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4 Benefits of Prenatal Pilates

Many women wonder what methods of exercise are best for their body and baby during the marathon of pregnancy. Individuals who exercise regularly very often ask if it is safe to continue their normal exercise program. Those who aren’t avid exercisers prior to pregnancy may ponder if it is a smart time to begin incorporating some form of exercise into their daily routine. 


Before starting or continuing any fitness regimen it is important to consult with your physician.  If cleared to move in moderation, consider welcoming this stage of life as an opportunity to reframe your mindset surrounding exercise. Remember that in order to prepare your body for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood - your primary goal should be to understand the changes your body is going through and find ways to support feeling your best during pregnancy and postpartum.


Why Prenatal Pilates?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, regular movement and exercise during pregnancy can offer great benefits to the woman by decreasing pain and promoting healthy weight gain. Numerous experts agree and suggest further that, as long as you have been given clearance by your doctor to workout while pregnant, prenatal Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise for a pregnant woman’s body. A 2017 study by Ika Oktaviani found Pilates to be especially beneficial in helping decrease pregnancy-related aches and pains. The results from a clinical trial by Ghandali et al. (2021) indicated Pilates was an  “effective, healthy, and feasible method for reducing pain in pregnancy”. Yet, aside from pain and weight management goals, Pilates can offer alternative modifications to any given exercise  - which in turn supports safe and optimal movement performance throughout the entirety of a pregnancy. Consider four additional prenatal Pilates benefits listed below and how each might collectively enhance a woman’s experience carrying to term and beyond. 



4 Benefits of Prenatal Pilates

#1 A Global Approach

Pilates-based fitness integrates a whole-body approach, which then supports the expecting mother’s ability to cultivate a deeper mind-body awareness. This connective work becomes a practical tool that can later be tapped into during labor and delivery. Additionally, Pilates is a great method of exercise that addresses muscle strengthening, flexibility, mobility, stability, and breathwork. The foundational principles of the Pilates Method supports a comprehensive approach which is well-suited for safely addressing whole-body exercise.


#2 The Inclusion of Breath Work 

Breath strategy becomes an important skill during each of the prenatal, labor, delivery, and postnatal stages. Pilates helps foster breath patterning that employs posterior and lateral expansion of the rib cage. This breath work is necessary for training a stretch of the intercostal muscles (which can otherwise tighten during pregnancy), inevitably helping create more space for the baby and comfort for the expecting mother. Research has additionally shown that there is a connection between breath and an individual’s emotional state. The breath taught during a Pilates session can later translate into daily life and be used as a coping mechanism to navigate hormonal influx. It is the coupled force between the physical work of Pilates training and breath work that ultimately helps strengthen a woman’s mind-body connection; a key asset when maneuvering through each stage of pregnancy and postpartum.


#3 Balance

The Pilates Method is all about creating a balanced body. During the evolution of pregnancy comes changes to the body’s alignment. A woman’s center of gravity continually shifts in unison with the growth of the baby. As the uterus expands, the pelvis compensates by moving anteriorly. This can promote a lengthening and possible weakening of the hamstring and gluteal muscles. Pilates exercise can address this by helping strengthen the posterior chain of the body, train symmetry, and promote better anatomical postural habits.


#4 Mobility & Stability

In order to move through life comfortably and confidently it becomes important to prioritize exercise that fosters improvement to one’s mobility and stability. During pregnancy, a relaxin hormone flows through the body helping expand the pelvis in preparation for labor and delivery. A goal for any pregnant woman should be to exercise in a way that helps them stay stable, strong, and connected to their core. On the flip side, it becomes seemingly as important to stay mobile throughout the spine and kinetic chain - while being mindful of one’s range of motion (ROM). Pilates exercises can address directional movements of the spine within safe  ROM. The emphasis on spinal mobility paired with increased stability can offer a healthier balance of the body to better reduce global discomfort during pregnancy and postpartum.



The Takeaway 

Consider consulting with your physician to see if prenatal Pilates is right for you. If so, do your research and make sure you seek out a Pilates instructor who has the credentials and substantial experience training prenatal clients. With professional guidance and safe programming you will first handily be able to experience the many benefits Pilates training has to offer. Congratulations and embrace this chapter by focusing on the amazing things your body is doing to create new life! 


 

Lynne Alberding holds an MS in Kinesiology and over 20 years of experience as a fitness professional - specifically as a certified Comprehensive Pilates Instructor, Thai Bodywork Practitioner, and NASMTM Stretch Therapy Couch. She provides personalized Pilates and Strength Training programming for individuals in pursuit of their physical wellness. Lynne’s professionalism stems from her purpose to better educate and empower her clients through educated, goal-oriented, and mindful practice - while being an active participant in helping individuals navigate their wellness journey.



For more information and to follow Lynne on social media, click HERE. / website clabylynnealberding.com / Instagram @cla_bylynnealberding


 

References


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - https://www.acog.org/womens health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy 

Ghandali, N.Y., et al. “ The Effectiveness Of A Pilates Exercise Program During Pregnancy On  Childbirth Outcomes: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth,  21, 480 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-021-03922-2 

Oktaviani, I. “Pilates workouts can reduce pain in pregnant women.” Complementary  Therapies in Clinical Practice, 31, 349-351 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.11.007 

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