The sensation of bearing your unborn is unlike any other in the world; you feel overrun with joy, anticipation as well as an immense sense of responsibility as you are now entrusted with the wellbeing of your progeny. Amidst this barrage of emotions, however, it is imperative that expectant mothers begin preparing themselves as well as their babies for the intricacies of pregnancy which are guaranteed to stretch both to their limits. These preparatory measures can go a long way to reduce the discomforts associated with pregnancy and pave the way for a healthy delivery and fast postpartum recovery.
Here we have enlisted 5 secure workout ideas that can help you shoulder the mental and physical challenges of pregnancy allowing you to relish these moments as they last. It is important to note, however, that, all forms of exercise should be adopted after consultation with your doctor or midwife:
Walking is the most versatile prenatal workout as it suits women of all fitness levels, requires minimal investment and boasts a plethora of crucial health benefits. It is a complete body workout that tones and strengthens your muscles and improves your overall flexibility, thus increasing the propensity of a normal and pain-free delivery. Walking has also been found too elevate your cardiovascular health and keeps weight in check so as to reduce the risk of complications like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. In addition to physical benefits, a leisurely stroll can also help you ward off those daunting baby blues that are characteristic to pregnancies. This is because walking, like all other physical activities, prompts the release of endorphins (the feel-good chemical) in the body allowing you to savour your precious moments as a mom-to-be.
So, how can you go about safely incorporating walking in your day-to-day life? If you were already in the habit of walking; you can continue to do so with your doctor’s advice. However, if you’re new to the whole concept, the underlying principal is to start slow and then gradually pick up pace. For instance, you can begin by walking for 15 – 30 minutes thrice a week and then increase it to 60 minutes for an increasing number of days during the week. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest that expectant mothers should take up 150 minutes of walking within in a week which can be continued till the third trimester. Moreover, it is advisable to walk at a moderate pace such that you are able to converse without gasping for breath at any time during your walk.
Low impact aerobics are ideal during pregnancy as they help to maintain good health, prevent unnecessary accumulation of fat, improve cardiovascular health, tone muscles and assist in postpartum recovery. They have also been found to benefit the baby as studies indicate that they work to improve cardiac activity in children, allow them to be slimmer, active and much quicker at learning than children of mothers who do not engage in physical activity.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), expectant mothers should undertake moderate-intensity aerobics for up to 30 minutes thrice a week. It should be kept in mind that the intensity and duration of workouts should be in accordance with your capacity and endurance. For instance, those mothers who were not accustomed to working out prior to conception should begin with 3 moderate-intensity workouts spanning over 5 minutes each. Then, as your endurance builds up, you can then try to add an additional 5 minutes and then gradually extend the total time to 30 minutes spread over multiple days of the week. During the first trimester, however, it is advised not to exceed the total duration of the workout over 45 – 74 minutes per week.
- Kegel exercises
As your baby develops, there is exceeding pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and bladder which may cause them to weaken during pregnancy and even after child birth. It is for this reason that many women experience loss of bladder control postpartum. This is where Kegels prove most effective as they enable you to sustain the weight of your baby with ease and also makes labour pain manageable by shortening its active phases. Kegels also work to strengthen your uterus, pelvic floor muscles, vagina and bladder and increase the overall flexibility of pelvic muscles thus preventing the tearing of muscle tissue during labour.
Kegels owe their popularity to their sheer convenience as they can be done in the comfort of your own home. All that you need to do is contract your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds 10 – 15 times a day.
Yoga is among the most holistic mind-body workout as it caters to your physical, mental as well as spiritual well-being. For mums-to-be, in particular, yoga serves as a breath of fresh air as they have to juggle huge physical and hormonal changes alongside ‘pregnancy brain’ or ‘baby brain’ which adds to their discomfort. Baby brain is characterized by frequent lapses in memory and affects nearly 80% of expectant women according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. This phenomenon is caused by a surge in hormone levels and is thought to leave pregnant women more prone to degenerative cognitive ailments like dementia later on in life. It is, therefore, imperative that women undertake workouts like yoga that constantly engage and nourish their bodies as well as minds.
The best yogic asana for pregnant women in this regard include the cat/cow tilt, child’s pose, yogi push-ups, yogini squats and butterfly pose that help reduce body aches and prepare your body for labour. It is also recommended that you take advantage of self-administered brain tests that are helpful in indicating the presence of any cognitive diseases so that they may be tackled in time for the wellbeing of you as well as your baby.
Pilates is among the most popular exercises among expecting women as they gently strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles and increase the flexibility of limbs and trunk. They also incorporate breathing movements that allow you to maintain a steady flow of oxygen during labour. The most secure Pilates exercises that are suitable for most expecting mothers include the pelvic floor muscle exercises, pelvic tilts and tummy strengthening exercises.
The challenges associated with pregnancy are not to be taken lightly, however, with a little persistence and preparedness you can not only overcome them but also make this memorable experience all the more enjoyable.
Audrey Throne is a mother of a 2-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about health, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics.