Due to the recent COVID crisis, pre pregnancy home exercises have never been more accessible or easier to find.
Exercise has a whole range of health benefits, which is amplified pre pregnancy as the positive impacts will impact on your future child. Starting exercise now will make it easier for you to return to these good habits once you have given birth and boost the speed of your recovery. It will also reduce the amount of strain or injury that may happen during pregnancy. Exercise also has great benefits for your mental health by reducing stress.
Tip: You can also get fit alongside your partner. Working out alongside your partner or a friend can make exercise more fun and engaging.
If you are pregnant, consult with a health professional to monitor your activity levels and find out what exercises are safe for you to do.
Exercising for 30 minutes a day is ideal. This can be broken up into two 15-minute sessions or broken into 10-minute sessions, 3 times a day.
How do I know if I am overdoing exercise?
If you are feeling excessively tired or have any joint or muscle pain that last longer than 2 days, you may be overdoing your exercises. Upwards of 5 hours a week of high intensity exercise may be overdoing it. Too much exercise can cause muscle injury, prevent healing and especially if you are pregnant, take away needed energy from your child’s development. If you feel any pain during exercise – stop!
Pre pregnancy exercises at home for cardiovascular health
Cardio exercises can be defined as anything that gets you breathing heavily, that gets your heart pumping, and that gets you sweaty. Cardio allows you to burn calories and strengthen your heart and lungs. During pregnancy your heart will be busy at work pumping twice the amount of blood through your body to support you and your child. Therefore, strengthening your heart muscles by doing cardio exercises now can make this process easier for your body once you are pregnant. Starting cardio now will make it easier for you to get back into the habit of doing cardio exercises once you have given birth, allowing you to shed any weight you put on during pregnancy easier. Being in shape will also make child delivery go smoother, as you will have better stamina during the labour process.
Cardio exercises are great for weight loss. If you are overweight, reducing weight can allow you to avoid potential birth complications such as miscarriage, diabetes and premature birth. If you are having difficulty conceiving, it may also be due to having a BMI (body mass index) that is too high or too low. Being overweight and having a high BMI affects your hormone cycle, hence causing difficulties with conception.
If you are pregnant consult with an exercise physiologist first before starting or continuing with cardiovascular exercise.
Here is a list of cardio exercises:
- Running or jogging: These can be difficult to do if you are at home and have limited space in your garden. You could go out for a run to your local park or use the stairs in your house. You can also try jogging in the spot to some upbeat music, jog as you watch tv, set goals on your pedometer, or, if you have one, play the jogging games from Wiifit on your Wii/Wii U. High knees and butt kick exercises are also a good variation of these exercises.
- Dancing: Put on your headphones or crank up your speakers and dance at home! You don’t have to follow any particular dance routine, just as long as you are getting your heart pumping. Zumba is also a potential option, as it is a variation of dance exercise.
- Skipping: If you have a skipping rope, skipping is a great cardio workout.
- Swimming: This is a great cardio exercise as the water is easy on the joints.
- Youtube cardio: There is a whole range of resources online, just search for ‘at home cardio’ or ’10-minute cardio workout’ on youtube and you will find great results. Many of these videos are great ways to complete your pre pregnancy exercises at home.
- A lot of strength exercises also count as cardio as they get your heart pumping and breathing heavy. Scroll further down to see a list of exercises.
Pre pregnancy exercises at home for strengthening
Strengthening your body now will be beneficial much later in pregnancy. For example, during pregnancy your back muscles are likely to get very sore from carrying the weight of your child and your abdominal wall won’t be able to provide the core support needed to help reduce the load on your back muscles. In combination with the strain from carrying the weight of your child, even your hormones make you more prone to injury, strains and overstretched muscles and ligaments. During pregnancy, the hormone ‘relaxin’ loosens the ligaments and muscles of the body. This hormone can remain in your body for up to 6 months post-pregnancy. You are more likely to injure yourself with a sprain, strain or overstretched muscle during this time. A soft tissue occupational therapist can use hands on treatment approaches to help alleviate your pain and treat strains. An exercise physiologist can assist you in maintaining the strength of your body to reduce your likelihood of injury.
Tip: Strengthening your lower back muscles, glutes and abdominals will be beneficial now to reduce pain in the future.
Generally, it is good to strengthen the entirety of your body.
Here is a list of some pre pregnancy exercises at home for strengthening:
- Tricep dips
- Push ups
- Arm circles
- Plank ups
- Plank jacks
- Sit ups
- Mountain climbers
- Glute bridges
- Lying lateral leg lifts
- Partial curls
- Front bridge to downward dog
- Donkey kicks
- Donkey whips
- Jump squats
- Reverse lunges
- Wall squats
- Donkey kicks
- Donkey whips
If you are having difficulty with any of the above exercises, you can book an appointment with an Exercise Physiologist to get an individualised exercise routine and guidance to ensure you are completing your exercises correctly.
Unsafe exercises during pregnancy and for 3 months after pregnancy
Here is a quick list of exercise you will be unable to do during and up to 3 months after pregnancy:
- Any exercises that stretch the abs: sit ups, cat/cow, crunches, Russian twists, jack knives, boats, upward facing dogs.
- If you have diastasis recti, these exercises will cause injury. If you have a weak pelvic floor, abdominal intensive exercises can place too much pressure on your pelvic floor, inhibiting healing and causing a potential organ prolapse.
- Avoid high impact sports such as soccer, basketball, rugby, netball.
- Avoid increasing your heart rate above 75%.
Tip: While you aren’t pregnant just yet, you may like to schedule in more time to do these activities before you will have to stop and take a break.
Pre pregnancy exercises at home: pelvic floor / kegel exercises
Kegel exercises will be a vital exercise for you to do before, during and after your pregnancy. They strengthen the muscles supporting your bladder, uterus and bowels. During pregnancy, these muscles will weaken from the strain of carrying the weight of your child. Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause bladder incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises are also safe to do after birth and after a C-section.
The muscles of the pelvic floor can be difficult to locate. If you need to locate these muscles, try to stop urinating half-way through next time you are on the toilet. The muscles you use to stop urination will be your pelvic floor muscles. However, don’t make a habit of stopping your urine stream or doing pelvic floor exercises with a full bladder.
- In a seated position, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
- Try and hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, and rest for 3 seconds. If you are unable to hold for 3 seconds, hold the squeeze for as long as you can.
- Continue to breath as you squeeze.
- Repeat this 10 times.
- You would want to do these exercises 3 times a day.
Tip: You can do this exercise anytime throughout the day, in a waiting room, when you are stopped at a traffic light during a drive, prior to sleeping or when you are watching tv.
You know you are doing these exercises correctly if you are not tensing your abdominals (your belly) or your gluteal muscles (buttocks).
Continue to do these exercises on a daily basis, steadily increasing the amount of seconds you hold for each week. For example, you can start week 1 with 3 seconds, week 2 can be 5 seconds, week 3 can be 8 seconds and so on.
Experiencing aches, pains, strains, sprains or a sore lower back? Book in to see a Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist.
Soft tissue occupational therapy treatment focuses on treating musculoskeletal disorders of the body through diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Treatment may also involve future prevention of injury through strengthening and returning your muscles back to normal functioning, enhancing the resilience of the musculoskeletal system. The overall aim of therapy is to heal and restore function to injured and weakened body parts, as well as to aid and promote wellbeing.
A soft tissue occupational therapist is an expert in diagnosing and treating soft tissue injuries of the body – anything that involves the muscle, ligaments, tendons or fascia. They use a ‘hands-on’ approach to therapy, using techniques such as trigger point therapy, dry needling or myofascial massage to get you pain free.
Wanting a specific strengthening program? Book in to see an Exercise Physiologist.
They can help you understand how to exercise safely and effectively to improve your wellbeing, body function and prevent injury. This is done by prescribing individualised exercises for your needs, whether it is to prevent medical conditions, improve the strength and endurance of your body, or help you recover and manage an injury. An exercise physiologist will assess your individual ability, health, goals and rehabilitation needs to design and deliver safe exercises for you.