Pregnancy-Safe Exercises To Strengthen Lower Body
Get ready for your labour and recovery afterward by strengthening your lower body. Here are lower-body exercises, as recommended by a pre and post-natal physiotherapist/expert that you can incorporate.
As an expecting mother, you have to prepare yourself physically and mentally for your baby.. Exercising while pregnant lowers the risk of many health issues, like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm labour. Staying active during pregnancy doesn’t just help the mom, but also the baby . According to a 2019 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, exercise during pregnancy may potentially lower the risk of childhood obesity in newborns.
Pregnant women need to focus on bettering their physical health. According to Centers For Disease Control And Preventions (USA), women should do moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, during and after their pregnancy. But, focusing solely on maintaining a stable core to build stability is not enough. Your lower body, especially the leg muscles, needs to be strengthened for better stability. Strategic leg exercises can make walking easier, as a growing belly can put pressure on the low back and cause stiffness in the hamstrings.
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We spoke to Dr. Vinodha Vunnum, a pre and post-natal physiotherapist, birthing therapist, lactation consultant, and co-founder of Happy Mom, about building lower body strength during pregnancy. “As pregnancy advances, many women can experience extreme anterior pelvic tilt due to foetal growth and enlarged abdominal size. This tilt can put pressure on the low back and provoke stiffness in the hamstrings and cause other problems. This is where a well-structured pregnancy workout plan can help,” she says.
Mothers who exercise during gestation have improved energy levels and support the body in general well-being. Regular exercise also helps in managing emotional stress and lifestyle changes.
Related story: How Much Physical Activity Is Ideal For Pregnant Women
Benefits of Pregnancy Exercises For Legs
- Strengthens muscles that help support the extra weight during your pregnancy. Also, minimises aches that come with pregnancy, like back pain and pelvic pain.
- Maintains lean muscle mass in legs to manage weight during pregnancy and postpartum.
- Prevent imbalances and ensure you feel physically supported while carrying a growing child.
- Improves cardiovascular endurance.
- Lastly, pregnancy leg exercises can make walking easier and help improve stability for expecting mothers.
Related story: Challenge Your Calves With These Walking Exercises
Here are four lower body exercises ideal for pregnant women
- Stand with your back supported by the wall with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your feet in line with your hips, which helps keep you balanced throughout the squat.
- Clasp your hands together in front of your chest. Lower your hips down as though you’re sitting in a chair. Continue lowering your hips until they’re parallel to the floor.
- Return to your original position immediately to complete one rep. You don’t need to hold this position for very long.
- Repeat this squat as many times as you feel comfortable.
Benefit: Strengthen your legs and glutes, maintain mobility in your hip, and improve blood circulation.
Related story: 5 Types Of Squats And What Muscles It Targets
2. Forward Lunges
- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
- Bring your right leg forward with your weight shifting on the heels.
- Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. If you can, lightly tap the left knee to the floor while keeping weight on the right heel.
- Push into the right heel to drive back up to the standing position.
- Repeat on the other side as many times as you feel comfortable.
Benefit: Lunges elevate your heart rate and keep your cardiovascular system strong.
Related story: The Perfect Push-up Technique For Beginners
3. Backward Lunges
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and engage your gut.
- Take a step backward with your right foot, landing on the ball of your right foot and keeping your right heel slightly off the ground.
- Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle as you dip into a lunge. Focus on keeping your core engaged, and your hips tucked. Place your hands on your hips so you can make sure your hips aren’t tilting to the side or forward and back.
- Push through the heel of your left foot to return to your starting position. You can do all of your reps on alternate sides.
Related story: 8 Benefits of Cycling For A Healthy Mind And Body
4. Cross Lunges
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly bent knees. Place your hands on the sides of your hips. Engage your core, shoulder muscles, and pelvis.
- With an upright chest position, take a large step with your right foot, crossing your right leg over your left leg.
- Drop your hips and bend your left knee until it nearly touches the floor.
- Both of your legs should be bent at roughly 90-degrees. Your pelvis should be neutral at the bottom position.
- Push your entire front foot into the ground, using your glute and quad to push back to an upright position.
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side, alternating with each lunge.
Benefit: Builds muscle in the lower body, targets the glutes and hamstrings, and improves flexibility and balance.
Related story: 20 Minutes Low Impact Bodyweight Exercises to Burn Fats
5. Leg Raise
Stand on the floor and keep a chair in a reverse manner facing you. Inhale and engage your abdominal muscles to prepare for the leg lift.
- Side: Holding on to the top of the chair, lift the right leg to the side, creating a 90-degree angle. Hold for a few seconds and bring it back to the ground. Repeat a few times and do the same with the other leg.
- Back: Holding on to the top of the chair, raise your right leg behind. Try to keep as stable as possible before coming back to a standing position. Repeat with the other leg too.
- Front: Bend your knees slightly and raise your legs upward until your quads are parallel to the ground. Lower your legs in a controlled movement, exhaling as you go, until you're back in the starting position.
Related story: 3 Exercises That Build Strong, Toned Thighs
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