Exercise can do wonders for you during pregnancy – it can boost your mood, improve sleep, and reduce aches and pains – to name but a few of the benefits!
Exercise in pregnancy may also help to prevent gestational diabetes, and also reduces your risk of Pre-eclampsia. Also, research has shown that those women who exercise throughout pregnancy find it much easier to get back into shape after the birth of their baby.
In addition, it is widely believed that babies born to women who have exercised and kept themselves fit during pregnancy are generally happier and more content.
Medical experts recommend that pregnant women should exercise for at least 20 minutes a day – but it doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous!
Fitness Expert and Yoga Therapist Rosita Evans, author of “Rosie’s Remedial Yoga”, takes you through a few exercises below, to help prevent some common pregnancy-related problems, and help you prepare for your Happy Event!
Before you start:
- If you do not exercise regularly, consult your GP before trying any new exercise regime.
- Please leave at least two hours between your last meal and any exercise routine.
- Make sure you are warm and dressed in loose comfortable clothing.
This simple stretch will ensure the right amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, feeding your brain and other vital organs, making you feel wide awake. It is the perfect antidote for when you are feeling tired and restless, and despite its name, this can be done at any time of the day, as and when needed!
Stand tall, with your feet apart, tail bone slightly tucked under, and your arms to your sides. Take a deep, slow breath in and as you do so, slowly raise both arms up to the ceiling. (Match your arm movement to your breath – they should both last the same length of time, the slower the better). Link your hands together and as you breathe out stretch up toward the ceiling with both hands as high as you can. Hold this stretch as you breathe in again and then as you breathe out, slowly return your arms to your sides. On your next breath in slowly raise just your right arm, and as you breathe out stretch your arm and your upper body over to your left-hand side. Breathe in as you slowly return to your upright position, and breathe out as you return your arm to the side. Repeat with your left arm, and then to complete the stretch, repeat the first stage again with both arms.
To help prevent swollen ankles and varicose veins:
During pregnancy, especially the latter stages, the added weight of your baby puts a lot of pressure on the circulation of your legs. The lymphatic drainage system in your legs slows down, which can lead to fluid retention/swelling around your ankles. This simple exercise stimulates the circulation in your legs, which reduces your risk of varicose veins and helps to eliminate swollen ankles.
Lying on your back – on a bed, or on the floor – bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Raise your right leg
up into the air, as high as you can comfortably manage. If you need to, you can support your leg by holding behind your thigh with both hands. Now, point your toes (stretching the front of your foot) and then flex your foot (drawing your toes down towards you while pressing your heel up to the ceiling). Repeat this point-flex movement until you have done it 8 times. Then, keeping your leg still, draw a big circle with your toes (so just your foot moving, and not your leg). Draw 8 big circles in one direction, and then 8 circles in the other direction. To finish, repeat the point-flex movement again 8 times and relax your leg.
Repeat with your left leg.
To ease digestive problems, strengthen the spine and stimulate the production of Seratonin – your body’s own feel-good chemical – which will lift your spirits:
Bridge Pose – a wonderful, calming yoga pose with many proven medical benefits. It is particularly beneficial during pregnancy, as it reduces pressure on your vital organs and gives baby some space to stretch and move.
Lie on your back, with your arms down by your sides, palms facing down. Your knees should be bent, feet flat on the floor. Feet and knees should be the same width as your hips.
Slowly, start to lift your bottom off the floor, gradually raising your back, aiming your hips towards the ceiling. Continue to raise your back, lifting only as high as comfortable. Your arms remain relaxed and resting on the floor to your sides.
When you have reached your comfortable height, hold your body still and focus on your breathing. Breathe slowly and gently, letting your abdomen rise on your breath in. Continue this slow breathing pattern for approximately 1-2 minutes. Try to keep your bridge at its original height throughout the exercise – it is very easy to start drifting down to the floor without realising!
When you are ready to come out of Bridge Pose, gently and slowly round your spine back down onto the floor. Sit up slowly when you are ready.
To ease backache:
It is very common to experience backache during pregnancy – your body is having to cope with a lot of extra weight, and because that extra weight is centred around your middle your spinal muscles are put under considerable strain.
Supine Spinal Twist – a very simple and very effective way of stretching your spinal muscles and reducing the pressure and tension placed on them during pregnancy:
Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your heels drawn quite close to your bottom. Your feet and knees should be touching together. Bring your arms out to your sides until they are level with your shoulders, palms facing the floor. (So your arms and body are in a “T” shape). Breathe in, and as you slowly breathe out take both your knees over to your right-hand side. You are trying to bring your knees as close to the floor as you can manage. When your legs have rested into position, slowly turn your head to face your left-hand side. Focus on slow, deep breaths, and just let yourself relax completely. Your spine is now being gently stretched – the vertebrae are being eased apart, taking the pressure off the discs in between. After one minute, breathe in as you slowly return your knees to their starting position, and breathe out as you take both knees over to your left. When your legs are in position, turn your head to face your right-hand side, and again rest here for one minute.
In later pregnancy you may find it difficult to lie comfortably on your back. If this is the case, try this spinal twist exercise sitting down:
Sit on the floor, using a cushion if you wish. Your legs should be stretched straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee, and cross your right foot over your left leg. The sole of your foot should be flat on the floor. Hold onto your right knee with your left hand, and place your right hand on the floor next to you. Now turn your body to the right, using your right hand to support your position. Hold the stretch for one minute, and then repeat on the other side. While you are holding your stretch, try to keep your breathing deep and slow.
And finally: Walk this way …
Not every woman “glows” during pregnancy! You may feel drained of energy and motivation. You might feel your mood quickly changing and dropping. Most experts agree that one of the best forms of exercise is a good, brisk 20 minute walk, at least 4 times a week – and this is an extremely beneficial form of exercise during pregnancy. Walking is great exercise for your heart and lungs; it perks up the circulation and helps to eliminate stiffness in your hips and knees. And walking is well-known for stimulating the production of endorphins, leaving you feeling energised and wonderful!
The general rule of thumb is that you should walk fast enough to feel your heart beating a little quicker than normal, but not so fast that you cannot hold a conversation.