Chrome 2001
.
Aetna Intelihealth InteliHealth Aetna Intelihealth Aetna Intelihealth
 
.
. .
.
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001

.
Harvard Commentaries
35320
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Focus on Fitness Focus on Fitness
 

Exercising During Pregnancy (Part 2 of 2)


May 04, 2014

By Paulette Chandler M.D.

Brigham and Women's Hospital


In a previous column, I reviewed the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and suggested ways to get started. Now I'll talk about specific exercises to improve your strength and well-being.

If you were going to run a marathon, would you prepare for the race? Childbirth is one of the most physically stressful experiences a woman ever faces. Thus, pregnancy is a time to focus on fitness for you and the baby. Exercise elevates mood and allows you to relieve or prevent the common aches and pains of pregnancy. Good overall muscle strength makes life easier before and after the baby is delivered.

Below are some exercises that promote good posture; strengthen your back, pelvis and abdomen; improve circulation; and increase flexibility. Bad posture is a common cause of misery during pregnancy. It is important to watch your posture at all times but especially during pregnancy. Avoid the rounded shoulders and upper back with the exaggerated lower-back curve that some pregnant women develop.

For each of these exercises do two or three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, resting one to two minutes between sets.

Tailor Sitting

Sit on the floor against a wall (for adequate support) with your back straight. Bring your feet close to your body and cross legs Indian-style. Drop knees to floor. Imagine you have a string pulling your head upright as you drop your knees. This exercise promotes good posture and relieves tension in the lower back.

Back to top

Shoulder Rolls

Roll your shoulders back and stand erectly. Do shoulder rolls whenever you think of it. Often times women will develop upper back pain from heavier breasts or when they try to fling shoulders back to compensate for the weight of the baby dragging the body forward. This exercise relieves upper back pain and encourages good posture.

Back to top

Cat Back/Pelvic Tilt

Kneel on the ground on your hands and knees with your hands just before your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. Keep head straight and neck aligned with spine. Relax your back so that it is parallel to the floor. Don’t let your spine sag. Keeping arms straight, inhale and arch back like an angry cat and allow head to drop down while tightening buttock and tummy muscles. Hold position for several seconds. Exhale, relax and lift head up to original position. This exercise combines arching the spine with pelvic rocking to relieve your spine of the baby’s weight.

You can also do this exercise in a standing position by rolling the hips and buttocks forward as if trying to push the fetus up toward the chest. This exercise strengthens your abdomen and back. Strong belly muscles help support and protect the spine. Think of toned belly muscles as a natural corset. As you get used to this exercise, you can do it while walking or standing.

Back to top

Squats

Stand with your legs hip-width apart and back straight against a wall. Place hands on hips. Slide down wall slowly. Keeping your body weight toward your heels, bend knees, lowering buttock to the floor as if sitting in a chair. Avoid knees extending over toes. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Straighten legs to starting position. This exercise works all the lower body muscles and tones your thighs and butt. It also improves torso stability. Practice it frequently to strengthen the muscles needed for labor.

Back to top

Foot Exercises

Sit in a straight back chair. Spell the alphabet by writing the letters A to Z in the air with toes of one foot and then switch to the other foot. Foot exercises help keep the blood moving in your legs to prevent varicose veins. The valves which help move blood through the veins back to heart may soften in pregnancy, producing pooling of the blood in the legs and swelling of the veins especially when standing.

Back to top

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises tone the muscles in the vaginal and perineal area in preparation for delivery. Kegel exercises consist of pulling in and contracting the muscles around the vagina and anus as if stopping the flow of urine. Some doctors and physical therapist recommend that all women do Kegels every day.

Back to top

Exercise Caution

If you are having problems with your pregnancy such as bleeding, high blood pressure or preterm contractions, you may need to avoid certain exercises as they may adversely affect the baby. Thus, speak with your doctor before engaging in any type of exercise program.

Back to top

Paulette Chandler, M.D., M.P.H., is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

More Focus on Fitness Articles arrow pointing right
 
.
.
    Print Printer-friendly format    
   
HMS header
 •  A Parent's Life
 •  Woman to Woman
 •  Focus on Fitness
 •  Medical Myths
 •  Healthy Heart
 •  Highlight on Drugs
 •  Food for Thought
 •  What Your Doctor Is Saying
 •  What Your Doctor Is Reading
 •  Minding Your Mind
 •  Man to Man

.
.  
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.
.