Exercise can help keep your body strong and lessen your risk for complications during delivery.
It’s one of life’s little ironies: The more active you are, the more relaxed you feel. Pregnancy is no exception. While you may want to lounge on the couch when you’re not working, running errands or socializing, you’ll probably feel more energetic if you exercise. It’s also been well proven that working out can help keep your body strong and lessen your risk for complications during delivery—and may even help you have an easier birth. To help you relax and stay in shape, Fit Pregnancy’s fitness editor, Linda Shelton, teamed up with fitness pro Kathy Stevens to develop this program, which includes stretches you can do at home as well as de-stressing exercises for work (with your doctor’s OK, of course). First, we’ll help you wake up with simple morning moves. We’ve also designed stretches to keep stress at bay and relieve aches while you’re at work (even if you don’t work outside the home, these exercises will keep you energized). And we’ve got a walking plan you can do at lunchtime or before or after work. Finally, our yoga postures will help you unwind before bed.
Good morning! These easy exercises will energize you and prepare you for the day ahead. Do them right after you roll out of bed.
1) spine aligner Stand tall with your back against a wall. Touch the wall with your heels, shoulders and head, then press the back of your neck and lower back as close to the wall as possible. Hold this position for 3 slow breaths (one exhale and inhale equals one breath), then release to a more neutral position with your tailbone pointing down toward the floor. Repeat 3 times.
2) cat Place your hands on a wall, legs hip-width apart. Take a few steps back and lean forward from your hips, keeping your chest lifted and your knees slightly bent. Inhale, then exhale, rounding your back like a cat. Hold for a few seconds, then reverse the motion by inhaling and drawing your chest forward and your shoulder blades back. Repeat 3 times.
Stress relievers These one-minute limbering and stretching exercises can help relieve muscle tension and increase circulation in areas that tend to get stiff during the workday. Try to do each of these moves a few times a day. Also take a break every hour and move around—walk the long way to the water cooler or talk to a co-worker in person rather than using the phone.
3) runner’s stretch Sitting for long periods of time can restrict blood flow to your legs and feet. To improve circulation, stand behind your chair and place your fingertips on the chair back. Place your feet about hip-width apart, left foot forward, with the toes of your left foot pointing forward, close to the chair. Bend your left knee until it’s aligned over your left heel and press your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Keep your right heel on the floor. As your calf relaxes, increase the stretch by gently pressing your hips toward the chair. Hold this position for 3–5 breaths; then switch legs to stretch the other calf.
4) chest opener Another common pregnancy stress is the rounding of the shoulders and upper back caused by the increased weight of your breasts. Sitting all day can worsen it. For relief, sit up tall with your feet flat on the floor. Picture yourself seated straight and strong, as though you are balancing a plate on your head. Place your hands on your belly and lengthen your neck [A]. Roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion 5 times, then squeeze your shoulder blades back toward each other as you place your arms behind the chair, elbows pointing behind you [B]. Hold for 3 deep breaths. Finish by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, allowing your ribs and chest to expand, while keeping your shoulder blades slightly back and down.
Relax and unwind To help you relax and restore a sense of balance to your body, finish your day with the following yoga moves. Do them before you go to bed.
5) side stretch Kneel on your left knee with your right leg extended out to the side, thigh muscles contracted and the arch of your right foot aligned with your left knee. Keep your left thigh perpendicular to the floor, the top of your left foot on the floor and your tailbone pointing down. Place your right hand, palm up, on your right thigh, arm straight. Raise your left arm close to your left ear, palm facing down. Inhale and slide your right hand down your thigh, then exhale and lean gently to your right, stretching the left side of your torso. If you can, look up at your left hand while keeping your balance—otherwise, look straight ahead. Hold for 2–3 breaths, then inhale and return to starting position. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
6) child’s pose Get down on all fours and place a pillow or rolled towel behind your knees. Lean forward, extend your arms in front of you and rest your forehead on the floor or on a pillow. Keep your spine long and your neck relaxed. Hold this position for as long as you like, breathing slowly and rhythmically.