If you’re not very active, these exercises are a great way to get started. Try to do them for a total of 15 minutes at first and build up from there. Add in some walking, housework or swimming and you will really start to feel the benefits.
If you already exercise regularly, this workout is a good way to boost your activity levels and keep you flexible.
It’s very important to ‘zip up’ your tummy muscles before you start any exercise or strenuous movement. This could be sitting down, standing up, lifting, carrying and walking as well as more structured exercise.
‘Zipping up’ simply means tightening your core muscles to protect your back and tummy from injury.
It’s easy to do:
- Imagine a thread attached to your belly button on the inside.
- When you zip up, you pull the thread towards your spine.
- If you put your finger on your belly button and tighten your tummy muscles up and inwards, you will feel your belly button move upwards slightly and the muscles around it will tighten.
- You should still be able to breathe normally.
- Now you are zipped up and protected.
Try these while you’re doing the washing up or waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards.
- Zip up and slowly lift yourself up onto your toes, feeling the muscles in your lower legs working.
- You can lightly hold onto a worktop or the back of a chair to help you balance.
- Hold for a count of three and slowly lower yourself back down.
Repeat 15 to 20 times, rest for 30 seconds, and then do another 15 to 20.
These seated leg extensions are great for the muscles at the front of your thighs. You can do them at work or at home.
- Sit on a sturdy chair, feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards, with your knees over your feet.
- Keep your spine straight and rest your hands on your thighs.
- Put your shoulders back and zip up.
- Lift one knee to a comfortable height, keeping the leg bent.
- Keeping your thigh lifted, slowly get your leg as straight as possible, tightening your thigh muscles gently at the top.
- Then slowly return your leg back to the bent position while keeping your thigh lifted.
Do this eight to 12 times on one side and then swap to the other leg. This is a good activity to do if your work means you’re sitting at a desk all day.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart and your feet facing forwards.
- Raise your arms up in front of you to shoulder height, this will help you balance.
- Zip up, then slowly bend your knees as you push your bottom slightly backwards, keeping both feet flat on the floor.
- Try to come down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, but only come down as far as feels comfortable, and where you know you can get back up!
Repeat this 6 times.
As your bump grows you might want to place a sturdy chair in front or on either side of you to hold onto and help you balance.
You can also do these leaning on a pregnancy or birthing ball placed behind your back and against a wall.
Arm raises, part 1
Try these in the kitchen where you have tins, bottles or bags you can lift. Or use light hand weights. The weights should be light enough for you to do around 15 repetitions at a time without your arms becoming too tired or shaky to carry on.
- Get two of the same item from your cupboard – bags of sugar, tins of beans or bottles of water would work.
- Hold one in each hand with your arms by your sides and your palms facing upwards.
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards.
- Zip up, then slowly tense the muscles in the top of your arms and bring your hands up to touch the front of your shoulders.
- Keep your elbows tucked into your sides.
- Keep zipped up and slowly lower your hands back down to the starting position.
Do this 12 to 15 times, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat.
Arm raises, part 2
Holding your two items in your hands, stand tall with your shoulders back and down and your arms by your side.
- Zip up, and with your palms facing downwards and your arms straight, slowly lift both arms up to the side until your hands are at shoulder height.
- Slowly lower them back down.
- Then lift both arms to the front, again with the arms straight and just as far as shoulder height.
- Slowly lower them back down.
Repeat the side and front versions 6 to 10 times each, rest for 30 seconds and repeat.
Strong tummy muscles will help support your growing baby, reduce backache and help you during the ‘pushing’ part of labour.
- Pull your tummy in towards your spine.
- Hold for a few seconds, then release gently.
- Make sure you breathe normally while you’re doing this exercise and try to do it as often as you can during the day.
- Use it when you bend or lift things to keep your back supported.
You can do this exercise in any position, but avoid lying flat on your back after about 16 weeks.
Read more about what kind of exercises you can do in pregnancy.