One of the most important times to be healthy is when you’re pregnant. Staying fit with a baby in your belly has a variety of benefits for you and the one still developing. For instance, increased core strength is good preparation for labor. Plus, regular exercise helps ease aches and pains, while helping to keep blood pressure under control so as not to add any stress to the baby. That being said, this is not the time for two-a-days at the gym. During those (long) nine months, you’ll want to pay very close attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
There are a lot of questions and myths surrounding how to exercise during pregnancy, but at the end of the day, it’s just about balance, comfort and doing what feels right for your body. Some people may feel good enough to do heavy back squats right up until birth, while others may need to spend more time in bed, resting and relaxing.
Your doctor is the best person to consult with when you have questions about training with a baby on board. The following tips are simply a starting point, or basic guideline, to help you have a fit pregnancy.
Know the Mental Benefits
As noted before, there are many benefits to working out while pregnant. But the perks go far beyond muscle growth and maintenance. Fitness during pregnancy can boost your energy, elevate your mood, improve sleep and help your brain better cope with pain during labor. Pain and discomfort can be overcome, or at least diminished, with mental strength training. Athletes know this phenomenon well, and you can too by hitting the weights or keeping up with regular cardio workouts.
Build Strength and Reduce Pain
On the physical side, you’ll feel aches and pains during pregnancy that you didn’t know were possible. Most pregnant women suffer from chronic backaches and painful bloating, to name a couple. The good news is exercise can help you ease both of these issues when you do the right movements.
For example, yoga poses such as cat-cow, camel and locust are great for strengthening and stretching your low back, reducing pain and helping build core strength, which is critical during labor.
Focusing on building and maintaining core strength is no longer about having washboard board abs. Experts at What to Expect explain that a strong core…
- Supports pelvic organs needed for labor
- Increases sense of control during pregnancy and labor
- Alleviates pressure on your back from the baby belly
- Supports proper posture, also helping to reduce low back pain
- Helps you recover faster after giving birth
Luckily, you can do most of the ab exercises you already know and love throughout the entire pregnancy. One major caveat: even if you’re not yet showing, avoid any crunching movements while lying on your back after the first trimester. Your newly enlarged uterus could potentially put pressure on the vein that carries blood to your heart, which is dangerous for you and the baby.
Otherwise, a variety of ab strengthening moves are recommended, including:
Avoid the Extremes
Your baby is safe inside your belly, surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac. This sac is nestled inside the uterus, which is also protected by organs and muscles. However, in addition to crunches on your back, there are still some movements that may not be safe for you and baby. When exercising, you may want to avoid:
- Activities that can cause falling; anything that requires balancing on one foot, for example, should be avoided
- Extremely warm weather, especially when it’s humid. Your body will have to work extra hard to stay cool in hot weather, putting unnecessary strain on you and your baby
- Intense bursts of exercise, like sprinting intervals
After getting the “okay” from your doctor, always listen to how your body feels. If you’re tired or sore, skip the workout or go for a gentle walk. You and your baby know what’s best, so trust and follow your instinct every step of the way.
Ultimately, working out is not only okay during pregnancy, but it’s recommended. You’ll notice a whole host of benefits from improved sleep to a potentially stronger, easier labor. And once your beautiful baby is finally in your arms, you’ll recover faster and feel better.