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Physical activity after


HOW DOES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY HELP PREGNANCY?


pregnancy ELP YOU AFTER


n Your postural muscles (predominantly the stomach and back muscles) and the pelvic floor muscles are likely to have been weakened as a result of the pregnancy. It is therefore important to strengthen these muscles to improve posture and reduce the risk of future back problems.


n The forward pull of the baby can also cause your pelvis to tilt further forward resulting in an increased curve in the lower part of the back (lumbar curve). This tightens the muscles in the lower back and at the front of the hips and results in


ABDOMINAL AND PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES 1. Contract and release (pelvic floor) Adopt a comfortable position lying, sitting or standing. Try not to squeeze your bottom or gluteal muscles. Draw up your pelvic floor muscles, contracting and holding them for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5-10 times.


2. The elevator (pelvic floor) Imagine your pelvic floor muscles are an elevator. Slowly lift up through three levels, contracting and holding your muscles a little tighter each time and then slowly relax back down. Repeat 5 times.


3. Abdominal hollowing Again lying, sitting or standing, inhale to prepare and as you exhale, gently draw your navel in towards your spine. It should be a soft sinking feeling rather than a strong bracing action. Hold this for a few seconds, continuing to breathe. Gradually increase the length of hold for up to 30 seconds.


4. Leg slides


Lie on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to


prepare and as you


exhale perform the abdominal hollowing exercise as you slide one leg out along the floor until the knee straightens. Inhale to hold, exhale to abdominal hollow as you slide your leg back up. Repeat 5 times on each leg.


5. Knee lifts Lie on your back with your knees bent up, feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, perform the abdominal hollowing exercise as you lift one foot off the floor and bring your knee up over the hip. Repeat 5 times on each leg.


6. Roll back Sit up with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands holding the back of the thighs. Tilt the pelvis, draw navel to spine and roll back onto the upper buttocks, keeping the back curled, shoulders relaxed and head aligned. Hold this position for a few seconds,


weakened buttock muscles. It is therefore recommended that you ask a someone who is qualified in postnatal exercise, to give you some stretching exercises for the lower back (pelvic tilting) and the front of the hips (hip flexor stretch) together with strengthening exercises for the buttocks such as leg extension/gluteal raise exercises, to help correct this.


n The increased size of the breasts can cause rounding of your shoulders. This causes tightening of the chest muscles and weakening of the upper back muscles. Exercises should include stretches for the chest and strengthening exercises for the trapezius muscles in the upper back.


continuing to breathe and return to sitting. Avoid gripping tightly with the hands. Repeat 5 times holding each time for a few seconds. Reduce this movement if the stomach muscles push up.


7. Reverse curl Lie on your back with your knees bent up into your chest. Begin with abdominal hollowing as before and progress into a pelvic tilt. Try to draw your hips towards your ribs with a slow squeezing action, rolling your pubic bone towards chest and lifting your tailbone off the floor. Perform slowly and with control. Exhale to lift, inhale to lower. It may be necessary to push gently down on the hands initially. Avoid swinging the legs. Repeat 5 times holding each time for a few seconds.


STAYING SAFE n Physical activity is safe if you start slowly and build up gradually to the recommended levels.


n Exercise at a comfortable level - if it hurts or is uncomfortable – STOP. If it feels good, it probably is.


n Warm up and cool down gradually n Wear cool, comfortable clothing, a supportive sports bra and footwear.


If you are breastfeeding: n Feed before exercising or express your milk n Wear a good supportive bra (or two if necessary) n Hydration is very important – so take regular sips of water n If your baby is making good weight gain, you’re not over-doing it.


FOR MORE INFORMATION


n The National Childbirth Trust 0300 330 0770 or www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com


n BBC Online Health www.bbc.co.uk/health/fitness/life_pregnancy_postnatal.shtml n NHS Direct 0845 4647 or www.nhsdirect.co.uk


The information contained in this article is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case. To the extent permissible by law, the publisher, editors and contributors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage howsoever incurred (including negligence) as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use by any person of the contents of this article.


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