Asians have many taboos when it comes to weddings, death and pregnancy. If you're pregnant or know someone who is, you've probably come across some of these superstitions and beliefs. One of the most common being that if you’re pregnant, you MUST avoid any form of exercise!
This brings us to the important question of whether it’s safe to exercise when you’re pregnant.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has stated that ‘in the absence of contraindications, pregnant women should be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate intensity physical activity to continue to derive health benefits during their pregnancy as they did prior to pregnancy’.
Being physically active during while pregnant benefits a woman’s overall health. 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily by healthy women during pregnancy increases or maintains cardiorespiratory fitness, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and excessive postpartum weight gain, and reduces symptoms of postpartum depression. Strong scientific evidence shows that the risk of moderate-intensity exercise is low and doesn’t increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery or early pregnancy loss.
To put it simply, it’s perfectly safe to exercise once you get the green light from your doctor.
The next step is to find out what kind of exercise and fitness regime to follow. Apart from low-impact cardio exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary bike, strength training with light to medium resistance coupled with stretches can help with common issues such as hip, knee and lower back pain during pregnancy.
These 7 exercises can be done safely at home and will help you manage the aches in your hips, knee and lower back.
At a quadruped position, ensure that your knees are aligned below your hips, and your palms are placed below your shoulders. Round your spine like a cat and pull your belly towards the spine to engage your core and transverse abdominis. Tuck your chin and tailbone in to stretch the lower back. A couple of seconds in, reverse the position and let your belly sink to form an arch at your spine. Raise your head and relax. Repeat this exercise 6-10 times, and don't forget to breathe normally throughout the movement.
Get into the quadruped position similar to Cat-Cow, but instead of rounding your spine, maintain a neutral spine and extend your right arm and left leg. Keep your hips stable by not tilting to the side. Hold this position for 3-6 seconds and engage your core by pulling your belly into your spine. Switch sides and repeat 3-6 times. If this exercise is too challenging, start by lifting only one leg off the floor while keeping both hands firm on the ground.
Modified Knee Plank
Note these important considerations when doing the modified plank. Engage the Transverse Abdominis by pulling the belly towards the spine and tilt the hips by tucking the tailbone, as you squeeze your butt cheeks together. This modification helps engage the abs instead of your lower back. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat if necessary. Stop if you feel a sharp pain in the lower back.
With or without a resistance band, lie down sideways and support your head with your arm. Bend both knees and avoid hunching your back. Lift your knees off the floor in a controlled manner by engaging your glutes. Avoid rotating your hips backwards as you perform this exercise. Do 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets on each side.
Stand with your feet wide apart, and squat down with your arms extended for balance. When you stand, engage your glutes by squeezing your butt cheeks together and perform Kegels to strengthen pelvic floor muscles (imagine holding in your pee). Stand tall and tilt your hips to stay aligned—don’t lean forward to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your lower back.
As your pregnancy progresses, the weight of your belly will make you hunch more. Stretching the chest is an important exercise that will help maintain a healthy posture, and reduce the strain in the neck and shoulders. To stretch a tight chest, lean towards a wall with your arm straight out, and rotate your shoulders away. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lower Back Stretch
Lean against a wall with your knees slightly bent. Ensure that your hips, shoulder blades and head is aligned against the wall. Lift your arms above your head and reach for the ceiling. Tilt your hips by flattening your lower back and pull your belly to your spine. You should feel the stretch at your lower back, mid-back and chest. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds - this stretch can help ease aches in your lower back.
If you experience any of the following, stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider immediately:
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage
- Shortness of breath prior to exercising
- Pelvic pressure or cramps
- Headache or problems with vision
- Pain of any kind
- Uterine contractions
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Preterm labour
- Decreased foetal movement
- Chest pain
- Temperature extremes (hot or cold, clammy)
- Nausea or vomiting