Exercise During Pregnancy: Benefits and Types of Exercise

Your countdown is getting lower by the day and you might find yourself in funny postures because of the weight you’re carrying in front of you. Your big belly might hamper your actions and slow you down, causing constipation, frozen shoulders, lower back pain, and a whole lot of other problems. What kind of exercises can you do during pregnancy to combat these problems?

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

pregnant woman

Exercise doesn’t just increase your metabolism, it pumps blood around your body and strengthens your muscles in the body. This, in turn, helps to reduce the pain you might feel in various parts of the body and also helps alleviate swelling or the chills. The muscles around the pelvis are also strengthened through exercise and this contributes to a smooth labor.

Positive effects of exercise during pregnancy on labor

  • Eases the pains of frozen shoulders or lower back pain and helps fight constipation
  • Gets rid of swelling in the legs
  • Reduces the frequency of urination
  • Helps to get rid of varicose veins and hemorrhoids
  • Gets rid of chills
  • Loosens the muscles used during delivery and stretches the muscles around the birth canal
  • Strengthens the body
  • Refreshes the mind

When to start exercising during pregnancy

calendar

Strenuous exercise isn’t recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy because the body is undergoing tremendous changes, but doing light stretches is recommended. Stop exercising or stretching immediately if you don’t feel well.

From Week 17 onward, the placenta is completely formed and it is safe to try out different exercises. As long as they won’t make you exhausted, you should aim to exercise every day as exercise has the advantages of not only helping prepare your body for labor, it also helps you get rid of stress. You might also want to attend a center which runs programs for pregnant women so you don’t have to do it alone and you can look to other moms for inspiration and support.

Exercise during pregnancy: Basic belly-breathing exercises

woman breathing

Practicing belly-breathing exercises (diaphragmatic breathing exercises) is considered vital to the pregnant woman. Through breathing exercises, your body will be able to reduce the stress on your autonomic nervous system to constantly try to strike a balance. This improves blood flow to the internal organs and causes metabolism to increase.
Take belly-breathing exercises as an introduction to breathing exercises during labor – something that you might want to get started on as soon as possible too.

Diaphragmatic breathing exercises

diaphragmatic breathing exercises
  1. Lie face-up on your back and relax your whole body
  2. Imagine that you are storing air in your belly, close your mouth and breathe in through your nose
  3. Breathe out through your nose as if trying to get rid of all the air in your belly

To check if you’re doing the breathing exercises right, put your hand on your belly and make sure it moves up and down when you breathe in and out.

Exercises in the 1st trimester of pregnancy

Ankle exercise

ankle exercise
  1. Sit on the chair and lift your ankles up and down from the floor 5 times
  2. Cross your legs. Point the toes of the leg on top toward the ground and breathe in and out deeply with your abdomen
  3. Repeat with the other foot
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 four more times (Do 5 sets in total)

Your ankles are more closely tied to your pelvis than you might imagine. Rotating your ankles can make your pelvis much more flexible.

 

Hip joint exercises

hip joint exercises
  1. Sit cross-legged and sit up straight
  2. Put your hands on top of your knees and breathe in deeply with your abdomen. When you breathe out, go into a slightly forward-leaning position
    ※Make sure your back is straight even when you lean forward slightly
  3. Breathe in deeply as you slowly move back to your original sitting-up-straight position
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 another 9 times (Do 10 sets in total)

The muscles around your hip joints have to be flexible in order for them to stretch well and allow you to have an easy labor. You can try doing them while you’re sitting in front of the television or while you’re sitting in the bath tub. However, take breaks between the exercises when you’re finding it difficult to breathe.

Exercises in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy

Back and pelvis exercise

back and pelvis exercise
  1. Get on all fours
  2. Face down and breathe in using the diaphragmatic breathing exercise while lifting your belly up so that your back becomes bent and you’re in an upside-down U shape
  3. Slowly breathe out as you lift your chin up and look straight ahead
  4. Puff your chest out and lean back (look up and slightly backward)
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 another four times (Do 5 sets in total)

Train your muscles and you’ll be able to control your breathing well. This will help you have a smooth labor. Also, this will increase your metabolism and help rid you of edema.

 

Moving your pelvis

moving your pelvis
  1. Lying down on your back, lifting your knees up and placing your soles on the floor
  2. Put your knees together and move them left and right as shown above.
  3. Repeat steps 1 to 2 another 4 times (Do 5 sets in total)

This exercise stretches the muscles supporting your pelvis. It is also effective as a postpartum exercise that helps push your slightly displaced pelvis back into its original position.

 

Slide-position stretch

slide-position stretch
  1. Lie on your back face up, lift your knees up and place your soles on the floor
  2. Put your palms down on the floor by the sides of your body
  3. Breathe in deeply and as you do lift your abdomen upward
  4. Stay in this position for 5 seconds, then as you slowly breathe out, gradually lower your abdomen and resume the original resting position you were in
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 another 4 times (Do 5 sets in total)

The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that support the uterus and the bladder. When you train up your pelvic floor muscles, you also build up the muscles around the bladder and this can stop urine incontinence.

 


These 3 exercises can also be done during the last trimester, but make sure you only attempt doing them when you’re feeling well. Don’t overexert yourself.

Safety precautions on exercise during pregnancy

woman notebook pen
  • When you’re not in a good physical condition and you feel tightness in your belly or mild contractions, stop exercising and rest

  • Don’t wear your maternity belt or tight brassieres when exercising. Ditch tight-fitting clothes for loose clothes

  • Consult your practitioner before you start doing any exercises, especially if you have pregnancy-induced hypertension or are at risk of a preterm birth

Talking to baby through exercises

pregnant woman belly

You’re busy preparing your body for the labor and delivery, and the process will train you mentally as well – after all, pregnancy is a long journey and the end will be even physically and mentally draining. Think of your baby and do each exercise with your baby in mind and your baby will be able to feel the overflowing love from you. When you communicate your love to your baby through your body, your baby will know it.