This post is part of HealthyWomen's #RealWomenRealStories series.
During pregnancy, you are doing what seems almost unimaginable—you are growing another human being inside you. And, because of this herculean task, you may be tempted to spend most of your downtime relaxing on the couch. However, there are countless benefits for both mom and baby to maintain a fitness routine through pregnancy (once approved by your doctor).
Staying active can decrease many of the common aches and pains that come along with pregnancy. It may help you sleep better, increase your blood circulation (reducing swelling and the likelihood of varicose veins), and boost your energy levels as you are in a constant battle against pregnancy fatigue.
The best part of maintaining a fitness routine throughout your pregnancy is that you will feel more confident and in control of your ever-growing body!
Below are my 5 favorite pregnancy exercises than can be done every trimester of pregnancy.
- Sumo squats: To perform a sumo squat, stand with your feet significantly wider than hip-distance apart, turn your toes out 45 degrees and hold your hands to your chest. Lower yourself down by bending your knees and hips, extending your hands out front. Keep your core tight, back straight and do not let your knees move past your toes when lowering. The weight should remain in your heels. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, root through your heels and rise back up steadily for one rep. Aim for 20 reps.
2. Side plank: Side planks are safe throughout each trimester of pregnancy. They are a great way to strengthen your core and do not increase your risk of diastasis recti. Lie on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. With your abdominals gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the line. Another reason I love side planks is the endless variations you can do with them. If you are feeling strong, try lifting your top leg and holding the position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
3. Triceps dips on the floor: Sit on the floor with your legs slightly bent. Place your feet flat on the ground. Support your body by placing the hands behind your back with the elbows pointing backward and the fingertips pointed toward your body. Keeping the back straight, push through the arms until your bottom is off the ground. Your starting position should resemble a reverse table top. Slowly bend at the elbow, ensuring your elbows do not flare out. When bending your arms, your bottom should remain off the ground—the range of motion is small. Push your body up again by straightening your elbows. Aim for 15 reps.
4. Stepping lunges: This is an excellent exercise because it helps strengthen the major muscles of the lower body, which will bear most of the extra weight as your belly grows. To begin, stand with your feet about hip width apart. Take a large step forward with your left foot. To maintain balance, be careful not to place your left foot directly in front of your right foot. Lower your body by bending your knees. Make sure your front knee does not go past your front toes. It is important to keep your torso upright (perpendicular to the floor), and lower your hips and shoulders straight down. Avoid rocking forward. Lower yourself until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Your back knee should not touch the floor. Exhale as you return to the start position. Most of your weight should be on your front heel as you press directly into the floor with your front foot to return to the start position. Repeat with your right foot forward. Aim for 15 lunges on each side.
5. Birthing squat: The prenatal birthing squat is an excellent position to release the pelvic ligaments and concentrate on the downward force to release. Opening the hips is a great way to prepare for and assist delivery of your baby. Aim to hold for 1 minute.
As you maintain your fitness during pregnancy, remember that every pregnancy is different and every day of pregnancy is different. The most important thing is to listen to your body. No one knows your body like you. Stay strong, momma!
For more pregnancy exercises and workouts find me on YouTube!
This post originally appeared on FitMomma.com.