Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Pilates and Pregnancy by Alexis Bonari
Pilates and Pregnancy
Pilates is a great way for many women to keep in shape by staying toned and flexible. However, with all the changes of pregnancy, some pregnant women may wonder if it's a safe exercise, given their special needs. Many pilates instructors and fitness experts agree that not only is pilates safe to practice during pregnancy, but it is actually one of the best exercises for pregnant women because it is low impact and adaptable.
Exercise throughout pregnancy has many benefits, which are good for both the mother and the developing baby. Many studies show that women who exercised during pregnancy gave birth to children who were more likely to be leaner and suffer fewer health problems throughout their childhood.
Here are some of the benefits of practicing pilates during pregnancy:
Improves muscle tone and strength, which will make labor easier and speed recovery
Improves balance and align posture
Strengthens pelvic floor
Decreases back pain
Helps regulate hormones, especially stress hormones
Each woman will respond in different ways, but in general, practicing pilates will help improve overall well-being and fitness so that you can expect to have an easier delivery and a faster recovery after childbirth.
Because of the changes that take place during pregnancy, a pilates practice will need to include some modifications to prevent the risk of injury.
Exercises that involve laying on the stomach or flat on the back should be avoided near the end of the first trimester and after. Laying on the stomach will put too much pressure on the increasing abdomen, and laying on the back can risk cutting off blood flow to the baby and the placenta. Exercises should be done seated, standing, on your knees, or lying on your side.
Avoid any jerky movements. Your body is changing and ligaments and tendons are moving, so any intense or sudden movements can cause injury or pain.
Do not do deep stretches. In pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released which allows for muscles, tendons, and ligaments to move and grow. Therefore, it may be more difficult to assess how far your body can safely stretch as it will be able to stretch farther than it normally could. You risk overstretching or pulling a muscle.
In general, if you feel any pain, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, or headache, you should stop what you're doing and rest.
Though you should adopt a program that suits your individual needs, the following are exercises that are safe to try during pregnancy:
The Saw. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you spread slightly apart. Hold your arms out at your sides, parallel to the floor. Twist to the right and put your left hand on your right foot. Exhale as you stretch through your chest and inhale and you sit up, pulling your abs in. Repeat on the left side.
Spine Stretch. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you spread slightly apart. Exhale, drawing in your abs and contracting your pelvic floor, then inhale and reach forward, extending the spine. Repeat.
Side Kick. Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and move your top leg forward until your knee and foot are in line with your hip. Repeat and switch sides.
Hip and Thigh Opener. Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm. Keep both legs bent in front of you. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and lift the top leg as high as you can. Focus on your core and keep your hips steady. Repeat.
Finally, before you begin any exercise program during pregnancy, you should consult your doctor to make sure the program is safe for your specific circumstances. Be sure to visit a pilates instructor who has experience with pregnant women.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching leukemia scholarships. Whenever she gets some free time, she enjoys watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book.