We know that being active before and around pregnancy, i.e. before, bump, birth and beyond, can have numerous benefits for women and their babies. Physical activity can help to prevent diabetes of pregnancy, improve mood, reduce blood pressure and improve sleep.
According to the NHS, exercise is not dangerous for your baby. Gentle exercise during pregnancy is good (and safe) for you and your baby. There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later trimesters and labour. For most women, pregnancy should not stop you from becoming active or continuing to be active, but the choice around how to do so can be very personal. Guidance should be sought from health care professionals.
As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you were not active before you become pregnant, you should not suddenly take up strenuous exercise. Instead, you should start gradually, listening to your body and your baby, and adapt intensity if and when necessary. Begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week, and increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.
We have curated our favourite activities that can still be completed from home, while self-isolating or social distancing.
1. Walking - Walking is a wonderful, safe, low-intensity activity for mums and mums-to-be. It's a great way to get the activity you need during pregnancy and it can involve the rest of your family, while respecting social distancing guidelines. Brisk walking, for just 10 minutes, can count towards your 150 active minutes.
2. Housework and gardening - Did you know that activities such as vacuuming, cutting the grass & hanging the washing actually count towards your physical activity minutes? Try to avoid the midday sun and be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids (whatever the weather).
3. Pelvic Floors - Your pelvic floor is incredibly important in pregnancy, so it's a good idea to keep it strong, whether you are pregnant, postpartum, or planning for a baby. The pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscle which stretch from the front of your pubic bone to the end of your backbone, supporting your bladder, bowel, and uterus like a hammock. Try this pregnancy pelvic floor workout from Juanita Steel.
1. Pelvic Tilt - Pelvic tilts are designed to strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles. They are often recommended as a way for a pregnant woman to ease lower back pain later on in pregnancy, as weight gain begins to increase. Plus, the exercise is also thought to encourage proper posture, so doing it now could mean you keep problems at bay which may occur further down the line.
2. Stretching - If you're pregnant and up to this point have not been performing regular exercise workouts, stretching on its own can help ease the minor aches and pains. Plus, if you combine a full stretching regime with deep breathing exercises, it can be the perfect way to relax. Be gentle with your body and make each movement of the stretch gradual and controlled. You shouldn't make any rapid or jerky movements, and don't try to bounce as you hold a stretch.
3. Yoga - From your physical body to your emotional state, prenatal yoga is a great way to participate in gentle activity and care for your mental wellbeing.
This is the time when many people will begin to notice your pregnancy. Your increasing weight may offset your balance so take it gradually and don't push yourself too much. It is important not to take part in anything that could cause a fall. Try to keep one foot on the floor at all times.
1. Dancing - Just because you're pregnant don't throw away your dancing shoes. Dance can maintain fitness levels, relieve stress, improve your endurance, and keep your whole body toned and flexible.
2. Resistance Band workout - Just like any aerobic activity, resistance training can keep blood pressure at a healthy level and help you build strength. Your pregnancy healthcare professional will be able to give you the go-ahead and advise you on any exercises or positions to be avoided.
3. Core Exercises - Pilates is a good way of strengthening your core. It will help ease pain and make labour easier on you, as these muscles are used for pushing. Exercising the muscles will also help you have a faster recovery after childbirth.
1. Squats - Squats are a great exercise for relieving pain in your lower back and pelvis, helping to stretch and strengthen those important muscle groups. Squatting is often recommended as a good position to help with labour.
2. Cobbler Pose - This is a great yoga position to help open your pelvis, loosen your hip joints and prepare your body for labour. Sit with your back against a wall with your legs outstretched. Bring your feet in towards your pelvis so that your soles are touching and knees out to the side. Hold your ankles in your hands and move your heels closer to your groin as far as you can without experiencing discomfort. Gently press your knees down towards the floor, but don't force them down. Focus on sitting tall, keeping your spine long.
3. Prepare with Pelvic Tilts - Similar to pelvic floor exercises, pelvic tilts should be a fundamental part of any pregnancy exercise routine. Pelvic tilts are a safe way to help you work your abdominal muscles and stretch out the base of your spine, helping relieve lower back and pelvic pain. For this reason, they are recommended at all stages of pregnancy – you can begin them as soon as you find out you're pregnant. Plus, because a pelvic tilt is so gentle, it's one of the key exercises recommended during the postnatal period to strengthen your abdominal muscles and to help you heal and recover if you've had a C-section.
This Mum Moves
Sport England and ukactive have also recently teamed up to launch the 'This Mum Moves' resource. This Mum Moves is a series of online workouts to support pregnant women and new mums to be active at home. Featuring a wide range of activities – from yoga to circuit training – the videos focus on general fitness and have been specifically created for antenatal and postnatal women.
The activities and exercises listed above should not cause harm. By participating in any the sessions above, you do so at your own risk. Before starting any physical activity, you are advised to take a moment to make sure there is a clear and adequate space around you, with nothing nearby that could cause a trip, slip or fall. Before starting any new exercise programmes you should speak with your GP or health care professional. If you experience pain or discomfort when performing these exercises, or any physical activity stop immediately and seek medical advice. You should avoid physical contact with other participants and, where appropriate, adhere to social distancing guidelines. As with any activity, start slowly and gradually build intensity and time of your workouts. Remember to warm up and cool down!
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