When you're pregnant, the couch often looks a whole lot more inviting than the gym. But according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise comes with some pretty convincing benefits.
Regularly exercising during pregnancy can reduce back pain, ease constipation, promote healthy weight gain, improve your overall fitness and strengthen your heart and blood vessels. It may also decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean birth.
For celebrity trainer Megan Roup, founder of The Sculpt Society and mom of two, exercise was also a form of self care during pregnancy.
"I tried to focus on incorporating self-care throughout (pregnancy), like going on walks, practicing a quick meditation in the morning, having energizing snacks like almond butter and apples, or enjoying a cup of my favorite coffee," she says.
She gave birth to her second daughter in September and keeping fitness a part of her regular routine was an important part of feeling her best during pregnancy and helping her recover afterward. In fact, she filmed workouts for The Sculpt Society prenatal program (TSS Mama) throughout her pregnancy.
"Fitness has always played a really big part in my mental health, but especially during pregnancy," she says. "I truly believe that The Sculpt Society prenatal workouts, pelvic floor exercises and 360 breathing made me so much more prepared to give birth. I also believe that taking the time to focus on myself helped me adjust to the physical, emotional and hormonal changes I experienced during both pregnancies."
She does caveat that all pregnancies are unique, so take the time to develop a workout routine that works for you and your body.
"No pregnancy is alike so it’s incredibly important to listen to your body and modify or eliminate things when something feels off. It’s also so important to be working with a pre- and postnatal certified trainer who can guide you on the right modifications throughout your pre- and postnatal journey,” she says. “For me personally, throughout my pregnancy, I focused a lot on the pelvic floor and 360 breathing exercises to prepare myself for labor and easier recovery.”
These are five of her favorite exercises that kept her feeling good during her pregnancy — and helped her recover post-delivery.
Pregnancy workout at home
Pelvic floor exercise and 360 breathing
"Understanding how to strengthen and lengthen your pelvic floor and breath through your diaphragm correctly will not only help prepare you for labor, but will be essential in your postpartum recovery," says Roup.
To perform: Kneel on the floor and sit up straight, maintaining good posture. As you inhale, lengthen and release the pelvic floor letting your belly expand. On the exhale, lift all 4 corners of your pelvic floor up (think of squeezing the muscles you would use to hold your pee when you have to go to the bathroom). At the same time, think about engaging the core and wrapping the deep core muscles around your torso. Release and repeat.
In this exercise, you'll move "through internal and external hip rotation," says Roup. "The invert helps open up the bottom of the pelvis (great for labor prep) and the clam shell helps strengthen the top of the glute."
To perform: Lie on your side with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other. Use your bottom arm to support your head, and rest your top hand on your hip or the floor in front of you. Your bottom leg will stay stationary, while your top leg moves for this exercise. Invert the top leg, bringing both knees to touch while raising the top foot toward the ceiling. Then, raise the top knee to the ceiling to allow the toe of the top foot to touch the heel of the resting leg (this is the clamshell or diamond). Continue alternating between the two movements for 10 reps, then switch sides.
Performing just the clamshell/diamond portion of the above exercise, really isolates the glutes. "Working to strengthen our glutes during pregnancy can help with lower back pain," says Roup.
To perform: Lying on your side, stack your hips making sure that the top hip is rotated forward slightly and there is no arch in your back. Use your bottom arm to support your head, and rest your top hand on your hip or the floor in front of you. Raise the top knee up toward the ceiling, keeping the feet glued together, then return the knees to touch. Repeat for 10 reps and then switch sides.
Inverted knee lifts
"Internal rotation can help open the bottom of the pelvis and prepare you for labor," says Roup.
To perform: Lying on your side, stack your hips making sure that your top hip is rotated forward slightly and there is no arch in your back. Use your bottom arm to support your head, and rest your top hand on your hip or the floor in front of you. Invert the leg so that your knees are lightly touching and your toe is pointing up toward the sky. Then, lift the knee up an inch and bring it back down an inch. Continue pulsing for 10 reps and then switch sides.
Straight leg pulse side
This exercise works by "tapping back into your outer thigh and top of your glute while stabilizing your core," says Roup.
To perform: Lie on your side with your legs stacked. Bend the bottom knee. Make sure the top hip is rotated forward, there is no arch in your back and your side body is engaged. Use your bottom arm to support your head, and rest your top hand on your hip or the floor in front of you. Then, raise the top leg up a few inches and back down a few inches. Repeat for 10 reps and then switch sides.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com