By Julie Wilcox
It is widely agreed that 30-minutes of daily exercise and a nutritious diet, low in fat and sugar and high in protein, are important for a healthy pregnancy. The following pre-natal and post-natal health tips are for those of you who have already consulted your doctor about your fitness and yoga programs and have been cleared by your physician to exercise and eat a normal diet while pregnant.
1. The first trimester is the most sensitive time for the baby’s development (the brain and nervous system are forming), which means you must always approach your exercise with extra caution.
2. Buy exercise and yoga clothes that make you feel both comfortable and sexy with your baby bump.
3. Buy a heart rate monitor so that you can stay within the limit advised by your doctor. General guidelines used to recommend that all pregnant women keep their heart rate below 140 beats per minute however, today there are no specific heart rate limits: The Department Of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for healthy pregnant women-preferably spread throughout the week without any specific heart rate limits.
4. Choose safe yet effective workout options such as walking, the elliptical machine, slow jogging, moderate biking (not spinning, unless you are super careful about heart rate elevation), stair master, tai chi, hiking, yoga and swimming. Other than during the first trimester when it’s okay to do light abdominal crunches, avoid sit-ups in the second and third trimesters. Cat/cows and planks are nice core strengtheners you can do safely throughout your pregnancy. The key is to stay off your back because the weight of the uterus when reclined can decrease blood flow to the fetus.
5. Establish your weekly cardio/strength training and yoga schedule, alternating between the two day-to-day. An effective program might look like this:
• Cardio and Strength Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
• Pre-Natal Yoga Tuesdays and Saturdays. Follow these guidelines in your yoga practice:
• Always keep your legs far apart enough to make room for your baby bump
• Avoid deep back bending
• Avoid deep twists
• Avoid inversions
• Incorporate restorative yoga in your yoga practice to reduce stress if you are particularly anxious during your pregnancy
6. Your muscles are more flexible when pregnant due to hormonal changes (more oxytocin). Always exercise and practice yoga with this in mind, being extra careful not to stretch too far. It is easy to pull and tear muscles, tendons and ligaments due to their increased elasticity. Avoid excessive external environmental heat as well because it too increases the elasticity of soft tissue.
7. Lift light weights to keep your muscles strong and toned. Heavy weights come with the risk of excessive strain on the body. It’s best to do more repetitions with lighter weights during pregnancy.
8. Make sure to get enough sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, learn Yoga Nidra, which is the yoga of sleep.
9. Meditate: Meditation will help keep you and your baby calm.
10. Make sure to eat healthy and nutritious foods remembering that general guidelines explain that pregnancy only requires approximately 300 more calories per day. According to the NIH, the right amount of calories to eat for most pregnant women is 18000 during the first trimester, 2200 during the second and 2400 during the third. Below are examples of some great meal options:
• Egg White Omelet (with veggies)
• Homemade Muesli
• Steel Cut Oatmeal With Walnuts, Maple Syrup and Cardamom
• Smoothie (organic all natural fruits with low-fat milk or almond milk) topped With Low-Fat Granola
• Fish And Lean Meats With Veggies
• Vegetarian Protein Mains With Vegetable Sides
• Whole Grains
*It’s important to get enough Folic Acid in your diet. Ask your doctor if you need supplements.
Want to get in to incredible post-birth shape? Once your doctor says that you are ready to get back to your ideal body, you can do the following:
1. Increase the intensity and duration of your cardio workouts (1 hour is a good amount of time for weight loss) as well as the frequency to 5-6 days a week. You can add back more vigorous, various and challenging forms of exercise including spinning, dance classes and HIIT.
2. Establish a serious abdominal strengthening program, 4 days a week, working all of the different abdominal groups.
3. Add weight to your strength and toning exercises to maintain and enhance muscle definition.
4. Get back to regular yoga classes and try flow yoga, which burns more calories than more static forms of yoga (and if you are intermediate to advanced in your practice). Core yoga classes are also great for the post-natal period.
5. Continue to eat healthy and balanced nutritious foods, again only allowing for about 300 extra calories per day – only if you are breast feeding.
6. Make sure to use the proper muscles to pick up your baby and make sure to use your muscles evenly (switch sides regularly). This will help avoid low back, neck and shoulder tweaks.
7. Continue to work on your flexibility. The more flexibly you are, the more you can prevent injury due to new movements your baby will require.
8. Continue to meditate, practice restorative yoga and yoga nidra, especially if you are sleep deprived. Research shows that meditation can be as effective as sleep in providing rest. Each of these forms of yoga reduces stress and will help you deal with all of your new parenting challenges.
9. Get weekly bodywork. You deserve regular massages! Bodywork helps reduce stress and also any aches and pains due to your new mommy movements.