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One of the Best Pregnancy Workouts You Can Do

swimming workouts

Swimming is one of the best pregnancy workouts. Credit: fredsharples

Even though I have a long history in the pool, I’ve never actually had access to one while I was pregnant. Unfortunately for me, I’ve not taken part in one of the best pregnancy workouts available: swimming! I can only imagine that it’s so soothing to feel somewhat weightless as you’re feeling the effects of weight gain and pressure (or pain) in every joint. As so many women have back pain during pregnancy, it can also be one exercise routine that can help your back out. But don’t just take my word for it. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon, has taken the time to answer our questions on how exactly water exercises can help pregnant women.

Q&A With Dr. Hansraj

Why is water exercise so great for the back? Strong back, abdominal and hip muscles are key elements to a healthy spine. By being in the water, you can work out, strengthen and condition these muscles in a safe environment due to the lack of gravity. Even then, the water can be used as a source of resistance for strengthening. Being in the water is also recognized for its state of relaxation and inducing healing.

What are the benefits of aquatic exercise for the expecting mom? The positive effects on the spine from these exercises stem from the properties of water itself. Buoyancy not only aids in the strengthening of the spine but also improves balance and permits for a range of positions to be performed. Water’s viscosity provides resistance by way of gentle friction, allowing conditioning of a prior injury and reduction of the risk of future injury due to the loss of balance.

Warm water diminishes muscular spasm, diminishes pain sensitivity by decreased forces on joints and allows improved standing, walking and strength training.

Aquatic exercise is also a very useful way to maintain and strengthen heart and lung function, which improves muscle blood flow to different areas of the body, including the spine.

Any exercises in particular that you recommend when hitting the pool? When you first get into the pool, take time to get acclimated. The water feels different to move in. Walking is a great start. Progress to gentle stretches in the water, as stretching moves the facet joints of the spine and helps in nerve mobility as well.

A physical therapist may then progress to show you ways to engage your core muscles and keep them stable in the water. The next step is to do formal strengthening of the core muscles in the water.

Beginners and those seeking a lower level of conditioning should engage in water exercises in the shallow end, while those who are more advanced or looking to raise their level of conditioning can venture into deeper waters.

What exercises are good if you have pregnancy-related low back pain (or any back pain, really)? Pregnant women may start with a range of motion in the water — walking in the water and then doing gentle stretches. At no time should they be doing anything aggressive, however.

In pregnant patients and non-pregnant patients with low-back pain, special attention is placed on stretching the hamstrings and especially the piriformis muscle. These maneuvers help to release the sciatic nerve and diminish pain and suffering.

Any concerns when it comes to this type of exercise? Using medical words, there are “contraindications” to aqua therapy. A physical therapist will be careful to make sure that the client has no fear of water. Fear of water is a gentle contraindication. Open wounds such as an injury, penetration or healing surgery are contraindications to aqua therapy. Incontinence of bowel or bladder is a contraindication as well.

How long should these types of workouts be? Typically these workouts range from 45 minutes to an hour and a half per session.

A big thanks to Dr. Hansraj for answering our questions! So remember, now that the pools are closed for the summer (slow tear, fast tear!), just take it indoors for a prenatal aquatic workout that’ll keep you in ship pregnancy shape!

Have you hit the pool when pregnant? Does it help with the aches and pains?  —Erin

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