Get in Shape
Andrew Eaton, a certified fitness trainer in the Chicago area, explains, "Strengthening the muscles of the legs, upper back, shoulders, and arms not only helps to keep an expectant mom in shape, it also prepares her for the daily task of caring for her baby. Body weight exercises like partial squats and lunges are particularly good at keeping the legs strong and can be done at home."
Because the abdominal muscles supporting the spine bear the pressure of the fetus, Eaton stresses that staying fit and pain-free during pregnancy starts long before the baby arrives. "A good workout should include exercises that target the mid and upper back muscles, as well as the biceps," he says. "Using proper posture is essential, too, especially since the back muscles help support the weight of the baby in the front of your body. Whether you walk, stand, or sit, good posture keeps the spine aligned and minimizes stress on your back."
Build Your Strength
Eaton also maintains, "Strength training plays an important role in prenatal conditioning because it helps stretch the muscles of the calves and lower back as the developing fetus changes Mom's center of gravity."
A Yale Research Study published in May 2005 reports that between 45 and 75 percent of all women experience back pain during pregnancy—in most cases due to hormonal changes that make their ligaments looser. Because of the added stress placed on muscles in the lower back during pregnancy, the more fit you are, the better you tend to feel.
"Because back problems often develop from weakened muscles that can't handle the strain of everyday bending and stretching, it's important to avoid awkward and extreme postures," advises Christina Christie, a physical therapist and certified childbirth educator at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. "It helps not to let yourself be caught off-guard."