3 key safe exercises for pregnancy that you can try today

It’s the New Year, with all the accompanying resolutions to get fit and healthy. If you are also pregnant then you really do have the biggest incentive ever: to get healthy both for your own good and for that of your baby. So 2017 really is THE perfect year to focus on looking after yourself – body and mind – so that you have the energy to be a busy mum looking after your little one despite the sleepless nights. And motherhood is a very physical job that can have a considerable impact on your body: there’s an awful lot of lifting, carrying and lugging around to do, which can be quite a shock to the system if life hasn’t been very physical up until now. So making your pregnancy a fit one – by incorporating safe exercises for pregnancy – is a great way of proofing your body against common aches and pains.  

Here are 5 of my favourite safe exercises for pregnancy:

  1. The squat – lower body

 

Squats are an all-round excellent exercise for pregnancy. They keep the biggest muscles in your body strong – the bottom, thighs and hamstrings – at a time when you inevitably have to carry an ever-increasing load (the weight of your growing baby). The pelvis is particularly vulnerable in pregnancy but keeping this area strong by performing regular quality squats will help protect you.

What to focus on: feet hip to shoulder-width apart; keep your body weight in the heels not the toes; do not allow the knees to shoot forwards as you squat; keep excellent posture by pinning the shoulders back and ensuring you don’t round through the shoulders or tuck the tailbone under; and gently draw in on your tummy muscles – this is important.

  • if you are not used to performing squats ad are unsure on technique, place a sturdy chair behind you and stand in front of it – facing away -with feet hip to shoulder-width apart. Perform your squats by sitting down on the chair and standing back up again – use your legs and don’t lever yourself out of the chair with your hands.

Watch out: if you have pelvic girdle pain (PGP or SPD) then it is important to keep the feet no wider than your hips. If squatting irritates your PGP then do’t do it.
 

  1. The row – upper body

Strong posture is absolutely key to a pain-free pregnancy (and beyond) and whilst pregnancy clearly affects posture due to a shifting centre of gravity as the bump grows, any exercises that strengthen the postural muscles are helpful. The row is perfect for this. In the context of a gym, you can use the seated row weights machine or the cable machine (when your bump is still smaller as later on sitting on the ground with a large bump is too hard for most of us). At home you can adapt the row using a resistance band and hooking it over a strong banister or seated hook the band over your feet.

What to focus on: if using a resistance band stand tall with excellent posture; draw gently in on the abdominals when performing the rows; keep the elbows at a 90° angle and pull on the band so that the elbows brush past your torso; exhale as you draw the band back and inhale as you release with control.

Watch out for: if you extend and push the hands downwards as you perform the row, you will place too much strain on the abdominal area. Keep an eye on this and if you feel the abdominals working more than just gently, adjust the position of the hands as you row.

  1. Single leg lifts – deep stabilising abdominals

 

When I mention the abdominals to pregnant women, the response I usually get is “What abdominals?” Whilst it might well feel as though the abdominals have entirely disappeared never to re-emerge, this is not true at all and the very deepest layer of muscle – the transversus abdominis – needs to be worked at a very gentle level (at around 30% of your maximal to be precise) throughout pregnancy. Why? Because keeping this deep corset of muscle toned will protect you from lower back pain and should help you recover in the tummy area more quickly postnatally. Single leg lifts are great to do whilst seated on a birthing ball. Make sure that when seated on the ball your hips are above your knees. This will ensure optimal positioning for you and your baby.

What to focus on: Sit tall on your birthing ball with feet hip-width apart; lengthen through your spine; gently draw in on the deep abdominal muscles to help you balance; carefully lift one foot of the ground whilst keeping your upper body centred on the ball; hold this position and balance before swapping legs. Remember to breathe throughout.
 

Watch out for: don’t do this exercise in socks as you may slip. Use either trainers or bare feet. If you suffer from pelvic girdle pain, lift one leg at a time will aggravate the condition. Instead, sit tall on the ball and raise both heels off the ground so that you are on your tiptoes whilst seated. Now turn the head and look right, then look left and then bring the heels back down to the ground.

These three safe exercises for pregnancy can quite easily be put together into a mini workout by completing sets of 10 of each exercise in turn, having a rest and then completing another round. Or just add them into your usual workout for added pregnancy safe benefit!

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