The Best Prenatal Exercises ... In My Opinion

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She is jumping for joy about becoming a big sister! I'm equally as thrilled, but jumping isn't exactly one of the exercises I'm doing right now. It has been a long journey with a few hiccups along the way, including modified bed rest. I had never been told I couldn’t work out, so this was a challenging time for me. The good news is that I’ve been cleared to be active again, but because of many first trimester complications I am still very reserved when it comes to exercise. This post I will focus on a few moves that I feel comfortable doing at this stage in the game. Sure, it’s no bootcamp or crossfit class, but it’s keeping me moving (and sane) and that’s all that matters.

Benefits of Prenatal Exercise

Although it can feel uncomfortable at times, there are so many benefits to working out while you are pregnant. For starters, most women who do so not only cope better with labour and delivery, but they are also able to bounce back and recover more smoothly.

I should also add that regular exercise during your pregnancy can help continue to strengthen your muscles, which helps you manage through a lot of the aches and pains you might be experiencing. I have to say, this time around I am experiencing way more than I did the first time. Plus, keeping active has also given me an extra dose of energy. Having a toddler to chase around while manoeuvring with a baby bump can be exhausting. My mood also gets a boost post workout too! It has been an emotional roller coaster so far, so keeping my mood high and happy helps get me through the day.

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There are so many benefits and I won’t spend all day listing them, but I will just add that regular activity can assist with helping you maintain proper posture as well. Our alignment is something that often shifts during pregnancy due to the added weight in the front and can stick with us even after our baby has been delivered.

But first, is it Safe?
 

I should have spoke to this first because this is often a question that comes up. Overall and in most cases, it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. Of courses, always speak to your healthcare provider first. As long as you are comfortable and there are no other health conditions, exercise is often recommended. It is believed that if you were active before getting pregnant than it is likely fine you can continue doing the same activity while pregnant (but perhaps with decreased intensity and with some modifications). Whatever you choose, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the session and always (ALWAYS) listen to your body; if you ever feel any discomfort or pain, stop immediately and consult your healthcare provider.

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The Best Prenatal Exercises … In My Opinion

As I mentioned, if you are a runner and have been running prior to expecting, the chances are you can still continue running. For me, given a lot of complications in the first trimester (including a haemorrhage in my uterus), I am trying to keep it simple when it comes to exercise. But of course, I keep movement a priority because I know that it always makes me feel better (no matter what)! Here are a few of my fave prenatal moves so far:

Wall Squats with Exercise Ball – this move can help prepare you for the delivery while also strengthening your lower body and opening up the pelvis.

The move:

  • Place the ball between the wall and your lower back, walking your feet out slightly.
  • Lower your body toward the floor in a squat position as you continuously push back into the ball. Note: Don’t let your knees roll out to the sides. Keep them in line with the rest of your body.
  • Bend your knees to 90 degrees and then straighten your legs, keeping your weight over your heels to return to standing position. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions. 

The Clam – this sounds easy enough, but strengthening your pelvic area can save you a lot of pain and discomfort over the coming months.

The move:

  • While lying on your side, keep both knees bent and flex the hips to 30 degrees. You can place pillows below your knee for support and comfort and top arm should be extended under your head.
  • While keeping your heels touching and pelvis still, open you knees by contracting your glute medius. This is a very slow, small and targeted movement.
  • Breathe in to lower with control. Complete 10-15 repetitions for each side.

Pelvic Tilts – this is a great move to help alleviate back pain during pregnancy as it is helping to strengthen the muscles in your abdomen.

The move:

  • Start on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in.
  • Your back should slightly round. Stay here in this position for 5 seconds then relax without letting your back sag.
  • Repeat for 10 reps and don’t forget to breathe.
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Resistance Training

Yes, I still go to the gym and lift weights because that’s what I love, but I am lifting a lot lighter than I used to. I often opt for machines now, which help with my range of motion and reduce any chance of injury. I avoid lying on my back for any exercises and I am always cognisant of my breathing. When weight training it can be easy to accidentally hold your breath. We want to avoid this as we can become easily lightheaded and dizzy. Biceps curls, triceps extensions, seated rows and lat pulldowns are great exercises that can help keep your upper body strong and prepared for lifting your little babe when he/she arrives.

Swimming

I am not much of a swimmer, but it is actually considered one of the best and safest exercises for pregnant women. It uses large muscle groups while also providing cardiovascular benefits. Swimming has also shown to reduce swelling. Sign me up!

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Prenatal Yoga

Signing up for a prenatal yoga class is one of the best things you can do because you’re not only getting active and staying flexible, but you’re meeting other moms who are likely going through a lot of the same things you’re going through. Meeting new mommy friends can make for great mat-leave dates later on too. My favourite studio for classes in the city is Toronto Yoga Mamas and they are now offering Barre classes too, which is another great option for mothers.

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Prenatal Body Changes To Note

Our bodies are obviously changing physically, but what you might notice is that your joints are more flexible too. This occurs due to the hormones that cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy. Also be aware of your shifted centre of gravity. Your balance can be affected, so always take extra caution when exercising.

What Exercises Should You Avoid

Always speak to your healthcare provider regarding your personal level of activity, but there are some movements that are generally noted as those to avoid during pregnancy. These include:

  • Contact sports or exercises that require quick changes in direction.
  • Extensive jumping, hopping, skipping or bouncing.
  • Activities or sports where falling is more likely (i.e. snow boarding, skating).
  • Workouts or yoga in hot temperatures.

Stay Motivated

It is not always easy to stay motivated during pregnancy because we all know that it can be uncomfortable at times and I know I barely want to lift a finger let alone dumbbell at the end of the day. My advice is to find an activity you enjoy and commit to it at least 2-3 times a week. Ask a pregnant mommy friend to join and that will also help to keep you accountable. If all else fails, walking is an easy way to get moving ... and that can be done anywhere including the mall while holiday shopping! :)