Sit-ups are a go-to exercise for strengthening our core muscles, but can you still do them when you’re pregnant?
“It’s important to clarify that whilst sit-ups are not necessarily the best thing to do in pregnancy they are "safe", they pose no actual threat to you or your baby,” says Charlie Barker, founder of pre and postnatal online fitness studio, Bumps and Burpees.
Although classed as ‘safe’ Charlie says there are many reasons why sits up may not be recommended during pregnancy: “Sit-ups or crunches largely target the external core muscles - the ones that make up the six pack that we can see from the outside - and these are not the core muscles that we need to work on throughout pregnancy. In fact, as we progress through our pregnancy these muscles will be stretching apart with the growing bump so sit-ups are largely unhelpful as we are growing our baby and our tummies are stretching.
“Instead we want to work on strengthening our deep core muscles that work to stabilise us as our bump grows and our posture changes. We do this through using our breath effectively during other exercises, off-setting our balance in things like lunges, so our core has to kick in to keep us upright, adapted planks and plenty more movements that will be far more effective in keeping our core strong throughout this time.”
Is it important to continue exercising while pregnant?
Yes! It's important to keep active and strong throughout your pregnancy, both mentally and physically. But Charlie points out that exercise doesn't necessarily have to mean 'workouts'.
"It can be walking the dog, playing with your kids in the park, swimming... there are all sorts of ways you can remain active," she says. "There are a huge number of benefits, not least of all that staying strong and fit can offset some of pregnancy's unwanted symptoms such as pelvic girdle pain, back ache, nausea and many more but also make us feel good with the release of endorphins and getting fresh air. It's important that you find something that you enjoy doing, so that it doesn't feel like a chore and you are able to keep it up."
Safe pregnancy core exercises
Although you may consider giving sit-ups a miss, Charlie says there are still plenty of other core exercises you can do throughout your pregnancy. Below are some of her favourites…
Please note that every woman will experience pregnancy differently so some of these may not feel good for you to do and you should always listen to your body when following any exercise advice. There are many ways for us to keep our core strong and activated throughout pregnancy but these are some that you might find helpful to try.
• Half plank - as your bump starts to show, dropping your knees down in a plank can help you to manage the tension in your core. In this position you can do many things such as shoulder taps, arm raises and renegade rows, which when using your breath correctly (exhale, engaging the core on the effort) will really help to work on strengthening the core.
• Half side plank - as with above, dropping one or two knees down as you progress through your pregnancy will help to keep your core working in a manageable position.
• Bird Dog - in a box position on your hands and knees, lift and extend one arm and the opposite leg whilst maintaining your balance before switching sides.
Remember: Anything where you are not evenly balanced with your weights i.e. doing lunges holding only one weight on one side, or a squat with one weight on one shoulder, will use your core to help stabilise you. Take your time and focus on keeping your body as still as possible rather than wobbling around.