The words “antenatal” and “postnatal” mean during pregnancy and after childbirth respectively. It is arguably the most beautiful yet challenging time in a woman’s life. She is surrounded by the love of her family and friends, immersed in the responsibilities towards her newborn and at the same time, under tremendous physical and psycho-emotional strain during this period. It is my sincere desire to educate my readers as to how exercise done correctly, during this period can play a major role in minimizing this strain. So without further ado let us know about “Antenatal and Postnatal Exercise”.
Common physical conditions in Pre/Postnatal phases & benefits from exercise.
Common Physical Conditions Benefits from Exercise
– Weakness in muscles because of – General strengthening of muscles.
overstretching during pregnancy. – Cardiovascular fitness and endurance.
– Abrupt weight gain due to water – Decreased weight gain during pregnancy.
retention, hormonal changes etc. – Prevention of related complications.
– Back pain due to changes in – Good spinal health.
posture and spinal curvatures. – Psychological benefits.
– Joint Laxity- Looseness in ligaments – Better hormonal profile.
due to hormonal changes. – Reduced chances of C-Section delivery.
– Aches and pains in general. – Alleviation of general body pain.
– Diastasis Recti- Excessive separation – Specific exercises keep the core stable.
of the two sides of the abdominal muscles.
Now while we know that staying active during pregnancy can make the months of childbirth a more natural and enjoyable experience, it is important to understand that exercise needs to differ in terms of muscles being used, purpose and level of difficulty so that you and your precious are safe at all times.
It is a safe and effective way to keep your muscles and joints healthy and minimize the usual aches and pains during pregnancy. Here are the top exercises to make sure you get a solid whole body workout.
- Body weight squats
Major muscles strengthened Thighs (Quadriceps, Hamstrings), Glutes, Lower back, Calves.
Purpose The legs and lower back are your primary load bearers, strengthen them to make sure your body has a solid foundation. Also squatting is known to help widen the pelvic outlet for natural delivery.
- Hip thrusts
Major muscles strengthened Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
Purpose One of the best exercises for a set of strong glutes and hams suitable for
beginners and advanced trainees alike.
- Reverse Lunges
Major muscles strengthened Thighs (Quadriceps, Hamstrings), Glutes, Calves.
Purpose Single leg stability is as important as general leg strength especially during
movement around the house or at office.
- Seated Rows and Pull Downs.
Major muscles strengthened Back (Trapezius muscles, latissimus dorsi, the erector spinae, rear deltoids), biceps and forearm flexors.
Purpose During pregnancy the breasts get bigger pulling the shoulders forward into
roundedness, developing these posteriors pulling muscles helps minimize this.
- Seated Chest Press
Major muscles strengthened Chest, Shoulders and Triceps
Purpose These muscles are used for pushing movements and it is important to create a
push pull balance in the body.
- Superman on knees (Avoid in the later stages of pregnancy)
Major muscles strengthened Lower back, abdominal muscles, Glutes.
Purpose No strength training workout is complete without a stable strong midsection.
Perform the above-mentioned exercises two to three times a week, with 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions each and keep the weights light to moderate. Stay away from any overhead movements or equipment putting pressure on the abdominal region.
It is equally important to keep your cardiorespiratory system up and running during this challenging time. Perform these simple activities a few times during the week to keep your heart and lungs working at optimum capacity.
- Walking – 20- 30 minutes should be good enough for the day. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and walk on even surfaces to minimize any chances of tripping over. Keep changing the pace of your walks.
- Swimming – Arguably one of the best exercises for pregnant women. The fact that it works on the whole body makes it uniquely suitable as a no impact cardio/strength based activity. Not only does it boost endurance, swimming has been known to reduce lower limb swelling during pregnancy.
- Recumbent Bike – Cycling on a static recumbent bike is a great way to burn some calories and is completely safe for pregnant women. 20-25 minutes of this activity can be combined with strength training or other forms of exercise.
You can always end your cardio sessions with a few minutes of general whole body stretching to help you relax.
An important but often neglected part of our general health, flexibility and mobility training becomes even more important when bearing a child. The abdominal region becomes substantially bigger, the spine shifts beyond its natural curvature and even simple tasks can be full of aches and pains. The “Asanas” or poses below will provide some much-needed relief.
Butterfly Pose Improve the mobility of your hip joint and stretch out your inner thighs at the same time with this pose.
Seated Twist The spine tends to feel twisted and tangled with the load of the abdomen during pregnancy. Bring it back to its natural relaxed state with this one.
Cat and Camel Pose Slightly Hyper Extend your spine then lift it up like a camel to release spinal stress.
Assisted Forward Bend Keeping a chair in place for support, reach forward to stretch out your legs and back.
Palm tree Pose Relax your torso and shoulders with this simple yet effective stretch.
Modified Triangle Pose Along with stretching out the sides of your body, this pose also helps boost the digestive system and massages internal organs.
Needless to say, your workout for the day should have a combination of the above-mentioned exercises to ensure a holistic and balanced approach. Always make sure to get a proper warm up before you start your exercises and end with some good old stretching.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
Article Credits – Rupesh Chowdhury