Discovering that you are pregnant is a moment that comes with a lot of excitement, and a lot of questions. If you are like most women, your health and the health of your baby are foremost on your mind. You already know that regular exercise is a wonderful way to boost your well being, but does that fact change when you are expecting a child? What constitutes a pregnancy workout plan?
It is natural to feel unsure when you are beginning on this new phase of your life. Consider getting back to basics first. An overall refresher course on Health & Wellness is a great place to begin. From there, you can decide what works best for your life, schedule and activity level. Whether you are new to working out, or are considering dialing things back a bit, there is no need to feel intimidated about exercise. You can always engage in an appropriately gentle workout plan.
There are many reasons to make fitness a priority during pregnancy. For one thing, you will have some extra weight to carry around for nine months. Taking steps to ensure that your bones and muscles are ready for the challenge will help ease your body into these big changes ahead. Exercise is also a surefire way to ensure a good night’s sleep, and that is something all expecting mothers can appreciate. You can avoid some of the pre-baby blues when you enjoy the natural mood elevation that comes from moving your body in healthy ways. The benefits to gently working out while pregnant are numerous. Consider a few of the following activities:
Yes, something as simple as stretching can have far reaching positive effects on your pregnancy. As your precious little one grows, he or she will begin taking up room. Doing a little focused stretching each day can help ease the discomfort that sometimes comes along with carrying a kicking, enthusiastic baby. Pregnancy can also change your posture. As your center of gravity shifts to accommodate the baby, you may begin to feel pressure or fatigue in specific body parts.
To stretch out your neck gently:
Sit comfortably in a supportive chair. Without raising your shoulder, allow your head to gently fall to one side, so that your ear is reaching toward that shoulder. Breathe deeply, and feel the extension on the opposite side of the neck. If this is too intense a stretch, raise your head back up slightly. To transition to the opposite side, allow your head to roll forward slowly, towards your chest, then lift and stretch your other ear towards your other shoulder. Repeat a few times until you notice a decrease in tension.
To stretch out your hips gently:
While you may have never even thought about stretching your hips before, chances are, you will think about it during pregnancy. A great and easy way to keep things limber is to try a slow hip flexor stretch. To do this, simply stand at the bottom of a staircase (or in front of a small step stool), and place one foot on the step, as though you were going to climb up. Carefully lean into the bent leg, just like you would for a lunge. Do this just enough to allow the straight leg to feel the stretch. Switch sides and repeat. You will feel the difference.
To stretch out your chest gently:
Strange as it may sound, by the end of the second trimester, you may feel the need to stretch out your chest muscles. This is because the growing baby often makes itself comfortable right up against your lungs, and that can make breathing comfortably feel a little tricky. To help alleviate that sensation, find a doorway and grasp either side with your hands. Slowly allow yourself to lean forward through the open doorway, until you feel a comfortable but effective stretch across your chest. This easy stretch can be repeated often, whenever you feel discomfort, and can help you breathe easy right up until your due date.
To stretch out your back gently:
It is probably safe to say that you have heard an expectant mother complain of back pain or discomfort. The weight of the baby can sometimes throw your balance off, leaving your back bending in new ways to try and compensate. To help counteract this pressure, get into a comfortable position on your hands and knees. Being sure to keep your neck aligned with your shoulder blades, slowly allow your belly to drop towards the floor, creating a small arch in your back. To counter this stretch, pull your belly in towards your spine while lifting your back towards the ceiling. If you have ever taken a pregnancy yoga class, you have probably heard this referred to as “Cat and Cow Stretch”.
It really can be just that simple. Taking a few quiet moments to concentrate on your breath can be tremendously beneficial to you and your developing baby. For one thing, deep, slow breathing can help reduce stress. It can also aid you in preparing for labor.
To breathe for relaxation:
Find a good supportive chair, and a quiet space (if work or home life allows). Close your eyes, and choose a calming mental image. Take a slow count to three to inhale, then take a slow count to three to exhale. As you breathe, try to allow any tension in your body to dissipate. Continue this for a few moments, or as long as you feel you need.
To breathe for comfort:
As mentioned before, breathing comfortably can sometimes be a little challenging, especially towards the latter part of a pregnancy. To help relieve the pressure on your lungs, get into a comfortable kneeling position, while resting your arms and head on a chair or the ends of a bed. When you allow your belly to move forward like this, it creates a little more space for your lungs. This is the point where you can finally take those deep, satisfying breaths. Remain in this position for as long as it is comfortable, and enjoy the sensation of breathing easily and freely.
Of course, it is always advisable to begin the fitness discussion with your doctor or midwife. If at any point during a workout, you begin to feel like something may be wrong, listen to your body. The gentle approach may be best for many women, but only you can gauge whether it is truly a good fit for you.
Pregnancy is such an exciting time. While everyone is busy preparing for the new arrival, don’t forget to take a little time for yourself too. A happy mommy means a happy family, and some basic stretches and breathing techniques can set you well on your way. When the stress gets to be a little overwhelming, or when the physical demands of carrying a baby make themselves know, think about treating yourself gently. Wellness can happen slowly and quietly. Being consistent and patient with your health is a wonderful way to ensure a happy pregnancy.
Check out these other resources for more information on keeping yourself, and your baby, healthy!