Cold weather, roaring fires and good films on TV can make getting out and about seem difficult over the festive season, especially if you’re pregnant. But keeping active is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy, and it refreshes your mind, too. Personal trainer Dan Roberts (www.danrobertstraining.com) adds, ‘You shouldn’t do anything too punishing, particularly in the first and third trimesters. Having a baby can be mentally and physically stressful and exercise is there to help, so don’t be too hard on yourself.’
Why it’s good for you
Research shows that exercise helps to lower stress levels and produces feel-good hormones (endorphins), giving you a happy boost. Weightbearing exercise can also reduce the length of labour and decrease the risk of delivery complications, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. ‘The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are clear,’ says Alison Merry, former midwife and founder of Blooming Fit. ‘It improves the cardiovascular system and maintains muscle tone.’
Why it’s good for baby
Studies show that babies born to women who exercise may tolerate labour better than those of non-exercisers, so jump to it!
1) Keep it simple. There are lots of easy exercises you can do from the comfort of your living room during the Christmas holiday.
2) Get some fresh air. Studies show that walking for 30 minutes, three days a week has been shown to boost fitness. And if you’re in the countryside, make the most of the open space and drink in the fresh air: this will reduce stress, which is good news for your baby! ‘Brisk walking is a great exercise – it’s wonderful for your circulation, which helps prevent varicose veins,’ says Dan. ‘Your energy will increase and you’ll sleep better, too.’
3) Go to class. If you’ve got a few days off, see if you can find an aquanatal class. Swimming is great as it’s a weightbearing exercise, and you can do it at any stage of pregnancy. Antenatal Pilates and yoga are also very relaxing – and meeting people other than your close family can be a lifesaver over Christmas!
The Christmas workout
If getting out of the house seems too much like hard work, try this simple routine while watching your fave festive movie!
Always begin with a gentle warm-up to loosen your body, warm your muscles and raise your heart rate. This will help to reduce the risk of injury, and allows a greater range of movement.
- Begin by stepping out to the side with your left foot then bringing it back to the middle. Repeat with your right foot, and add an arm movement by lifting both your arms out to your sides to shoulder height as you step (as if you’re flying), and bring them back down as you come back to the middle. Continue this step-and-stretch movement for one minute.
- Lift your left knee up towards your belly while keeping your hands on your hips, then bring it down to the floor. Repeat with the right knee, and alternate left and right legs for two minutes.
- Slowly make a circle with your left arm by stretching it in front of you, raising it up so it passes your ear and reach behind you. Repeat with the other arm, and continue alternating this movement for two minutes.
- Do two minutes of marching on the spot while swinging your arms.
Works: Thighs and bottom
If you’re in your second or third trimester, hold on to a chair for support. Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and, breathing out, slowly lower your bottom towards the floor, keeping your abdominals pulled in and your feet on the floor. Breathe in and go back up. Make sure your knees don’t go over the end of your toes. Repeat 20 times.
Works: Tops of your arms
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and back straight, arms at your sides. Holding a 2kg weight (or a 500ml bottle of water) in each hand, bend your arms at the elbow and lift the weights upwards towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Repeat 20 times.
Works: Stomach muscles
Begin in an all-fours position, with your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Relax your head and pull your abdominal muscles towards your spine, inhaling as you pull them in. Slowly exhale and lower back to the starting position. Imagine that your baby is surrounded by your abdominal muscles, and as you pull them in towards your spine, your baby will be pulled up too. Resist using your back and concentrate on your abs only. Repeat this move 30 times, resting after each set of 10.
Side-lying leg lift
Works: Bottom and thighs
Begin by lying on your side, with one hand supporting your head and with your lower leg slightly bent at the knee and your top leg straight. Lift your top leg to 45°. Hold your leg in this position for at least 10 seconds and then lift and lower it, using a small range of motion and keeping things slow and steady. (Be careful not to overstretch or ‘lock’ your knee joint.) Repeat 20 times with this leg, and then lie on your other side to change to the other leg.