Did you know that in the past, medical professionals advised pregnant women not avoid exercise, arguing exercise caused harm to the baby? Modern studies have shown that people without chronic conditions can typically maintain their usual exercise routines well into their pregnancy.
The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is known as the first trimester. In this stage the multicellular zygote develops into an embryo that attaches to the uterine wall, growing rapidly into a fetus with bones, digestive organs, brain and a tiny beating heart. It’s important to dress appropriately for exercise to have proper ventilation to avoid over heating. Adequate amounts of water should be consumed to keep the body cool, joints lubricated and maintain proper functioning of muscles to reduce chance of falls.
Benefits of activity during pregnancy
Staying physically active can greatly benefit the mother and baby throughout and after pregnancy. It helps to prevent gestational diabetes, reduce swelling and pains. Exercise can mentally and physically relieve stress, anxiety and improve sleep at night. Maintaining a regular exercise routine can also help reduce the amount of fatigue experienced over the course of the pregnancy. Wang and Apgar mentions physically well-conditioned women have a stronger sense of well-being, shorter labor and fewer obstetric interventions (1998).
How much exercise is appropriate?
Individuals who were active prior to their pregnancy can continue to regularly exercise at a moderate intensity during this time frame at their typical frequency.
It’s always best to play it safe; consult your physician before starting any exercise program. With a trained professional and prenatal specialist to ensure exercises are being implemented safely. This is probably not the time to sign up for that Tough Mudder thing, people keep talking about!
3 exercises to include in your 1st trimester workout
Glute bridges can help strengthen the gluteal, lower back and hamstring muscles when done correctly. The glutes and lower back make up part of the “posterior chain” and are essential to keeping your body upright which should be worked throughout pregnancy.
- Lay on a mat with your heels an inch away from your glutes
- Place hands 45 degrees out and use them for stability throughout the exercise
- Lift the hips up until you form a parallel line with your thigh and upper body
- Hold this position and focus on contracting the glutes for 3 seconds
- Lower the hips in a controlled manner
- Repeat for 12-15 reps
The “good morning” exercise is also a good maneuver for improving lower back health, which also targets the hamstring and glutes. These muscles are crucial in reducing lower back pain during pregnancy.
- Standing upright with feet shoulder width apart, place hands on your hips
- Begin to flex at the hip joint, keeping your spine straight and imagine your upper body is long, reaching forward until horizontal (think about making the number “7”)
- Legs should be straight, but knees are not locked – you will feel a stretch in your hamstring
- It’s normal to naturally shift your weight slightly back so you don’t feel like you’re going to fall forward
- Your body and arms should form a 90 degree angle with your legs
- Hold this position for a brief moment before extending your torso back upright
- Repeat for 12-15 reps
Side planks target your oblique muscles which are located in either side of your “6 pack”. They are responsible for most rotational movements, as well as core stabilization (anti-rotation) and can assist in daily life activities.
- Lay on a mat directly on your side
- Brace yourself with the bottom hand making sure the entire forearm stays in contact with the ground to better distribute the weight of your body
- Beginners: flex at the knees and bridge up to form a straight line plank from your knees to the top of your head.
- More advanced: keep legs straight and hips on top of each other
- Lift your hips off the ground until your legs and torso form a straight line from your feet to the top of your head
- Hold this position for 30 seconds before lowering yourself down slowly
- Switch sides and do the same on the other side
- Perform this exercise 3x each side
Tip: Legs can be staggered at the bottom to create a more stable positioning to make the exercise easier.
Kevin Kwok – Studio Coordinator
Kevin enrolled in numerous sports program as a child, which exposed him to an active lifestyle early in life. He played ultimate frisbee competitively at the junior level while in high school. Kevin now focuses his training exclusively on dragon boating. He has been paddling for the past 3 years and hopes to make the Canadian National Team in 2021. He hopes he can motivate others to accomplish their short and long term fitness goals.
This post has been developed by studio contributors which include Co-Op students, kinesiologists, therapists and our expert colleagues