You should ideally begin an exercise program before becoming pregnant. This will reduce your chances of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension, and increase your chances for having a healthy baby, natural birth, and quick recovery. If you are already pregnant and have been cleared by your doctor to exercise, you will still benefit from beginning an exercise program.
Research has shown that women who exercise throughout pregnancy have more energy, less back pain, increased strength and balance, and decreased leg cramps/swelling. You can accomplish this by choosing specific exercises to maintain your core strength and cardiovascular health, open your hips, and strengthen the supporting muscles of your back.
Your mental health is also affected when you exercise. Endorphins released during workouts can make you feel happier and more emotionally stable, thus reducing the severity of mood highs and lows throughout your pregnancy and decreasing your chances of developing postpartum depression.
During delivery, women who have exercised throughout pregnancy tend to have a shorter labor and a lower perceived level of pain.
Postpartum, your hard work pays off with an easier recovery and a faster return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
Prenatal Exercise Do’s and Don’ts
Get permission from your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For women with certain conditions, exercising during pregnancy can be harmful. So be sure to get the okay from your doctor first.
Exercises that will safely maintain your body’s ability to balance. As your belly changes, so does your center of gravity. It is important to train stabilizer muscles as your belly grows, but be careful not to challenge your balance to the extent that you risk falling.
Drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated will cool your core body temperature and reduce the risk of complications.
Wear cool, breathable clothing to help keep your body temperature at a safe level.
Isometric exercises. Training your muscles to hold a muscle contraction will help prepare you for pushing during labor.
Squats. Squats are a great exercise for opening your hips and improving the range of motion in your pelvic area. The more range of motion the better. As your belly grows, you may find it helpful to use a strap or TRX for assistance. If you can get down into a full squat, it’s a good idea to hang out down there a few times a day. You could read the mail, play with your kids or pets, or eat a bowl of yogurt. Squats may also help to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Stretch muscles past your comfort point. A hormone called Relaxin is produced during pregnancy that allows tendons and ligaments to loosen naturally. Placing too much stress on already loose joints can cause injury.
Stand still for too long or stand with knees locked. Blood will pool in your legs and may cause you to faint.
Lie flat on your back after first trimester. Lying in this position may cut off circulation to your baby. As an alternative, choose inclined positions or use a ball instead of a bench.
Push yourself to exhaustion. This may cause your muscles to become sore and fresh blood to go to your muscles and away from your baby.
Overheat. Raising your core body temperature above 101˚F may have adverse affects on your baby. Avoid this by staying hydrated and wearing cool comfortable clothing.
Do any jumping/jarring/quick changes in direction. This includes any contact sports or high impact aerobics.
What one client had to say
Completing a comprehensive weight and cardio training program while I was pregnant was the best decision for my baby and me!! I worked with Nichole on developing appropriate workouts throughout my pregnancy. As an athlete, I enjoy physical activity and was excited about finding exercises that I could accomplish even with my growing belly. Nichole created specific goals for the various stages of pregnancy. Working out during my pregnancy gave me more energy and strength from beginning to end. My doctor was VERY supportive and thought that staying in shape was directly connected to my low weight gain, fast delivery, and quick recovery. I will definitely workout with Nichole throughout my next pregnancy! ~ Kathleen