Staying active and healthy throughout your motherhood journey is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. While exercising during pregnancy helps moms-to-be prepare for labor and delivery, it also promotes weight loss after childbirth.
Whether you're a pregnant woman looking for some safe to do exercises to increase the likelihood of normal, full-term delivery or a new mom planning to start postnatal exercises to lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy, we've got you covered. From prenatal yoga and swimming to squats and pelvic floor exercises, here's everything you need to know about staying fit through your motherhood journey.
Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy and Postpartum
If you think of exercise merely as a way to keep your body in great shape, you need to change your mindset. According to ACOG, exercising during pregnancy lowers the chances of:
- Excessive weight gain
- Preterm birth
- Gestational diabetes
- Cesarean birth
- Lower birth weight
Additionally, it's also an excellent way to:
- Reduce stress
- Improve postpartum recovery
- Reduce low back pain
- Manage symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Maintain physical fitness
Not only for pregnant women but exercise has several benefits for postpartum women too, including but not limited to:
- Promotes weight loss
- Helps prevent postpartum depression
- Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles
- Restore muscle strength and firms up your body
- Promotes better sleep
- Improve your cardiovascular fitness
- Raises your energy levels
Thus, exercising during pregnancy and postpartum help improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Exercises to Do in the First Trimester
During the first three months of pregnancy, you're advised to continue with your regular exercise routine unless you have a high-risk pregnancy. Your exercise routine should include cardiovascular activities and strength training exercises to strengthen the major muscle groups. The best exercises for the first trimester of pregnancy are:
#Pelvic Curl and Pelvic Brace: Both pelvic curl and pelvic brace exercises are a great way to strengthen the spine and abdominal muscles. In these exercises, your abdominal muscles do the bulk of the work. Do these exercises throughout pregnancy as long as you don't have any problems.
#Kneeling Push-ups: This is a great exercise you can do during pregnancy to build strength and strengthen your core and upper body muscles. Start with 6-10 and gradually work up to 20-24 reps!
#Squats: The first trimester is the best time to get squatting that strengthens your lower body muscles, including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. You can do squats, particularly bodyweight squats, throughout your entire pregnancy. If you have access to the gym, you can also take advantage of the leg press machine. Do 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps!
Exercises to Do in the Second Trimester
During the second trimester, your belly is rapidly getting bigger, so you need to be a bit more careful about doing any physical activity. Avoid high impact exercises that have you lying on your back for long periods and involve running, jumping, balance, or exhaustion. Consider adding these exercises to your fitness routine:
#Incline Push-ups: Incline Push-ups are a great way to strengthen the pectoral and triceps muscles. They are similar to the traditional push-up, with the only difference that you put your hands on an elevated surface. Do 2 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions!
#Side-lying Leg Lifts: Side-lying leg lifts are ideal for preventing back and hip pain, strengthening your back and abdominal muscles, and can be done throughout the pregnancy. Do 2 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions on each side.
#Mermaid Stretch: Your growing baby may put pressure on your diaphragm and ribs, causing you pain. Suitable during pregnancy and post-birth, mermaid stretches work to stimulate ribcage connections and open up those tight hips, belly, and chest.
Exercises to Do in the Third Trimester
During the third trimester, your body begins to prepare for labor and delivery. Hence, focus on cardiovascular activities, such as walking, jogging, swimming, and stationary cycling, to keep up your abdominal strength and mobility. Some best exercises to keep your upper and lower body muscles strong are:
#Walking: Walking is the easiest and safest of all the exercises, especially when you cannot do other activities during pregnancy. Wear a pair of comfortable shoes and walk at a relaxed pace. That's it!
#Swimming: If you have a pool at your local club, put it to good use. The water buoyancy will take the stress off your muscles and joints, making you feel better. Ensure the water is at least up to your chest so that it can support your weight.
#Prenatal Yoga: Low-impact exercises, such as prenatal yoga, are incredibly beneficial for moms-to-be in the last trimester. Not only do they help relax and strengthen the various upper and lower body muscles, but the relaxation techniques practiced in yoga prevent stress and anxiety. An important thing to remember is: wear soft, stretchy, and breathable maternity yoga and activewear to stay comfortable during prenatal yoga.
Some other exercises you can try in the last trimester are pilates, pelvic floor exercises, and bodyweight moves.
The Best Exercises to Do After Pregnancy
Your body changes drastically during pregnancy, and you need the right exercises to get the previous shape. Try out these simple yet effective postpartum exercises to get a flat tummy, figure, and confidence after childbirth:
#Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): The pelvic floor may be adversely affected by labor and delivery. You might have done pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy, and continuing these exercises postpartum will help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
#Postpartum Planks: The standard plank hold is an excellent total body exercise that lifts your glutes, retrains the core, and strengthens your upper body muscles. If you have had a vaginal delivery without complications, you can perform this exercise within the first few weeks after childbirth.
#Happy Baby Yoga Pose (Ananda Balasana): You may experience pain in your pelvic muscles after childbirth. Try this yoga pose to relax and gently stretch your muscles to relieve pain.
#Heel Slides: This simple exercise involves extending your leg away from your body. Your need to slightly bend your knees and slide your heel toward your buttocks. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each leg!
#Crunches: This exercise helps to pull your separated abdominal muscles back together. You can further improve it using a rolled-up blanket or towel. Increase the number of crunches each day.