will be able to give you a clearance for exercising and will be monitoring your progress through your pregnancy so they can let you know if anything changes.
Pregnancy is the time to REMAIN active not to BECOME more active. So the best time to start is before you are pregnant and then to stick to the same or lesser intensity once you become pregnant. Low impact exercise such as walking, Pregnancy Pilates/Yoga and swimming are all good options and can be tailored around your individual fitness level. These are all safe to do throughout your entire pregnancy so long as your doctor approves.
Including some form of resistance exercise is also a good idea so that you can strengthen and prepare your muscles for the months ahead. As well as some gentle stretching/mobility exercise – keeping in mind that during pregnancy your body naturally becomes more “stretchy” so take care not to overstretch.
Here are the top 5 exercises that I have been doing myself through pregnancy – Physio recommended and safe to do through all trimesters!
1). Pelvic Floor Exercises
You have probably heard about these A LOT when it comes to pregnancy exercises and there is a reason for that! Actually several reasons including:
- Helping to support the weight of your growing baby through pregnancy
- Reducing back and pelvic pain through pregnancy
- Assisting with healing after birth
- Reducing the risk of incontinence and other pelvic floor issues after birth
- Just to name a few!
Pelvic floor exercises can be tricky to get the hang of and it is quite normal initially to not know if you are doing them correctly. Technique is important so the best thing to do is have a session with a Physiotherapist so they can teach you how best to do them. It is never to early to start so we recommend seeing your Physio nice and early in your pregnancy.
2). Assisted Deep Squat Hold
This is a great exercise for helping to open the hips and pelvis, strengthen the hip and leg muscles to cope with the demands of labour and there is some research showing it can help with positioning of the baby in later pregnancy. These squats should not be painful so only go as deep as is comfortable for you and check with your Physiotherapist if you are not sure of your technique.
Props to help you get into a deep squat position include either a block or towel to sit under your hips and using a pole or doorway to help lower you into the deep squat position. This way the movement will be nice and controlled and you can stop at the depth that suits you.
3). Squat to Overhead Press
This time you only want to take the squat to parallel position – where the hips go no lower than the knees. The beauty of this exercise is that it uses the whole body and can by done with just your body weight or if comfortable you can add on light weights such as dumbbells or even just some filled up water bottles. To make the exercise a bit easier you can also squat down onto a chair and then stand up. As you come back to a standing position you push your arms (+/- weights) over your head. Then return them back to your shoulders before moving into your next squat.
4). Powerband Rows
One of my favourite exercises in general for working on postural muscles but especially during pregnancy! It is normal that your posture can change through pregnancy as your body changes and your centre of gravity shifts. It is also important to strengthen these muscles for life with a newborn – carrying, lifting and feeding are all tasks that can pull you forward at your back and shoulders. To perform the row you have your band anchored in front of you and pull back with bent elbows. Draw the shoulder blades back and down to open up your chest, as if you are trying to put them into your back pockets.
5). Low Lunge Pose
A great pose for opening up through the hips and pelvis and performing sustained holds while focusing on your breathing can help with preparing for labour. As you get further into your pregnancy your centre of gravity shifts and this can affect your balance. Doing this pose in a kneeling position keeps things safe while still allowing you to get the benefits. Aim to keep open across the chest, relaxed shoulders and open hips and pelvis.
As with any exercise program it should be targeted to you and your body. Which is why it is always recommended to see a Physiotherapist before starting to ensure you have correct technique and to prescribe the appropriate sets and repetitions for you. Stay safe by staying in regular contact with your Doctor and Physio about your exercise program.
Keep active and enjoy!