BOB fitness tips with expert Laura Williams
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a good fitness regime during pregnancy to help prepare for delivery and make life easier when it comes to getting back into shape post-birth.
Most women experience dramatic physical changes to their bodies during pregnancy, which occur as the body’s natural way of preparing for childbirth. To help support and protect the body during this time, it is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a good fitness regime during pregnancy. This will help to prepare for a delivery and also make life much easier when it comes to getting back into shape post birth. Fitness expert, Laura Williams recommends that by following a few simple steps during and post pregnancy, women can drastically improve the physical and emotional state of mind during and post childbirth – and getting your body back can be as easy as a simple walk in the park...
It’s important to either maintain good fitness levels or boost poor fitness levels during pregnancy – this helps with everything from weight management to helping you prepare for delivery.Aim for 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. Consider brisk walking and walking uphill; gym machines such as the cross trainer and bike; home exercise DVDs; weight training, and ante-natal yoga and Pilates classes.
Here are three good exercises you can safely do throughout your pregnancy:
This is an abdominal exercise that keeps your core strong, that’s safe to do throughout the whole nine months. It will help to keep muscles strong for delivery, and will help prevent lower back and pelvic pain: from a standing position, place fingers on hip bones and trace them inward. Then, breathing deeply, imagine you’re wearing a belt or a tight pair of trousers and pull your tummy button back towards your spine. Don’t hold your breath – just pull in that lower part of your tum. Hold this pulling-in movement for 10 seconds, relax and repeat. Do 5-10 of these at a time throughout the day.
The Wall Push-Up
This is an effective, safe way to work the upper body to strengthen arms, chest and upper back muscles. Start by standing a couple of feet away from a wall, feet hip width apart, and then lean forward and rest hands against the wall shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower chest until your forehead reaches the wall keeping back straight. Then straighten elbows and push back to your starting position. Start with 12 repetitions, and slowly increase to 20.
Pelvic Floor Lifts
Important for everything from the delivery to preventing stress incontinence, pelvic floor exercises are often overlooked but you can so easily incorporate these into your day. The first pelvic floor exercise is to lift your pelvic floor muscles (as if you were trying to halt your urine flow) to a count of ten. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds (if you can’t hold for 10 seconds, hold for as long as possible and slowly build up to 10 seconds). Relax and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. The second version is to lift pelvic floor muscles quickly and hold for just one second before relaxing and resting for one second. Repeat this total of 10 times. Do all the above several times a day at least.
Baby on Board – up to nine months
It’s important to start gentle exercise as soon as you have the all-clear from your GP or midwife. Not only will this help with losing your baby weight, it’ll also boost energy levels and help keep you strong for coping with the demands of a newborn baby. You don’t need to commit to a drastic exercise regime that requires hours at the gym in order to see results - including small amounts of exercise into your daily routine will burn more calories than you realise and really boost energy levels. Spread it out over the course of the day: commit to an early morning brisk walk then throw in a few strengthening exercises while you’re out. The walking workout. Did you know you can actually use your daily walk to replace a time-consuming exercise class or gym session?
First, check posture: relax shoulders, standing tall and pull in the lower part of tum (see above). Make sure you walk with nice long strides and try gently squeezing buttock muscles so all the muscles of the lower body are firing up as you walk. Maximise the fitness benefits by varying speed and try and include hills if you can. The stroller power walk is great: alternate walking as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then stroll slowly for 30 seconds. Incorporate 5 minutes of these intervals into your daily walk.
...And then try the following must-do stroller moves:
It’s best to do this exercise when you’re on a hill, facing upwards. Position your stroller in front of you, one hand on the handlebar with arm slightly bent. Then using only this arm, push uphill maintaining bent arm for 45 seconds. Rest and repeat a further two times before switching arms.
Stroller Squat Walk
Turn sideways on to your stroller, on your right side, with your right hand on the stroller. Then take a step to the right and as you do so, squat towards the floor, making sure you push hips back (as if you were sitting down) as you bend your knees pushing the stroller slightly to the right. Return to standing and repeat. Do 10 of these sideways squats before switching to the left leg.
Hold onto the stroller with both hands before taking a big step back with your left leg, crossing it behind your right as you bend your knees lowering hips to the ground until your right thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Make sure you keep your torso upright and hips and shoulders facing forward. Then, as you straighten back up, extend left leg right out to the side at hip before ‘curtseying’ back down again height (note: leave this part of the move out if you still have any pelvic pain, and just return to standing before repeating). Do 10 on each leg.
This is the time to ramp up your fitness routine! You’ll probably be keen to start getting back into your pre-pregnancy clothes; relaxin levels will have started to return to normal so you can be more bold with your exercises, and the chances are, your energy levels will be on the up.Try to add new challenges to your exercise routine, but keep it do-able. Daily walks at higher intensities and new conditioning exercises will help to keep everything stimulating and will ensure that you continue to see results, both with your fitness and energy levels, and also in terms of shaping up.
Up the pace of your walking workout
You could try the following: start with 7 minutes of moderate paced walking, then walk uphill for 5 minutes, and finish the interval by walking quickly for 5 minutes. Repeat. This is a good length workout! Alternatively you could try jogging with your stroller: start out slow and practice running with both hands, one hand, and with the strap. And always stay upright, keeping elbows bent and try not to lean into the stroller especially as you fatigue.
You can also try these new stroller exercise challenges
Walking Stroller Lunge
Stand behind your stroller with hands on the handlebars and take a long stride forward bending front knee to a 90-degree angle – your thigh should be parallel to the ground. Keep torso lifted, hips and shoulders facing forward. Push through the front heel to come back up to standing – this will work your bottom muscles more, and ensure that you don’t put too much weight on the stroller too. Switch legs and repeat this for one minute. Rest and repeat the exercise.
Stand tall with your right side facing the stroller. Keeping as still as you can in the upper body, gently push the stroller away with your right hand, while reaching overhead with left arm. Tense your abdominal muscles on the left side to pull the stroller back. Do this 8-10 times before changing sides.
Single-Leg Squat and Row
Stand with feet hip-width apart, right hand on stroller, and extend left leg in front of you so you’re balancing on your right leg with your knees aligned. Slowly bend your right knee as you push the stroller away from you ensuring as you bend your knees don’t come over your toes. Then straighten leg and pull stroller in towards you. Do 20 on each leg.
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