4 Pregnancy Exercises You Can Do at Home
Looking to stay in shape while pregnant? Prenatal fitness experts offer these 4 safe and effective exercises that will take you through your whole pregnancy.
Are you looking for safe pregnancy exercises to do in the comfort of your home? If you're pregnant and want to keep moving -- but don't want to have to trudge back and forth to the gym -- read on! Here are four simple, safe and effective exercises you can do throughout all stages of pregnancy without leaving the house!
"There are so many benefits to exercising while pregnant," says prenatal fitness expert Birgitta Lauren of Expecting Fitness. The most important ones, she notes, keep moms healthy "by reducing the risk for early delivery, preeclampsia, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and depression." Exercise, she adds, "speeds recovery post-delivery."
As with everything during pregnancy, play it safe, says Maura Shirey, a registered nurse and a prenatal exercise specialist with Bodies for Birth. "I strongly believe in an individualized program that considers the woman's unique medical history, level of fitness, current pregnancy, concerns and goals," says Shirey. "Ultimately, it is vital that each woman remains self-aware, works with her ever-changing body and refrains from anything that doesn't feel 'right.'" With that in mind
Here are four great pregnancy exercises to try:
- The Plank
"This is by far the most important abdominal exercise for all pregnant moms," says Lauren. "The plank is not only a great core exercise, and one of the few ab exercises a mom can do in pregnancy, but it also helps prevent diastasis recti," a separation of the abdominal wall.
"On the floor," instructs Lauren, "place your elbows shoulder-width apart, with your hands facing forward. Position yourself either on your knees (easier) or on your toes (harder). Ensure that your body is in a straight line -- a plank -- from knees or toes to the tip of your head. Your spine is aligned and your abdominals are in tight. Control your hips with a slight pelvic tilt (glute squeeze). Hold this pose, then rest and repeat. Start with 20 seconds. As you get stronger, keep adding time until you can do 60 seconds."
"Dips are a great exercise to help keep your arms firm," says Lauren. They can be done safely throughout pregnancy.
Sit on a chair or bench. Place your hands at the very edge of the chair, close to your hips. Move your feet out in front of you until you can comfortably bring your hips in front of the chair. (Stay close to the chair to avoid shoulder strain.) Keeping your hips as close to the chair as possible, bend your elbows to allow your hips to dip below chair level as far as is comfortable for you to press your arms up straight again. (Keeping your knees bent with feet flat on floor is the easiest version. Having your legs stretched out straight is more difficult.) Do 10 to 15 reps for two sets.
- Active Diaphragmatic Breathing
A great stress reducer, this exercise also works to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing will provide great benefits when utilized during labor and delivery. Begin in a comfortable seated position. Relax through your jaw and tongue while lifting through your spine. Practice lengthening your neck and releasing your shoulders. With hands on belly, notice your abdominal movement. Actively breathe into the belly while inhaling (allowing belly to expand) or pull in the belly while exhaling (allowing it to contract). Repeat the sequence 10 to 20 times daily, focusing on your abdominal muscles. Consciously relax the muscles of your rib cage and spine to facilitate deep breathing.
"Squatting creates a wide pelvic outlet which helps to facilitate an easier and safer delivery of your baby," says Shirey. "It also strengthens and lengthens the muscles of the lower body, including buttocks, hamstrings and quadriceps."
Stand with feet at least hip-width apart. Widen your stance as you progress throughout your pregnancy. Maintain a neutral spine, and as you lower into the squat position, bend your knees to almost 90 degrees and line up over your ankles. Untuck your tailbone and stick out your buttocks. Keep your weight back and stay grounded through your heels. Shins should be vertical and keep your knees from extending over your toes.
Press through your heels coming back to your starting position. Breathe through the "sticking point" as you return to standing, and exhale on the effort. Do 10 to 15 reps for one to two sets. Perform one to two sets daily. Hold a doorknob or other support until you feel strong enough and loose enough to perform squats safely. This exercise is appropriate for all stages of pregnancy, with modifications and guidance from a professional as needed.
If you have any sort of pain, stop immediately and notify your health care provider.
Nancy J Price is an Arizona-based mother of four, as well as a writer, editor and web developer. One of the original co-founders of She Knows, she now writes for several websites, including Myria and Click Americana.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.