When you think of a typical pregnancy exercise program, stretching and warming up are easily forgotten. But they are a MUST for any safe and effective workout. Aside from just feeling good, stretching helps to keep your pregnant body healthy in a number of ways:
- Prevents injuries by pulling your body gently back into balance.
- Increases circulation – more blood flow to the muscles means a healthier muscle.
- Gives you more energy! Along with greater blood flow comes more oxygen which keeps us from feeling sleepy during the day.
- Eases the aches and pains of pregnancy by loosening the tight muscles that cause low back pain, headaches and other common complaints.
- Enhances your workout by increasing your range of motion.
- Improves your posture which helps you look and feel better as your body continues to change.
Keep in mind that being gumby is not the goal – being too flexible can be just as dangerous as not being flexible enough. So, it’s important to stretch only those muscles that are tight and to combine your stretching with a good pregnancy strength training program.
Top Ten Tips for Stretching Success
Stretching is essential to any pregnancy exercise program. But, most people don’t realize HOW to stretch. Just going through the motions can be more dangerous than not doing it at all. Follow these ten tips to round out your workout.
- Warm up with 5-8 minutes of cardiovascular exercise – that is, an activity like jogging, biking or walking that will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Then begin your stretching routine.
- Stretch only those muscles that are tight.
- Don’t stretch muscles that are already loose – if you don’t “feel the stretch”, you may not need to do it.
- Avoid over-stretching. During pregnancy your joints are especially loose and prone to injury.
- Stretching should NOT hurt. Stretching a tight muscle should feel good, back off if there is any pain.
- Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds each.
- Never bounce while you stretch.
- Stay relaxed and breathe deeply to help lengthen your muscles.
- Do not lock out your joints, keep elbows and knees slightly bent to reduce stress on them.
- Stretch after your exercise session too, to help your body cool down and prevent injury.
There you have it, the basics of stretching! Follow these simple guidelines and reap the benefits of stretching during pregnancy.