Exercise during and following pregnancy may seem like a foreign concept to you, but it is an essential item on any active woman’s to-do list. During pregnancy, you may remain active with a doctor’s consent; however, strenuous postnatal exercise is not recommended for 6 weeks following the birth. Even though your regular cardiovascular and strength routine will have to wait, there are gentle exercises you can do immediately following the birth.
Following are 6 exercises for prenatal and postnatal women. These exercises are recommended for women with no known contraindications, and should be followed according to your own body cues.
1. The Kegel- both pre and post natal
Muscles- Pelvic Floor
Lying on the floor with your feet out in front of you and your knees bent, just relax and let your body weight sink into the ground. Imagine you are urinating, and then stop the flow of urine. Simply engage in a small contraction of the sphincter, and then a relaxation. You can do this exercise as a progression- start lightly, build your way up, hold, then slowly release. You may do this sitting up in a chair, or in any position that is comfortable. Build your way up to 2 sets of 30 each day.
2. The Bridge- pre natal
Muscles- Gluteus Maximus
Lying on the floor with your feet in front of you hip distance, and your knees bent, squeeze your buttocks and slowly raise your hips up off the floor. You may keep your arms down by your sides. Keep your belly pointed toward the ceiling, not dropping to your side. Hold on top for 5-10 seconds, then release back down to the floor. 2 sets of 15
3. The Cat Stretch- pre natal
Muscles- Up: strengthens abdominals, Down: stretches lower back
On all fours, take your hands under your shoulders and your knees hip width apart. Start with a neutral spine, keeping your head in line with your spine. Slowly roll your spine up toward the ceiling like a cat stretching. Think of pulling your abdomen in toward your spine. Slowly release down past your starting point and gently arch your back. 2 sets of 15
4. Ball Crunches- pre natal
With an exercise ball propped against a wall, lean back on your ball until your buttocks are about 6 inches from the floor. Feet are on the floor in front of you about hip width apart. With your hands across your chest, and your chin tucked, slowly curl up, imagining your abdomen curling forward into a C shape. Exhale as you roll forward, inhale as you roll back slowly. You do not need to curl up very far. 2 sets of 15
5. Pelvic Tilt- post natal
With your back flat against the floor and your knees bent, take your legs hip width apart and drop your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly roll your pelvis towards your shoulders, pressing your back deeper into the floor. Do not lift your hips up off the floor. Stabilize your abdominals as best as you can. Build up to 2 sets of 20
6. Belly Button to Floor- post natal
With your back flat against the floor and your knees bent, take your legs hip width apart and drop your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, think about drawing your belly button down to the floor. Relax, and then repeat. As you are doing this exercise, think about the belly flattening and compressing. You belly button should be pulling itself right down against your spine. 2 sets of 20