Our bodies experience many changes during pregnancy and childbirth, followed by a dramatic change in our daily activities. Today more than ever, we are enjoying higher levels of activity and fitness during pregnancy and soon after delivery. In an effort to keep up with this activity, our bodies often adopt new ways of moving which are not ideal for how the joints and muscles should function. Sometimes these changes cause issues during pregnancy or immediately postpartum, and sometimes take years before something in the system breaks down.
Fortunately our bodies are always adapting, and we can intervene at any point to learn how to move better!
Here are 5 exercises that you can easily incorporate into your daily activities to help your body move more optimally and balanced at whatever stage of motherhood or womanhood you are.
We hear a lot about the benefits of proper breathing - stress relief, higher energy levels, etc. Did you know it also helps your pelvic floor, posture, and core strength? The diaphragm is a postural muscle that coordinates with the pelvic floor to aid in “core stability”. Therefore, a shift away from balanced breathing can contribute to increased pressure on the pelvic floor, overactivity of these muscles, neck pain from chest breathing, etc. Here’s how to begin balancing your breathing:
Transverse what??? you may be asking… This important ab muscle works together with the pelvic floor muscles to provide stability and another component of our “core”. Our “six-pack” and oblique abdominal muscles get most of the attention with typical fitness, but getting the TA onboard is essential to a strong base for running, squatting, lifting as well as prevention and treatment of abdominal and pelvic floor issues (ie diastasis, incontinence, pelvic pain).
Bringing our bodies into a more balanced state where our muscles are available to do their best work is essential after pregnancy and throughout caring for babies and children. Use these techniques to help promote this balance.
Throughout the day when you are standing, pay attention to where your weight is positioned.
Practice this daily and you will find you are more aware of times you are operating with a posture of asymmetry.
There are so many positions and activities in life that pull us forward - looking at phones, working at the computer, feeding babies, crouching down to talk to small kids, etc. This stretch feels so good to negate these effects, open up the ribcage, and optimize our breathing.
Pregnancy and spending much of our time moving forward causes our trunk to lose its full rotation (twisting) mobility. This rotation is essential to running, reaching, etc. Without regaining this motion, our bodies find ways to cheat around it rather than using our strongest movers to do their best work!
Perform on both sides. If you find one side is more restricted than the other, perform more reps on that side.
***Disclaimer: These exercises are intended as general techniques only. Do not perform if pain occurs. For a whole-body movement assessment and individualized plan, visit www.ShePT.co to learn how to work with Jill.
Jill Heath is a licensed physical therapist and owner of She PT, LLC. She received a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and B.S. in Exercise Science from Northern Arizona University. During years of practice helping individuals of all ages recover from a variety of conditions, she developed a passion for working with women. She opened She PT, LLC with the purpose of meeting not only the unique physical needs of women, but also empowering women to take charge of their well-being by making care accessible.