It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but exercising while you’re pregnant can help alleviate stress, reduce pregnancy pains such as nausea, fatigue and backaches, and prepare your body and mind for giving birth. Maintaining a healthy exercise routine throughout pregnancy can also help you get back into shape post-partum.
Here are some easy-to-follow exercises for each of the three trimesters:
Speed Walk – Walking is an exercise you can do throughout pregnancy. During the first trimester, pick up the pace and work up to a brisk walk for 20 – 30 minutes three to five days a week. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes that support your ankles and arches.
Braced Squat – Hold a weight (whatever weight you’re comfortable with) with both of your hands, arms stretched out in front of your chest. Lower your body as far as you can, bending your knees while keeping your legs at a 90 degree angle and the weight of your body on the ankles. Pause and return to starting position. Do two sets of 12 reps.
Downward Facing Dog – Get the blood flowing and stretch out your body with this yoga pose. On a mat or towel, get on all fours, tuck under your toes, and lift your hips up. Press into the mat firmly with your hands, fingers outstretched. Keep your head down and relaxed and your pelvis pulled in and back. Hold for five to eight breaths. Lower down and repeat two more times.
Stationary Bike – warm-up for five minutes by pedaling at a medium speed. Increase your speed to a rate that gets your heart moving, but one that you’re comfortable at. Pedal at this rate for two minutes. Lower your intensity to just below your warm-up speed for two minutes. Follow this set four to six times.
Upright Row – Stand with your legs hip-width apart (or sit in an upright chair). Hold weights in your hands with arms hanging down to your sides. While exhaling, slowly lift your weights, bringing them together to just under your chin. Inhale and lower to your starting point. Repeat 20 times.
Cat Stretch Pose – This yoga stretch helps to improve posture and balance, stretches the hips and back, and helps calm the mind. On a mat or towel, get onto your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are hip-width apart. As you exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling while keeping your shoulders and knees in position. Inhale and return to starting position.
The Pendulum Cross – This is an exercise you can do in your backyard or community centre pool. Get into the water (shallow end), and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips and pull your belly in (as much as you can). Swing your right leg out to the right and then to the left while swinging your arms in the opposite direction in front of you. Switch to the other side. Do 10 reps.
Plie Squat – Using the back of a chair for balance, stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, legs turned out at the hips. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your abdominal muscles contracted. While inhaling and keeping a straight posture, bend at the knees. Hold. Exhale and return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Warrior Pose – This yoga pose helps build stamina while relieving back aches and energizing tired limbs. Start with your feet more than shoulder-width apart, and arms at your side. Turn your right foot outwards to 90 degrees while keeping your back straight and your face forward. Raise your arms sideways to shoulder height. Keep your palms facing down and your shoulders relaxed. Keep your head facing in the direction of your outstretched arm. While exhaling, bend your right knee as far as you can. Keep your left leg straight and extended. Remain in this position as long as you’re able to while focusing on your breathing.
Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits, both physically and mentally. Of course, it’s important to discuss with your obstetrician before you start any workout program. And always be sure to listen to your body while doing any exercises. Don’t push yourself and rest when you need to.