Human pregnancy consists of approximately 280 days, divided into three trimesters.
Pregnancy appears to be a life-changing event for most women.
Maintaining a healthy state of pregnancy makes you feel delighted.
For a very long time, gynecologists restricted pregnant women from exercising.
However, modern doctors suggest that exercise in pregnancy has numerous benefits.
In this blog post, you’ll learn about safe exercises in pregnancy, which exercises you should perform, and which ones you must avoid.
Benefits of exercises during pregnancy
If you have no contraindications to physical activity and no other existing medical condition, exercise in pregnancy is safe.
It has several advantages:
- It keeps you active and in shape.
- You are less likely to develop pregnancy and birth-related issues.
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Provides safe growth of the fetus.
- Alleviates depressive state and lowers the risk of postpartum depression.
- Shorten the labor period, reduces glucose levels, and lessens the chances of C-section.
Although it is safe for women having normal pregnancies to exercise, it is always necessary to obtain a physician’s approval to exercise.
Before going into further details, we will give you some beneficial tips regarding exercise in pregnancy.
Exercise tips for safe pregnancy and birth
Several tips for exercise in pregnancy are as follows:
- Stay hydrated and protect yourself against heat stress.
- Wear loose-fitted and supportive clothing like a sports bra and belly band.
- Avoid strenuous exercises.
- Walking for half an hour is enough if you can manage, but if not, any less amount is fine.
- Always make sure that your trainer is aware of your pregnancy week.
- Warm up before you exercise, and cool down afterward.
- Don’t be hard on yourself, if you’re out of breath, reduce the intensity.
- If you are accustomed to high-intensity workouts, it’s fine to do so during pregnancy too. Well, obviously after your doctor’s approval.
- If you are changing intensities, always seek advice from your physician beforehand.
- Beware of altitude sickness.
- Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, have vaginal bleeding, or decreased fetal movement.
Now, we will let you know which exercises are beneficial to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Best and safe exercises during pregnancy
Women are mostly concerned about which month to start exercise during pregnancy.
Let us tell you that it is entirely safe to start exercises in your first month.
Performing moderate-intensity exercises for thirty minutes every day is considered secure.
Fun fact: You can perform pregnancy exercises at home!
Physicians suggest those exercises which benefit the woman’s whole body, are advantageous for the developing fetus and lower the risk of injury.
Below are listed some beneficial exercises.
1. Abdominal-strengthening exercises
Abdominal strengthening exercises aid abdominal muscles and provide relief from the backache experienced regularly in pregnancy.
During pregnancy, most women experience an enhancement of DRA (Diastasis Recti Abdominis) due to overstretched abdominal muscles.
However, research published in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy found that women who exercise in pregnancy have a narrowed DRA than non-exercising mothers.
Here’s how you can perform it:
- Sit cross-legged on a comfortable floor or a pillow.
- Put one hand on the belly and the other one on your back.
- Expand the belly on the inhale and bring the navel towards the spine on the exhale, halting halfway between the belly button and the spine – this is the starting posture.
- Return to the starting posture by squeezing the navel further back towards their spine.
- Stop when you’re tired.
2. Pelvic tilt exercises
To perform pelvic tilt:
- Lean against a wall with your shoulders and bottom.
- Keep your knees flexible.
- Pull your belly button to your spine, such that your back flattens against the wall.
- Hold the position for four seconds and then release.
- Repeat up to ten times
3. Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises are also called pelvic floor exercises and they strengthen the pelvic muscles, making them prepare for labor.
International Journal of Childbirth Education reports that Kegel’s aid in preventing pelvic floor damage during pregnancy and decreases Postnatal Urinary Incontinence.
Here’s how you can perform Kegels:
- Close your bottom as if you’re trying to avoid going to the bathroom at the same moment.
- Do this exercise fast, squeezing and releasing the muscles as if you were gripping a tampon and your urethra as if you were stopping the flow of urine at first.
- Then gently begin to relax, holding the contractions for as long as you can, and attempt to count to ten.
- Every day, attempt to do three sets of eight squeezes.
Let’s give you an idea: You may complete a set at each meal to help you
4. Stretching exercises
Stretching is recommended before and after the exercise. Also, stretching is one of the safe pregnancy exercises that you can do at home!
A report published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship observed reduced preeclampsia (hypertension, weight gain, and edema) in women who performed stretching during pregnancy.
Stretching includes neck and shoulder rotation, leg shake, and ankle rotation.
Neck rotation exercise during pregnancy:
- Relax your upper body.
- Bring your chin forward.
- Rotate your head gently to the right shoulder, then to the middle, and then over the left shoulder.
- Rotate four times in each direction at a relaxed pace.
Shoulder rotation exercise during pregnancy:
- Bring your shoulders forward.
- Then rotate them up to your ears before returning to the starting position.
- Rotate four times in each direction.
Leg shake and ankle rotation are more convenient to do on fitballs.
Leg shaking during pregnancy:
- Sit with your legs and feet stretched out in front of you.
- Shake your legs up and down in a moderate motion.
Ankle rotation during pregnancy:
This is relatively easier and you can do it comfortably while sitting:
- Sit with your legs straight out in front of you and your toes relaxed.
- Make huge circles with your feet.
- Make use of your entire foot and ankle.
- Rotate to the right four times and to the left four times.
5. Cardio exercises
Cardio exercises are those that increase your heart rate!
Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are the best cardio exercises during pregnancy.
The fun part is you can do a walk and stationary cycling inside your home!
Studies suggest that walking helps to increase maternal blood flow and decrease physical complaints.
Physicians recommend moderate walking for thirty minutes daily.
Swimming is also recommended due to its effects on buoyancy.
A report on exercise in pregnancy also advises that stationary cycling performed for half an hour with 140 bpm maternal heart rate is beneficial.
These cardio exercises do not have any negative impact on maternal temperature or FHR (Fetal heart rate).
Jogging may also be performed only after the physician’s advice.
Consequent, these exercises are safe for you and your baby, and can be performed during all trimesters.
6. Prenatal yoga
A recent publication in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth reports that women who did yoga during pregnancy experienced reduced psychological stress and improved skills to manage labor pain.
Prenatal yoga includes breathing, gentle stretching, relaxing, and strengthening exercises like a warrior on a chair and standing backbend pose.
Here’s how you can do them:
Warrior on a chair pose:
- Sit on a comfortable chair.
- Turn left leg to left.
- Straighten the right leg.
- Keep your pelvis on the chair.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Exchange the position to the right side.
- Repeat as much as you want.
- Stand upright
- Support your hips by placing your hands on the hips
- Lean backward gently till you feel stretch
- Hold for almost twenty seconds
- Repeat five times.
Although exercise during pregnancy is generally safe, certain exercises must be avoided during pregnancy.
Exercises to avoid during pregnancy
Certain exercises should not be performed when you’re pregnant.
They increase the risk of injury and can be harmful to you and your baby.
These exercises include:
- Prolonged standing, especially during the last trimester.
- Scuba diving.
- High risk of hit (judo, squash, or kickboxing).
- High risk of falling (gymnastics, ice hockey, and horse riding).
- Altitudes greater than 2500m.
- Lying flat on your back, after the first trimester.
If your pregnancy is normal, you have no contraindication to physical activity, and no existing medical issues, exercise in pregnancy is safe.
It is beneficial for you and your baby.
It keeps you active, reduces the risk of depression, and gives you the strength to endure labor.
However, it is always necessary to take your physician’s permission beforehand.
Physicians recommend moderate exercises like walking, swimming, and stretching every day for thirty minutes.
Conversely, exercises having a high risk of injury are not suggested during pregnancy and they must be avoided.
Follow these amazing guidelines on safe exercises during pregnancy and enjoy this beautiful phase nature blessed you with!