Circuit training for pregnant women
Here is an exercise circuit that you can do safely and without supervision in the comfort of your home. The circuit was designed by Emily Ko Ming-lai, physiotherapist at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, and demonstrated by her physiotherapy department colleague Dawn Leung Wai, a personal trainer.
Cycle on a stationary bicycle or walk for five-10 minutes.
1. Semi-squat for the lower limbs
Position yourself in front of a chair. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, abs engaged, head up and eyes looking forward. Slowly lower yourself by bending at the knees and hips until you are hovering just above the chair. Pause for a second, then slowly return to the starting position without locking your knees.
Repeat 10 to 15 times at a "somewhat hard" intensity (a rating of perceived exertion [RPE] of 13 out of 20).
2. Medicine ball wood chop for the abdominals
Start with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart keeping the knees slightly bent. Hold a medicine ball or weight of about 1.5 kilograms to the outside of one hip. Rotate the ball up and across your body, keeping your arms straight throughout the movement, then slowly return to the start. "It's important to have strong abdominals if you expect to have a normal delivery, but it's not advised for a pregnant woman to do crunches or sit-ups - or any exercises in the supine [or lying face-up] position - after the first trimester. This exercise is a good alternative to train the abs," says Ko.
Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side at an RPE of 13 out of 20.
3. Resistance band row for the chest and upper back
Secure a resistance band around a fixed object at about waist level. Extend your arms out straight and step back until there is tension on the band. Pull your abdominals in and bend your elbows pulling the ends of the bands to the outside of your ribcage. Hold for one count and then slowly release back to start. Do three sets of 15 repetitions. Pregnant women tend to develop a kyphotic posture - a hump appearance of the back - due to increasing breast size, says Ko, which puts strain on the back and neck. "This exercise encourages the opening up of the chest," she says. Make it easier by standing closer to the anchor point or harder by stepping farther away.
Repeat 10 to 15 times at an RPE of 13 out of 20.
4.Exercise ball pelvic tilt for the core
Sit upright on the ball with your shoulders back and feet flat on the floor. Hold on to something for support. Breathe in deeply. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset. Without moving your feet, tilt your pelvis forward and upward. Hold for a couple of seconds then return to the start position. Try side to side and figure of eight movements, too. This works your deep abs and pelvic floor muscles, which support the weight of the growing baby.
Repeat eight to 12 times, focusing on making slow controlled movements.
Stretch or walk for five to 10 minutes to return your heart rate to pre-exercise level.