Your core is one of the most active areas of your body. After all, it’s constantly working during pregnancy and post-birth when you’re scooping up your bundle of joy 75 times a day. But your core is not just your belly. Core muscles also include the lower back, thighs, and buttocks. Together, these muscles support your entire body during and after pregnancy.
The following exercises are not just good for your body, they’re also beneficial for your overall health and some even ease post-partum discomfort from breastfeeding. (And don’t worry, there are NO crunches on this list! In fact, some fitness experts recommend that pregnant and post-partum women avoid crunches.)
Note: Women with high-risk pregnancies or who have given birth through Caesarian section may require a doctor-approved routine before beginning exercise. It’s always a good rule of thumb to check with your doctor before starting any exercise, during or after pregnancy!
Here are the 10 best exercises for your core both during and after pregnancy.
Walking? Yes walking! It might sound too easy, but walking is one of the most effective exercises you can do to activate your core. Walking utilizes every single one of your core muscles, not to mention your calf and upper-body muscles. Challenge your core by climbing hills or challenge your heart by striding briskly. Walking is also an ideal warm-up for more rigorous core exercises, so put on your comfiest pair of sneakers and enjoy the fresh air!
Squats are foundational for core strength plus pelvic floor toning. Toning these specific muscles is especially important since some women experience tearing of the pelvic floor fascia after vaginal delivery. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, imagine you’re about to sit in a chair and let your lower body do all the work. If you do a regular squat routine, lower back pain associated with later trimesters may improve.
Rooted in yoga, bird-dog is both a core toner and balancing challenge. Balancing exercises help to counteract the pressure your growing belly may place on joints and muscles. From the position of hands and knees, straighten one leg behind you and extend it to hip height. For an extra challenge, extend the opposite arm and balance, holding for about 20 seconds. Then switch sides. Yoga-style moves like these can also release tension to make nursing a more comfortable experience.
See also: What Not to Eat When Breastfeeding
Plank may be uncomfortable during pregnancy, but it’s an excellent exercise for your post-natal workouts. If regular plank is too rough on your wrists, simply modify and lower to your forearms. Start by holding plank for 30 seconds, making sure you breathe deeply. Slowly build up to 2 minutes as your body becomes more conditioned. Recover from plank with a yoga child’s pose, sitting back on your heels with your arms stretched out in front. Ahhhhh.
Craving some calorie-burning cardio? Dancing is one of the most enjoyable ways to stay fit! Latin-infused Zumba classes are even more effective if you use handheld light weights. The resistance from weights as light as 2 pounds pumps up the challenge for your core and can help sculpt defined ab muscles. The Mayo Clinic recommends aerobic exercise during pregnancy and claims that workouts like dancing may even decrease the risk of gestational diabetes.
6. Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga classes may include breathing, visualization, and other meditative practices to center you. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the benefits of prenatal yoga include decreased nausea and headaches as well as a lower risk of preterm labor. Be sure to find a teacher certified in prenatal yoga for a safe experience, and avoid hot yoga. Because pregnancy affects your blood pressure, hot yoga can increase your risk for fainting, heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke. Certain yoga moves also aren’t generally approved for pregnant women — headstands and shoulderstands, for instance, increase the chance baby moves to breech position, which makes for a difficult delivery.
7. Standing Bicycle
Essentially, standing bicycle is just you on your feet lifting each knee alternately towards the chest. Standing bicycle is an easy, low-impact move that works toning wonders on your gluteal muscles while stabilizing your abdominals. It’s a move you can easily do at home or as a warm-up before a power walk.
8. Pelvic Tilts
Here’s the perfect exercise for a rest day. On your back, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet down. Position your hands over your belly, contract your Kegel muscles and gently press your lower back down, then lift it up less than an inch. This move definitely feels more like relaxation than exercise. However, it’s a subtle but powerful strengthener for the core as well as those pelvic floor muscles.
9. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is 100% a standing workout, which makes it ideal not only for core strengthening but also posture improvement. Plus, as a mind-body workout, Tai Chi has benefits that go far deeper than your muscles. The flowing movements of Tai Chi have been known to lower blood pressure, improve sleep patterns, and boost your mood.
See also: Managing Stress and Pregnancy
Based on classical ballet but with a modern twist, barre is possibly the most challenging core workout. In a typical barre class, you’ll do planks, plies, and Pilates! You’ll unwind with some yoga stretching, too, but the majority of the workout is intense. Shaking muscles are expected! Take a wide stance with your toes slightly turned out. Tuck your tailbone so your back isn’t arched and bend your knees so your hips sink as far as they comfortably can. Try 10 or 20 reps and voilà! You’ve just done a mini barre workout.
Exercising during and after pregnancy can do so much more than keep you in shape. It can make you feel amazing from the inside out. Stress, fatigue, and anxiety all start to melt away when you get moving. Custom-design your own prenatal and postnatal workout based on what makes you feel good.
You may also be interested in:
- The Causes of Childhood Obesity: Protecting Your Little One
- Dad Matters: How a Father’s Genes Affect Baby
- 5 Ways to Optimize Your Chance of Getting Pregnant