Staying in shape during your pregnancy can reduce complications and speed recovery afterward.
Prenatal Yoga Lunge Pose
Not only is exercising during pregnancy good for both you and your baby, it also can help you bounce back faster after you give birth. Many studies have shown that by consistently doing strength and cardiovascular training at a mild or moderate intensity level, you may reduce your risks for gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure), constipation, leg cramps and the like. You'll also have more energy and stamina, which are invaluable during labor (not to mention afterward). As a bonus, you'll have a head start on getting your body back.
"With their physician's clearance, all pregnant women should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most of the days of the week, even if you are fairly new to exercise," says Renee Jeffreys, MSc, co-author of Fit to Deliver: An Innovative Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness Program (Hartley & Marks, 2005). Fit Pregnancy worked with Jeffreys and her team of prenatal experts to develop this safe and effective at-home strength training and cardio program. A routine like this will strengthen your muscles and increase circulation and blood flow to both you and your baby. It also will improve your posture and help prevent the backaches commonly associated with a growing belly. Before you begin this or any exercise program, consult your physician.
Do your favorite light cardio exercise or march in place for 5–10 minutes. Then, roll your shoulders forward and back, first clockwise then counterclockwise, 5 times each way.
1. Lunges and Curls Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding the back of a chair with your left hand. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, arm straight and abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles drawn in. Step your right foot forward and left foot back into a lunge, right knee over ankle and left knee pointed toward the floor. Bend both knees while you bend your right elbow, palm up. Straighten your legs and lower the weight. Complete reps, then switch sides and repeat. Strengthens legs, buttocks, pelvic floor and biceps.
2. Plies and Raises Stand holding the back of a chair with your left hand and a dumbbell in your right hand, arm straight and feet farther than hip-width apart. Turn knees and toes out comfortably from hips, keeping your abs and pelvic floor drawn in, chest lifted and buttocks tight. Bend knees and lower hips as you raise right arm out to the side, keeping it lower than your shoulder, palm down. Straighten legs and lower your arm to the starting position. Complete reps, then switch sides and repeat. Strengthens legs, buttocks, shoulders and pelvic floor.
3. Bent-Over Rows With a dumbbell in your right hand, stand with feet farther than hip-width apart. Hinge forward from hips, placing left forearm on the back of a chair, right arm hanging down. Bend right elbow, bringing the dumbbell toward ribs. Straighten arm and complete reps, then switch sides and repeat. Strengthens upper back, rear shoulders, abs and pelvic floor.
4. Supported Incline Chest Presses With a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a chair or couch, with a pillow behind you for support. Lean back at about a 45-degree angle, your feet flat, abs and pelvic floor drawn in and chest lifted. Bend your elbows 90 degrees, keeping them in line with your shoulders, palms facing forward. Straighten your arms and press the weights up in line with your shoulders, keeping your abs drawn in. Slowly return to starting position and complete reps. Strengthens chest, triceps, front shoulders, abs and pelvic floor.
5. Arm and Leg Reaches Kneel on the floor with your hands in line with shoulders, knees under hips, with abs and pelvic floor drawn in. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand. Slowly raise your right arm in line with your right shoulder and raise your left leg to hip level. Slowly lower your arm and leg. Switch sides and complete reps (1 rep equals 1 reach on each side). Strengthens back, shoulders, buttocks, abs and pelvic floor.
Stretch each major muscle group, breathing deeply and holding each stretch for 30 seconds, without bouncing.