Safe core exercises for pregnancy fitness
“Should I even be doing core work while I’m pregnant?!” With so many differing opinions out there, it’s no wonder expectant moms-to-be are completely confused about safe core exercises for pregnancy fitness. Here’s the low-down on what you should and shouldn’t be doing, how to know what’s right for you, and what “core” work actually means.
Should you be exercising during pregnancy?
First and foremost, speak to your doctor about pregnancy fitness. But then get moving! They know you and they know how to talk through options that would be best for your situation. Second, check out the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendations for exercise during pregnancy and familiarize yourself with their recommendations.
What Kind of Exercise Should You Be Doing?
Ultimately, that’s up to you and your doctor. But there are many reasons I recommend prenatal-specific Pilates with a certified and experienced instructor. Prenatal Pilates sessions will incorporate gentle core work which is an essential component of posture, alignment, health and overall pregnancy fitness. Pregnancy is not a time to begin any new crazy exercise regimens nor is it a time to neglect your posture. Pilates covers both of these conditions.
What Is the Core and Why Is It Important?
When many people think of the “core” and exercising it, they think of the typical six-pack that sits on the front of the abdomen and using crunches or sit-ups to target that area. The core is SO MUCH MORE. And pregnancy fitness is much more nuanced.
The core is actually a group of muscles that wrap all the way around, above, and below the abdomen like a cylinder with a top and bottom. Without getting too technical, there are four (yes, I said four) layers of abdominals. That six-pack may look cute, but that’s not all there is and if that’s all you’ve got then you’re missing out. In addition to the four layers of abdominals, the diaphragm and pelvic floor create the top and bottom of the core cylinder.
The core is important because it supports your entire body. A weak and uncontrolled core can lead to poor posture and increase stress on the lower back and hips. During pregnancy, this is the last thing you want. The more stress to an area, the more opportunity, and risk for injury or pain. The aim of gentle core work like you find in prenatal Pilates is to minimize muscular imbalances and support and stabilize the spine. This work can help women carry a pregnancy more comfortably as well as minimize potential postpartum issues.
How Do I Exercise My Core?
Gently. Consider what your core strength and overall fitness level were prior to becoming pregnant. Pregnancy is not the time to try to start a new fitness craze or experiment with the latest fad in exercise.
Stability Ball. A stability ball can be an amazing and affordable tool for daily gentle core work. Just sitting on the ball requires some core engagement. From there, one can add weighted arm lifts or seated marching to increase the challenge to the core while on a ball.
Balance exercises. Gentle balance exercises require core strength for stability and proper alignment. A great tool to train your balance is the stability ball which challenges your balance in a controlled and gentle way. Start by including a bit of sitting on the stability ball each day.
Focus on alignment. Proper spinal alignment causes you to engage your core which then, in turn, supports your alignment. It’s a feedback loop you want to be a part of. It may be best to watch yourself in a mirror or join a class where an experienced instructor can monitor alignment and give feedback. Then go out in the world and conquer it.
What shouldn’t I do?
Fight the natural course of pregnancy. During pregnancy, Mother Nature releases hormones that aid in stretching and increasing the laxity of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the pelvis and abdomen. These changes prepare the body for labor. This “opening” gives the baby room to grow, turn, and ultimately flip head down for delivery.
Avoid exercises laying flat on your back. After the first trimester, avoid exercises performed laying on your back. While you might remember those supine exercises to be very effective. But during pregnancy, they will overly stress your abdominals and the babies weight can put too much pressure on its blood supply.
Try out a new high-intensity exercise regimen. Don’t suddenly start kickboxing if you weren’t kickboxing before you got pregnant. It’s pretty logical, really.
You got this. Listen to your body. Listen to your healthcare provider. Be gentle with yourself and keep moving. Pregnancy fitness is within reach.
If you want a guide through pregnancy exercise, be sure to check out Fit Pregnancy by Blue Sparrow Pilates. Fit Pregnancy is a prenatal & postpartum Pilates app with workouts for each trimester of pregnancy.