You’re pregnant!?!? Whether the response is whoo-hoo or uh-oh; ready or not, that baby will come and the best way to enjoy those 36(+) weeks of transformation is to relax into the change. It doesn’t take a ground breaking clinical study to know that inevitably physical, emotional and hormonal changes come with the pregnancy badge. However, studies repeated show that women who exercise regularly return to their pre-pregnancy weight, have better regulation of blood glucose levels which is important for reducing the risks of gestational diabetes and let’s face it, they simply feel better.
The Benefits of Exercising for Two
Exercise during pregnancy has more benefits than the post partum bounce-back. The benefits for both mom and baby assist in their overall wellbeing both during the pregnancy and postpartum. The effects of exercise on unborn children actually can offset the plaguing epidemic of childhood obesity. One study conducted by researcher James Clapp M.D. found that kids born to mothers who exercise vigorously during pregnancy end up slimmer and smarter than those whose mothers do not exercise except walking during pregnancy.
Clapp cited in his book “Exercising through your Pregnancy”, the following benefits to a pregnant woman who maintains an exercise program:
1. Improved muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness
2. Lead to a better appearance and posture
3. Lessen some of the discomforts of pregnancy
4. Strengthen the muscles needed for labor and delivery
5. Quicker recovery
The elements of any sound fitness program will always include strength training, aerobic exercise and flexibility. We’ve put together a no-nonsense Total Body workout that doesn’t make you feel maxed out but maximizes your time.
Before you begin any exercise program, check with your doctor and get a physician’s clearance to rule out any possible exercise related contraindications. Due to the changes that occur in pregnancy, be mindful of bending forward which can cause dizziness, heartburn and place undue stress on the lumbar spine. Conditions such as hypertension, bleeding, cardiac arrhythmia and other afflictions can be potentially injurious.
Flexibility & Stretch
Stretching and flexibility is about relaxing and releasing therefore it should never include momentum or discomfort. Pilates or Yoga type poses are great way to incorporate choreographed structured flexibility exercises and most times include modifications for your growing belly. As always, be sure to get your physicians approval before engaging in any type of exercise program. Here are a few simple safety tips to follow when stretching:
Always warm up; stretching cold muscles increases your risk for injuries. Try walking at a slow pace simply to get the blood pumping through your muscles.
Simple effective strength training
Holding a 3-5lb dumbbell in each hand, relax your arms to each side with your palms forward and wrists relaxed. Keep your elbows at your sides bend both arms bringing the weight up to the shoulders, slowly lower to the starting position and repeat 8-10 reps
Holding 3-5 lb dumbbell, standing feet staggered one in front of the other bend elbows position weights at your hips, hinge from the elbow extending the arm behind you without locking the elbow. Bend the elbow to release and repeat
Chest Press on the ball
Start from a seated position on the Swiss ball. Slowly walk out until your lower to middle back is supported by the ball. Your feet should be slightly further than hip width apart. Start with the dumbbells at a 90 degree angle at your elbow, palms facing away from your body. Slowly push the weights straight up above your chest, keeping them in line with shoulders. Slowly lower back to the starting position. (Special Instructions Do NOT perform this exercise on a hard, flat surface after the 1st trimester. If you do not have a Swiss ball, this exercise can be performed on an incline bench. If at any time you feet faint or out of breath, discontinue lying on your back.)
Modified push up
Begin by getting down on yours hands and knees with your hands just outside shoulder width and slightly forward of your shoulders. Your knees should be directly aligned with your hips. Keep your abdomen tight and your spine in a neutral position. Bend your elbows and lower chest to 90 degrees at the elbows. Push up so that your arms are straight, making sure your elbows aren’t completely locked.
Place Swiss ball between your lower back and a wall. Lean against the Swiss ball with your feet firmly planted about 12″ in front of you. Grasp one dumbbell in each hand, arms at your side, palms facing the body. Slowly lower into a comfortable squat and hold it there. EXHALE: Raise the dumbbells at your sides to shoulder level, keeping elbows slightly bent. INHALE: Lower slowly with control to the starting position to complete one rep.
Stand with your feet about 6 inches apart from each other toes pointed forward. Hold onto a chair or wall for balance. INHALE: Step forward with one leg and lower your body to 90 degrees at both knees. Don’t step out too far. There should be 2-3′ between your feet at this point. Keep your weight on your heels and don’t allow your knees to cross the plane of your toes. EXHALE: Push up and back to the starting position to complete one rep. Repeat all reps on one leg, then switch to complete one set.
Stand about a foot in front of a step or riser that is about 12-18 inches high. Your feet should be a little less than shoulder-width apart. Allow your arms to hang comfortably down by your sides. They will stay in this position during the exercise. Keep your back straight and step on the riser with your right foot. With a steady and controlled motion slowly pull yourself up onto the bench using only your right foot. Step off the bench with your left foot first and then the right foot until you are again standing in front of the riser. Repeat but this time starting with your left foot first again concentrating on lifting your body up with the left leg. Do the same number of repetitions for each foot alternating each repetition.
Back strengthener/Core stabilization
Bird dog (opposite arm/opposite leg)
Kneel on your hands and knees, placing hands below your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips.EXHALE: Raise right knee off the floor, extending leg behind you, parallel to the floor as you also extend your left arm in front. Hold for 1-3 counts.INHALE: Lower your arm and leg back to the starting position, rounding your back like a cat. (Try to pull your navel toward your spine, forming a straight line with your body before rounding your back.)
Start by lying on your side, bottom arm bent, legs straight, feet staggered one in front of the other (not pictured). Your elbow should be directly below your shoulder. Place free hand on your hip. Flex feet and balance on sides of feet. Use abs to lift hips off the ground, keeping body as straight as possible. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 1-3 times and switch sides.
Begin kneeling on all fours. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, knees directly under your hips, spine neutral. INHALE: Gently tilt the pelvis forward, dropping hips toward the floor. EXHALE: Pull in your abs as you tilt your pelvis backward, up toward the ceiling to complete one rep.
Yoga stretch for relaxing
Begin on hands and knees. Supporting your weight with your hands, slowly bend your right leg, tucking your right knee into your left hip. Simultaneously, extend your left leg straight behind you, toes down. Your weight should be balanced between the outer portion of your bent right leg and the front of your left leg.
Lower your hips towards the ground. You should feel a stretch in the buttock of your right (bent) leg. If your flexibility allows, slowly lower your upper body and head towards your bent knee. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Relax, and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Stand in the corner of a room, facing the walls, feet planted about 2-3 feet away from the corner. With feet flat and legs straight, place right palm on the right wall, left palm on the left wall, fingers pointing upward. Your wrists should be in line with your shoulders. Bending at the elbows, lower your body toward the corner, elbows pointing backward. You should feel this stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Repeat 2 times.
* For optional exercises, modifications and demonstrations check out babyfit.com, fitpregnancy.com and epregnancy.com