Prenatal Exercise Tips
by Estelle J. Underwood, Certified Fitness Counselor
The benefits of prenatal exercise include improved level of physical conditioning creating strength, flexibility and stamina during the pregnancy term, labor and delivery, and the postnatal recovery period.
HELPFUL PRENATAL EXERCISES IMPORTANT FOR RELIEVING COMMON PROBLEMS DURING
- As the uterus and abdomen increase in size, lordotic posture often occurs (back sways). Moms should
concentrate on strengthening abdominal muscles, buttocks and quadriceps, and stretching the low back
and hip flexor muscles. An ideal way to work the abdominals during pregnancy is in a supine, inclined
position on a large exercise ball. (See illustration) Modified crunches and pelvic tilts can be done in a
more upright position, keeping weight off the Inferior Vena Cava which typically is compressed when
in a flat position. The back muscles also benefit from these exercises by increasing strength and
Buttock and quadricep muscles can be simultaneously strengthened in a modified squat exercise done at
the wall against the ball. (See illustration) Keep knee flexion minimal during squat as connective
tissue surrounding the joints becomes much softer due to hormonal increases.
Stretching the low back during pregnancy can be done on all fours, rounding the back as the pelvis tilts
under. Hip flexors are stretched in a "split stance" standing position, tilting the pelvis under until
stretch begins in the hip flexor of the back leg.
- The extra weight of larger breasts during pregnancy tends to pull the shoulders forward, shortening
pectoral muscles in the chest and overstretching and weakening the rhomboid and trapezium muscles in
the back. Concentrate on stretching the chest muscles by holding a towel with both hands shoulder
width apart and pushing the towel back overhead with extended arms. Then strengthen the back
muscles by using low weights and rowing the arms back, contracting the shoulder blades together.
- Edema associated with pregnancy can cause swelling in the wrists resulting in compression of the
median nerve. Symptoms include numbness and tingling when the wrists are in a flexed position, so
avoid exercises which place the wrists in this position. Do not use rubber tubing for the upper body
strengthening due to the tendency to 'break" the wrist alignment.
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