Four simple pregnancy exercises that will keep you strong through every trimester
Keeping active throughout pregnancy is important, but how appealing is a workout when you already feel like you're carrying around a medicine ball? These simple and safe exercises can help strengthen muscles and ease back pain – and you can do them all in the privacy of your own home
Perform the following exercises slowly and with control, rather than bashing them out as quickly as you can.
Breathe out during the exercise and breathe in as you relax. Hold each exercise for up to 10 seconds and try to repeat them 10 times.
If you have a yoga or exercise mat at home you might want to use it but if not, don't worry, plain old carpet is just fine.
To tone abdominal muscles and help relieve backache
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up and feet placed on the ground.
- Breathe out as you pull in your stomach muscles.
- Feel your lower back flatten onto the ground.
- Now try to flatten the lower part of your spine, closing the gap between your back and the floor.
- Try to keep your buttocks relaxed so you can really use your tummy muscles in isolation.
Once you have learnt how to perform pelvic tilt exercises properly, you can do them on your hands and knees, sitting down, or standing.
Strengthens thighs, buttocks and abdominal muscles
- Stand around half a metre away from a wall, with your heels pointing towards it and your toes pointing away.
- Press your head, shoulders and back into the wall and squat as if you were going to sit down (don't actually sit down, no matter how large the temptation).
- Try to lower yourself down until your knees approach a 90-degree angle and you're in the same position you would be if you were sitting in a straight-backed chair.
- Hold the squat for 10 seconds and then stand back up slowly, keeping your back and buttocks in contact with the wall.
Arm and leg raises
Strengthens the spine and buttock muscles
- Come to kneel on all fours, with wrists under shoulders and knees in line with hips. Keep your spine and pelvis steady by peforming a pelvic tilt, as explained above.
- Lift your left arm and right leg to the level of your back or as far as is comfortable. Try not to immediatly fall over.
- Try and hold this position for up to 10 seconds and then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat this exercise lifting the opposite arm and leg.
- If you're struggling with balance, practice raising each arm and leg separately before trying to combine them.
For pelvic floor muscles
Pelvic floor exercises are particularly important during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby, regardless of the type of delivery you have. In the long term, toning up the muscles may prevent stress incontinence (leaking of urine when coughing, sneezing and laughing) as well as help safeguard against prolapse – and it may also improve your sex life.
To do these exercises, you need to locate your pelvic floor. Imagine that you're trying to stop the flow of urine when you are urinating by tightening your muscles from the front of your pelvis and round towards your bottom. It might help to imagine that you are drawing something up and into your vagina, pulling the muscles upwards.
There are two types of exercises, slow and fast:
- Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles.
- Hold for as long as you can, but no longer than 10 seconds.
- Release slowly and rest for five seconds between each squeeze and lift.
Repeat 5-10 times, 3-5 times a day.
- Follow the slow contractions with up to 10 quick, powerful contractions. This will help your muscles react quickly when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise.