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Women's Health Author: Joan Pagano, Fitness Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Four Bodyweight Exercises for Pregnancy

By Joan Pagano, Fitness Columnist -
Aug 23, 2010 - 6:00:00 AM

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( - It's easy to stay fit during your pregnancy with four simple strengthening exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere, no equipment required. These functional "4 for Life" exercises comprise a mini full-body conditioning routine that will help you maintain strength, prevent some of the aches and pains of pregnancy and prepare for delivery of your baby.

The four exercises are: squats to work the lower body, push-ups for the upper body, pelvic tilts for the abdominals, and back extensions for the muscles of the spine. By learning to handle your own body weight, you develop fundamental muscle strength and become more efficient in the way you move throughout the day.

Always remember to check with your doctor first, but if you are a healthy, active woman you can generally continue a program of mild to moderate strength training during your pregnancy. Regular exercise (3 X week) is preferable to intermittent activity, and these four moves make it easy to be consistent. Do one set of 15-20 reps of each exercise every other day. It's important to allow a day of rest in between.

Squat: Working the large muscles of the legs creates stability in the lower body as your center of gravity shifts. Strengthening the glutes in the buttocks can also help minimize low back pain. The squatting position opens up your pelvis, potentially easing the process of delivery. To perform a squat: Stand in front of a chair, legs hip width apart. Shift your weight back onto your heels and bend your knees, lowering yourself toward the chair as if you were going to sit down. Tap the edge of the chair, without actually sitting and squeeze the buttocks to return to the start position.

Push Up: Talk about multi-tasking! This upper body exercise recruits the chest, shoulders and triceps to work together in one move. You'll need this strength when you start pushing a carriage or a stroller. Stand facing a wall, a full arms' length away, hands at shoulder lever, but 3-4 inches wider than your shoulders. Pull your abdominals in tight, creating a straight line in your torso from shoulder to ankle. Inhale and bend your elbows out to the sides to 90 degrees as you lower your chest toward the wall. Exhale as you push back to the start position.

Pelvic Tilt: As the uterus rises and protrudes, the spine undergoes subtle changes in curvature which can cause increased lumbar lordosis and back pain. The pelvic tilt helps realign the pelvis, stretch the low back and strengthen the deep abdominal muscle to support the weight of the fetus. In the second and third trimesters, avoid any exercise lying on your back as it could reduce blood flow to the baby. Do the pelvic tilt in the kneeling position, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, your back in neutral spine alignment. Inhale, filling the belly with air. Exhale forcefully, pulling your abdominals in tight, drawing the belly button toward the spine. With one fluid motion, tilt your hips under, reversing the curve in the low back.

Back Extension: To help maintain your postural alignment and strengthen the muscles of the spine, do a supported back extension. Standing, place your hands on your buttocks just below your waist, fingers pointing down. Take a deep breath and lengthen the torso. Tighten the hips, thighs and buttocks to protect the low back, then exhale and lift the chest up as you pull your elbows toward each other, causing the upper back to arch slightly.

Staying strong during your pregnancy will improve your sense of wellbeing, prepare you for the physical act of delivery and for taking care of the baby. These four exercises are the building blocks of an exercise program that will serve you and your family for life.

Of course, this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.

Joan Pagano is a best-selling author and an expert on the benefits of exercise for women's health issues such as pregnancy, breast cancer, menopause and osteoporosis as well as strength training through the decades. For more about Joan and her services, please visit Joan Pagano Fitness

(c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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