If you're expecting a baby and are concerned about staying fit both during and after your pregnancy, then you've no doubt got some questions about staying fit and exercising.
Luckily, it's not as difficult as you might think! There are some very simple exercises and fitness tips that you can put into practice to keep you and your baby as healthy and as fit as possible during and after pregnancy!
First off, let's talk about exercise.
Now, if you've already been working out prior to becoming pregnant, you can probably continue your current workout plan. You may want to make a few adjustments depending on what type of exercise you do, though.
Basically, just use some common sense and if something doesn't feel right, don't do it! Or, if you feel that it could place you or your baby in jeopardy, again just don't do it!
Pregnancy is probably not the best time to try to set any personal records, so you may want to dial down the intensity as you get further along in your pregnancy. One simple method is to gauge how well you can talk during exercise…. if the exercise is too intense that you can't speak without gasping for breath, then it may be too much for the time being.
Another consideration may be if you have been involved in any sort of contact sports or exercises where there is a risk of losing your balance or falling, such as climbing, soccer, hockey, off road sports, or on road sports such as cycling….you may want to reconsider participating in those during the pregnancy!
Lastly, remember to stay hydrated! Your baby will rely on you to stay cool and has no way to regulate his or her own temperature if you become overheated.
Now, if you are planning on beginning an exercise program after you’ve already become pregnant, then there are a few more things to consider...
You can help alleviate some of the pains associated with pregnancy by starting an exercise program, and you can also help yourself maintain a healthy weight, which will all help in creating the environment for a healthy pregnancy and baby. If you enjoy group exercise classes, then you may want to participate in aqua aerobics, low impact aerobics, yoga, Pilates, or spinning. Other activities which would be beneficial to you and your baby of a more solo nature would be swimming, using cardio equipment like the stationary bike or elliptical, brisk walking, or solo sessions of yoga or Pilates.
Next, let's consider you want to begin a strength training exercise program after becoming pregnant, but don't have access to a gym or any expensive equipment.
There are some simple, effective, and safe exercises you can do right in the comfort of your home. Some of these are the Plie squat, lunge, thigh adductor and abductor leg raises, plank and leg lift, curls, side raises, rows and triceps extensions.
• Plie squat:
Use a chair or box that allows you to sit down so that your knees bend to approximately 90 degrees. Stand with your feet approximately 6” wider than your hips on either side and slightly flared outwards so that your toes are approximately 45 degrees away from the centerline of your body. You can either place your hands on your hips or hold them out in front of you for balance. Take a deep breath in and squat, bending at the knees, until your buttocks barely touches the chair/box, then stand up and exhale! That’s one! Now try to do up to 25 if you can, but even doing 5 is better than none! Try for 3 sets.
The lunge is basically a single leg squat. I’d suggest that if you’re not used to exercise that you hold onto a counter or the back of a chair or couch. Take a step backwards with your right leg until your right knee comes to about a 90 degree angle, or your knee is within 6” of the floor. Your left leg will be supporting your weight now and will also be bent at a 90 degree angle, or close to it. Now exhale and stand back up using the left leg. You can do 10-15 reps all on one leg and then switch, or you can alternate left to right.
• Thigh adduction and abduction
Thigh adduction and abduction work the inner and outer thighs. First, lie on your right side on the floor. Your right leg can be bent at the hip and knee. Rest your right elbow on the floor and support your left shoulder with your right hand. Your left leg should be straight. Now raise your left leg as high as possible and then lower it. You should feel that on the outer side of your left thigh and the left gluteal area. Once you complete 15-20 reps if you can, then place your left foot on the ground and straighten your right leg. Lift your right leg as high as it will go now. You should feel this on the inside of your right thigh, the adductor muscles. Again, complete 15-20 reps, then roll over (but not over your belly!) and repeat on the other side.
• Plank and leg lift
The plank and leg lift will work your abdominal core and your glutes. Kneel on both knees and both elbows & forearms. Raise your knees off the floor so that you are now on our toes. Keep your spine straight and hold this for 5 seconds. Then, keeping your legs straight, lift your right leg as high as you can, keeping your spine straight, and lower, then repeat with the left leg. If you need to rest, just place your knees back on the floor. Try to do 5 seconds of planking and 5 reps each leg and repeat for 3-4 rounds.
Curls are done with small dumbbells. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and you can either sit or stand for these. Then, bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells until they come close to your shoulders. If you keep your palms facing each other, you should resemble a hammer moving back and forth as you curl. Try 3-4 sets of 15 reps.
• Side raises
Once you do the curls, you can keep the same weight in your hand and leave your palms facing your thighs. Then you’re going to lift your elbows out to your sides like you’re flapping your wings. I often tell clients to imagine you’re a pterodactyl! Lift and lower your arms in a flapping motion to the side until your arms are about parallel to the floor...that’s high enough. Again, about 15 reps is a good number to aim for. Adjust your weights to match the reps you are going for.
Rows are also done with dumbbells. These can be done on a chair or a bed or couch. Place your left knee on whatever elevated surface you choose and kneel down on that one knee, then keep your left leg in a standing posture, with a slight bend to it. Rest your body weight on your outstretched left hand, keeping your arm fairly straight. You’ll be holding a dumbbell in your right hand and let your arm stretch toward the floor. From that starting position, row your arm up by dragging your elbow against your body and pulling your elbow toward the ceiling until your wrist is between your bottom rib and the top of your pelvic bone. The hand just holds onto the weight, all of the action is in the back, just below the armpit--that’s where you should feel it!
• Triceps extension
Lastly, the triceps extension. Again, you can sit or stand for these. Hold a dumbbell by one end using both hands, then raise the dumbbell over your head so that your arms are fairly straight and palms are facing the ceiling. Let the weight come behind your head as you bend the elbows...but please try NOT to smack your head (it’ll only take once or twice before you learn where your head starts and stops!!!). Then just straighten the arms back up until the dumbbell is once more above your head. Go ahead and lower and lift, working those triceps, until you can get a good burn from 15-20 reps for 3-4 sets.
That’s it! It’s a fairly simple workout you can do at home and should only take 30 minutes maximum if you have the stamina to keep rest periods to 1 minute.
If you already have a gym membership and want to continue a strength program while pregnant, I’d suggest the following simple exercises to perform 3 times per week, with alternating cardio days.
- Seated chest press/flyes
- Seated cable row/lat pulldown
- Seated shoulder press/db side raises
- Any db or cable arm exercise
- Leg extensions/seated leg curl
The final piece of the puzzle is cardio.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “the principles of exercise prescription for pregnant women do not differ from those for the general population.”
So, using the standards above for safety and exertion, you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This could easily be broken down into five 30 minute sessions, or you could even break it up into shorter sessions done throughout the day!