Pregnancy bed rest can take a big toll on you, physically and mentally. You can quickly lose strength, stamina and flexibility, which will leave you feeling lethargic and unable to perform daily tasks. However, without leaving your couch or bed, you can do gentle exercises that will improve circulation, stamina, mobility and flexibility, minimize loss of strength and help prevent pain and stiffness. The following simple exercises, paired with deep breathing, will also give you a much-needed mood boost.
Although the following moves are so gentle you can do them every day if you like, you should check with your doctor beginning this or any workout program. Start with the first move, slowly progressing until you can do all five. Perform the moves sitting erect, with firm pillows at your lower back for support and comfort, and rest in between exercises.
1. Kegels: Draw the pelvic-floor muscles that surround your vagina up like an elevator climbing up to your belly button, tightening them as if you are stopping the flow of urine; do not squeeze your buttocks. Hold for 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release. Repeat 10-20 times. Benefits Helps you identify, control and strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles; this can help prevent urinary incontinence and speed healing after childbirth.
2. Chest and shoulder opener: Lace your fingers behind your head, opening your elbows wide. Sit tall and lean back slightly, lifting your chest as you breathe deeply until you feel your ribcage expand. Exhale as you draw your elbows down toward your knees and relax. Do five times, building up to 10. Benefits Increases lung capacity, improves posture, stretches the chest and shoulders and makes you feel alert and awake.
3. Ribcage breathing: Grasp your upper torso, spreading your fingers wide along your ribcage. Inhale deeply through your nose (feeling your ribcage expand under your fingers). Exhale through your mouth as you gently draw your belly in and do a Kegel. Do five times, working up to 10. Benefits Strengthens your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles; improves breathing and circulation, giving you a boost of energy.
4. Gentle pelvic tilts: Sitting “Indian style,” with knees bent, inhale through your nose as you lift your chest and lengthen your neck, arching your back. Exhale through your mouth as you round your spine, gently tucking your pelvis under, and draw your abs in as you do a Kegel. Return to the starting position and do five times, building up to 10. Benefits Promotes circulation throughout your entire body and gently tones the deep belly muscles, aiding digestion.
5. Upper-body strengthener: Pull your abs in and draw your shoulders back and down as you raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder height and bend your elbows 90 degrees. Inhale, then exhale as you press your arms overhead, squeezing your arm, shoulder and upper back muscles. Keep squeezing as you slowly lower your arms. Repeat 10-15 times. Benefits Increases upper-body strength and stamina (you’ll need these to carry your baby and all her gear!) and improves posture.
6. Lower-leg mobility: Stretch your legs out in front of you and pull your abs in. Roll your ankles clockwise10 times, then switch directions. Next, flex your feet, pointing your toes toward your knees. Repeat 10 times. Benefits Increases lower-leg circulation and helps maintain strength and flexibility.