6 workouts you can do with a growing bump
There’s no right attitude to exercising while pregnant; maybe you’re an avid gym-goer and the idea of nine months off the treadmill is appalling, maybe you’re feeling exhausted and any movement makes you feel like you need to lay on the sofa for the next trimester, maybe you feel totally freaked by the idea of jiggling around the human growing in your tummy.
Experts agree, however, there are real benefits in pregnancy exercise, for both you and the baby, including aiding back pain and upping energy levels, so we’ve spoken to the experts about the best for all mums-to-be:
1. WEIGHT TRAINING
Surprising maybe, given it seems pretty hardcore, but light weight training is great in the first two trimesters, if weights were a regular part of your training schedule before your pregnancy. It can help to tone and strengthen the core muscles, but avoid using heavy weights and doing any exercises that involve lying on your back, such as bench press.
‘The main thing to watch out for is a feeling of strain or excessive fatigue that is different to the norm,’ explains Carolyn Logan, Coach and Sports Therapist at CrossFit London.’ As the baby grows in the uterus, it starts to push other things out the way to make space, sometimes pushing against big blood vessels in the abdomen. Since these are behind the uterus, the syndrome can be made worse by lying on the back.’
Alex Miller, another CrossFit London Coach, adds: ‘The prenatal period is a good time to step away from heavy loading to give your body a break from intense stimulus. While it’s one of the best ways to make a change to your body, there are plenty of other ways to stay strong. For example, take five-six seconds to lower a weightless bar and five to ascend. You’ll find that you can keep your strength and improve both movement quality and body composition without having to load it. Focusing on comprehensive movements, like squats, can help strengthen the body correctly and even help towards reversing abdominal Diastasis recti’.
Yoga is one of the most popular prenatal classes; as well as helping to strengthen core muscles, ease back pain and maintain muscle tone, it aids relaxation, improves sleep and helps maintain a healthy posture.
Jill Simpson, Founder of Ebb&Flow, explains: ‘Prenatal yoga classes focus on postures and techniques to help strengthen the body and mind in a safe way, so you can join them at any stage of your pregnancy. We address the key pregnancy areas; pelvic floor, aching neck and shoulders, loss of stamina and maintaining flexibility.’
Pilates is one of the most effective prenatal exercises as it targets the muscles that generally weaken during pregnancy.
Erica Foulds, Master Trainer at Ten Health & Fitness, says: ‘During pregnancy, the body is constantly changing so pilates is an effective and safe way to build strength and endurance to help you cope better with each stage. It also keeps the pelvis strong to assist the process of a natural birth, in which core muscles can fatigue if they have not been trained throughout pregnancy. Mothers-to-be who regularly exercise this area can therefore expect shorter labours with reduced lower back and pelvic pain’.
As pilates is also relatively non-impact, the risk of injury is reduced. So, not only is it physically beneficial, knowing you’re exercising safely can also help to reduce anxiety and provide reassurance if it’s your first foray into pregnancy workouts.
Foulds says: ‘Less intense than the standard, prenatal classes are structured around the changing requirements of a developing pregnancy to provide an effective workout from the first trimester through to full term, while staying completely safe for mother and baby. Though it’s not safe to start in your third trimester if you have not attended classes during the earlier stages of your pregnancy.’
4. PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
Pelvic floor exercises are important for strengthening the muscles that are put under great strain during pregnancy and childbirth. They’ve even been proven to help with stress incontinence, a problem many women suffer with, if done on a regular basis.
Simpson says: ‘Begin by sitting, standing or laying down in a comfortable position, then squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles — the ones you use when you’re trying to hold in a wee. Hold this contraction for up to ten seconds, then relax. Repeat ten times and aim to do three or four sets each day.’
5. LIGHT CARDIO
While some women wouldn’t dream of doing cardio when pregnant, light aerobic exercise is proven to be effective. Brisk walking is the best option for women who did not have a strenuous fitness regime before pregnancy as it’s gentle but keeps you fit and healthy without jarring your knees and ankles. Aim to go on a brisk 30-minute walk four times a week.’
If you were a keen runner before you were pregnant, there is no harm in continuing it into your pregnancy. Go easy and stop if you feel wheezy or out of breath.
Swimming is a real all-rounder; incredibly effective in working your heart and lungs without putting too much pressure on your joints, it can even help relieve swollen ankles.
If you’re unsure, consult a professional before undertaking exercise while pregnant.