Staying active during pregnancy is important to keep a healthy state of mind, a supple body that can cope and adapt well to the physical changes happening and also prepare our body for giving birth.
It’s popular and easy to find pre-natal exercise classes in gyms, Yoga and Pilates studios now in Malaysia so pregnant women have many options to design their exercise routine. However, there are also many options out of the fitness box such as dancing.
Which type of exercise is suitable for me?
Pregnancy is a beautiful time to feel like a curvy goddess so it’s not realistic to exercise with the aim of staying trim and slender or even toned. The main aim of exercising is to keep your body moving because it promotes good circulation, stimulates movement in utero for the baby, releases all those feel-good hormones and keeps pregnancy aches at bay.
Your fitness level and activities prior to being pregnant will determine which exercises suits you. If you’ve been physically active and reasonably fit, it’s alright to continue at the same pace initially then gradually slow down and adapt to the body as it changes.
If you haven’t had a chance to be physically active before the pregnancy, you’ll need to start slow and not be aiming for something challenging beyond your physical capability.
What exercises can I do at home?
1. Cat Position
This is a wonderful position to be in as it takes the weight off a tired lower back especially during the last two trimesters when the belly is growing rapidly. You can do this exercise as an active phase and also as a relaxation tool for the back and spine.
With the arms and legs extensions, the deep spinal muscles are being exercised and these are the ones who do the work of supporting you in an upright position. The undulating movements of spine also promotes movement in the spine making it less stiff and tensed.
Being on all fours also strengthens the shoulder and arm muscles which minimizes the tendency to slouch especially when the breasts are heavier. These muscles are also going to be used frequently while carrying and lifting in the first few months of your baby’s life.
2. Ball Squats on Wall
Often the legs are the ones that get tired first when you are pregnant. Carrying all that extra weight loads the legs and feet as we are walking and moving around so this exercise helps to build muscle tone in the hips and thighs. Apart from this exercise, the ball is extremely useful while you are pregnant. Some women experience back pain and sitting on the ball helps to minimise it.
Bouncing on the ball is another quick pick-me-up exercise to boost the circulation in the body especially after a long day.
3. Push Ups
For something gentler than the conventional push up (which is not recommended for pregnant women), this exercise also tones the upper arm and shoulders that keeps our posture upright instead of slouching. Apart from its benefits for the upper body, the wall push-ups also exercise gently the deep abdominal and back muscles which are crucial to a healthy posture too. Keeping the deep abdominal muscles functional during pregnancy despite it being stretched is a plus point because it will help in a quicker restoration after giving birth.
What’s the most important exercise of all?
“The ability to give birth requires an ability to yield and let go,” says Aviva Jill Romm in her book, The Natural Pregnancy Book.
As much as we need supple muscle tone to support our posture and movement during pregnancy, we equally need the same amount of relaxation and softening exercises. Obstetricians know that women who are more athletic have a more difficult time laboring than a woman who is less toned.
So in your regular exercise routine, do include time for relaxing, softening and visualising opening. This gentle body meditation also serves as a good practice to feel connected with the sensations of our body, tune into the movement of the baby inside and eventually the mindfulness that accompanies you in labour.
How do I stay safe during exercises?
Never take exercise as a must-do when you are pregnant. Some days you may feel very exhausted and pushing yourself to exercise is not going to beneficial to you and your baby. When we are tired, we tend to injure easily. As with any exercise, listen to your body and respect how it feels. If any exercise that you have done resulted in discomfort or pain, do stop immediately. If you are exercising with a trainer or teacher, do inform them that you are not feeling well from the movements.
Exercising and movement are activities that make us feel positive about our bodies – no matter what shape or size we are in!
Amy Tan is a movement therapist and educator who is the director of Zentrum, a movement-based healing center in Kuala Lumpur. She lives a free-range life on a farm and that’s where she’s raising her daughter.
Image Credit: Flickr user Simply Bike