Keeping Fit During Pregnancy

By: Jen Boyce, Manager, CoachMeFit Ann Arbor, MI

Keeping fit during pregnancy is vital for your (and your baby’s) health and well-being. It improves blood flow to the muscles and also helps your body to use glucose more effectively, which helps reduce the risk of diabetes. James Clapp, M.D, states that pregnant women who exercised delivered a healthier baby with a stronger fetal heart rate. Even more compelling is the fact that of the women who exercised, time spent in labor was shortened by about a third, with 65% of the women delivering in four hours or less.  Start slowly. Doing 20-30 minutes a day, up to five times a week is adequate.  The following exercises are especially good to get your body ready for labor.

KEGEL EXERCISES
Start with Kegel exercises, which help tone your pelvic floor muscles. Simply tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. You can do Kegels while standing, sitting or lying down.

TAILOR SITTING OR BUTTERFLY STRETCH
The tailor sitting position stretches the muscles in your thighs and pelvis. It also improves your posture, keeps your pelvic joints flexible and increases blood flow to your lower body.
To practice tailor sitting, sit on the floor with your back straight. Bring the bottoms of your feet together, pull your heels toward your groin and gently drop your knees. You’ll feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Try tailor sitting anytime you’re able to sit on the floor.

If it’s difficult to sit in this position, use a wall to support your back or place cushions under each thigh. Remember to keep your back straight.

LOW BACK STRETCH
Stretching the muscles in your lower back can help relieve backaches during pregnancy and labor.
Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold the position for several seconds. Then relax your stomach and back, keeping your back as flat as possible. Don’t let your back sag. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

PELVIC TILT
You can also stretch the muscles in your lower back while standing. Lay on the floor face up, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Then push your pelvis upward. Repeat several times.

SQUAT
Squatting during labor — even for short amounts of time — helps open your pelvic outlet and allows more room for your baby to descend. Practicing squats now will make it easier to squat during labor.
Stand with your feet slightly greater than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Slowly descend, bending through the hips, knees and ankles, making sure your shoulders stay up. Keep your heels flat on the floor. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree angle. If you can’t bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, simply go as low as you can. Then return to the starting position. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

BALL SQUATS
For a twist on standard squats, try these;
Stand up straight with a fitness ball behind the small of your back and against the wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slide down the wall until you’re in a sitting position, then slowly slide back up. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

SWIMMING
Swimming is good to take the weight of your belly off of your back and legs.

A COUPLE OF TIPS TO FOLLOW:
-Monitor your heart rate and breathing. As a general rule, your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats/minute.
-In the last trimester, avoid ballistic movements, such as jumping or running.
-Avoid exercising at extreme altitude or in hot, humid environments.
-Most of all, drink plenty of water.

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