Sleep and exercise are best friends. The right amount and type of exercise can help you sleep better. The better you sleep the more beneficial exercise is for your body. It’s a continuous cycle when both are happening in the right amounts. Staying active and mobile during pregnancy is highly recommended for most healthy women. If you over-do it, exercise can cause pain, discomfort and inhibit sleep.
Going for a daily walk at a comfortable pace is one of the most simple and best forms of pregnancy exercise in my opinion. It’s all natural. Just 15-20 minutes of walking keeps your muscles strong, joints flexible and blood circulating. Walking can also help you clear your mind, breathe fresh air and get out of the house.
Beyond walking, here are three of my favorite pregnancy exercises to strengthen your core, prepare you for childbirth and provide a baseline of exercise for postpartum. Do them everyday upon waking, before bed and before or after you walk.
Abdominal and Pelvic Floor Bracing
These deep muscles get stretched and possibly weak during and after pregnancy. Cultivating awareness and keeping them strong is beneficial for your body.
Connect to your pelvic floor muscles by stopping and starting the flow of urine. Locate your deep abdominal muscles by exhaling deeply and feeling them hug your spine. Practice tightening both your pelvic floor and abdominals at the same time.
Do this exercise in rhythm with your breath to start. Inhale slowly and as you exhale brace your abs and tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Then, work on holding the exhale and brace for a few seconds. Repeat it a few times to start and up to 20 times as you build endurance.
You can do this exercise lying down, seated or standing. You can do it while sitting in the waiting room to see the doctor. And, you can do it while nursing or bottle feeding a baby to bring your muscles back together after birth. You can do it right now.
Pelvic Tilting and Circling
While the deep core muscles might become weak, some of the outer muscles become tight. Doing this exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles around your pelvis and sacrum.
Picture your pelvis as a bucket. Tip it forward and back or side to side, as if to spill water. Now tilt it in every direction around in a circle as you would do with a hula-hoop.
You can pelvic tilt while lying on your back during the first trimester and postpartum and when sitting, on all fours or standing during the second and third trimester. Slowly do 10-20 repetitions in each direction daily to the full range of motion that you are comfortable with.
Spinal Flexion and Extension
As your belly grows your spine stiffens to support the weight. This movement helps you maintain flexibility and relieve tension.
While seated, exhale and round your shoulders and body forward. Then, inhale, arch your back, and raise your chest to the sky. You can do this exercise on all fours or with your hands propped on your knees while standing.
Repeat this movement 5-10 times with your natural breathing rhythm. If one position feels particularly good, hold your body there for an extra breath or two.
When doing these exercises or any, listen to your body. If an exercise feels good, you could do more. If an exercise is causing pain, anxiety, or discomfort, then stop and talk to your doctor.
Energy and exercise can be different from one day to the next during pregnancy and postpartum. Tuning in to your body and respecting it is a healthy habit to cultivate as a mother.
Blog editor of NFPT
Beverly Hosford, MA is the blog editor and publisher for the National Federation of Professional Trainers. She’s been a fitness professional – as a personal trainer, anatomy instructor and exercise expert for 15 years. As a new mama she combines her experience teaching body awareness with what she’s recently learned about pregnancy and motherhood. She lives in the mountains of Montana with her husband and son pursuing balanced living and local adventures alongside their two rambunctious pups. You may also find her on beverlyhosford.com.