We all know that exercise brings with it a host of health benefits. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, women who maintain exercise throughout their pregnancies manage to keep their weight in check and improve their overall fitness.
9 exercises to include in your pregnancy workout
Your upper body workout
Strengthening your upper body prepares you for carrying your baby after you give birth. Preparing for your baby’s weight will save you precious energy once he’s born – after all, babies are heavy.
Find a sturdy bed, coffee table or chair to sit on. Keeping your arms strong, slowly lift and lower yourself off the surface until your elbows are bent to 90°. Straighten your arms without locking and repeat. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Stand a short distance away from a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms forward at shoulder-height to lean against the wall.
Slowly bend your elbows to simulate a push up, moving forward until your chin reaches the wall. Hold for a moment and return to your starting position. Remember to keep your back straight. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps, depending on your fitness levels.
Shoulder raises with dumbbells
Sit or stand comfortably, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your arms out to opposite sides until they form a straight line with your shoulders. Hold for a moment, then return to your starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Your lower body workout
Squatting positions during labour, even for short amounts of time, help open your pelvic area and allow more room for your baby to descend.
Plié squats with exercise ball
Stand up straight, holding an exercise ball in place between your back and the wall. Turn your toes out and stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
Slide down the wall into a 90° squat, keeping your heels flat on the floor. Hold for a moment, then return to your starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Leg lifts with band
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a resistance band looped around your ankles.
Keeping your balance or resting your hands on a chair for support, lift one leg out to the side, hold for a moment and return to your starting position. Repeat with the other leg. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Standing offers more resistance with the added weight of your baby bump. If you’d prefer a lighter exercise, perform this move lying on your side instead.
Hold onto a sturdy surface and stand with a hand towel under one foot.
Slide that foot out to the side and sink into a one-legged squat. Hold for a moment then return to your starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Your back and core workout
Your abdominals need to be strengthened in preparation for the labour process. These exercises will also help you negotiate your new centre of gravity and support the weight of your growing baby.
The traditional crunch needs to be modified as you should not lie flat on your back from your second trimester onwards. In this position, your growing baby can put pressure on the large vein that allows bloodflow to and from the lower body, and slow the blood supply to your baby.
Position yourself comfortably on the floor with a few large pillows stacked behind your back. You should sit at a 45° angle to the ground.
Hold your hands behind your back with your elbows out to the side. Pull your tummy tight and lift yourself forward off the pillows, keeping your head and shoulders in line. Hold for a moment then relax back down. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Position yourself on your hands and knees, with knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Keeping your spine neutral, inhale and relax, then exhale and pull your baby gently in towards your spine.
Hold for a moment then inhale again and relax. Your spine shouldn’t move throughout the exercise. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Position yourself on your left side, forming a straight line with your body. Putting the pressure on your feet, raise yourself up onto your left forearm.
Your left shoulder should be directly above your left elbow, and your shoulders, hips and knees aligned. You can rest your right arm along the side of your body. Hold for a few moments, then lower yourself back to the floor. and repeat on your right side. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Cardio options for preggy moms
- Walking is fitness in its simplest form. Whether you’re walking or jogging, include shallow inclines to provide resistance. Training on the treadmill is ideal since you can control the timing and gradient of the terrain. If you’re outdoors, skip rocky areas or hiking trails where you could lose your footing.
- Light aerobics or step classes, Zumba fitness, or other casual dance classes get your heart rate up without high-impact exercise. The challenge of completing routines improves your coordination and gives you a mental boost as well.
- Swimming is one of the most effective forms of fitness, especially when pregnant. It’s one of the few cardio exercises that offer resistance, while being gentle on the joints. If lengths bore you, join a water aerobics class.
Just remember to avoid extreme temperatures – both hot and cold.
- You can still cycle outdoors easily up until your third trimester, just make sure it’s in a safe area away from cars.
From there on, you may have to settle for the stationary gym bike. If you’re struggling with your belly size, the recumbent bike is a great option.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.