At 2 years old, my nephew is nothing but adorable. But when he was ten days past his original mid-June due date, my sister had some other choice words to describe him. She loved being pregnant, but towards the end of her third trimester, she couldn’t wait to get things moving (and meet her firstborn son). Like many moms, her due date came and went without a contraction in sight. And though that extra time is totally normal, it can feel like your baby will never come. Luckily, there are safe and effective ways to help naturally induce labor—exercise being one of them.
Now, before we dive in, there’s something you should know. “There aren’t any exercises that have been shown to cause women to go into labor if your body wasn’t already starting the process,” explains Dr. Heather Irobunda, MD and board-certified OB/GYN based in New York City. It can, however, help prepare your body for what’s to come. “Usually, exercises help your body transition from the early labor process into more of an active labor process.” Basically, that means it can help encourage labor by properly adjusting the baby’s positioning as well as improving the mother’s alignment by “causing more weight to be placed on the cervix, which increases the cues to the body and, more specifically, the uterus.” Light cardio, like walking, is one way to help progress this process along. If you feel comfortable, she also suggests engaging in some low-impact movements like squats and lunges. You can also sit and roll around on an exercise ball to help open up your hips and “allow for the baby to sit lower in the pelvis, helping the body know that it’s time for labor.”
We know what you’re thinking…but is it safe? The answer is yes. In fact, it’s safe to do exercise in general while pregnant, “as long as [the movements] are not more strenuous than your level of fitness prior to the start of your pregnancy,” Dr. Irobunda says. Your second trimester is no time to start training for your first marathon, and the final trimester is no time to try a new Zumba class. Stick to the low-impact movements your body is used to and always make sure you’re in an environment where you can safely engage in these exercises. Having a workout buddy is a good idea, too. “Make sure you have someone nearby if you need help moving around,” she cautions. “If it’s not possible to have someone present while you’re exercising, make sure your phone is handy in case you need help.” And before you even purchase that big bouncy exercise ball, always discuss any labor and delivery plans with your doctor. Exercise might not be recommended for women with certain medical conditions or high-risk pregnancies.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, here are eight OB/GYN approved exercises to try now, all provided by Brooke Cates, a pre and post-natal exercise specialist as well as the founder of The
I couldn’t text “Yes” fast enough when a friend sent out a mass text to our group offering up her medicine ball to any eager home gym takers. Lucky for me, my eagerness paid off, and I snagged the secondhand medicine ball to round out my home gym a little more. There was one problem: I didn’t really know what to do with the new 12-pound addition in my life.
I reached out to NASM-CPT personal trainer and Crunch Fitness Manager Bente Smart to devise a medicine ball workout that will get me sweating, and let’s just say: mission accomplished. “Working with medicine balls not only can serve as an interesting alternative to dumbbells and other resistance equipment but also helps to develop coordination and balance,” Smart explained. “It also helps to develop explosive power and overall build body strength.”
See the workout that’s been making me sweat through my Armour® Mid Crossback Sports Bra ($35). Complete all four exercises in a circuit for three rounds to feel that all over burn.
Ball Slams (Burns calories, increases cardio, develops explosive power and strength):
- Stand with your feet shoulder length apart and knees bent.
- Holding the ball in your hands, lift the ball up over your head.
- Throw the ball down in front of your feet while coming down into a squat, being sure to use your legs here and not just your arms. (Editor note: If you’re in an apartment, try taking this move outside to a local park.)
- Catch the ball when it bounces off the floor and start again.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Ball Twists (Strengthens the core and obliques):
- Sit down and hold the ball in your hands.
- Lift your feet off the ground and sit on your tailbone (or modify for more beginners by resting your heels lightly on the floor).
- Lean back keeping your chest up and your back flat.
- Twist your torso right to left touching the ball to the ground on each side, making sure that you are not just moving your arms side to side but are twisting at the torso as much as you can.
- Keep that core tight and relax your shoulders
- Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
Squat to Overhead Press (Works the full body from the glutes and legs to the shoulders and core):
- Stand with the ball at chest height, feet shoulder-width apart in a squat stance.
- Go into a squat holding your chest up and the ball close to the body.
- Come to standing and squeeze your glutes and press the ball overhead, making sure your abs are engaged to protect your back.
- Bring the ball back to chest height and repeat.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Lunge to Twist (Works the full body from the glutes and legs to the shoulders and core):
- From a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the ball close to your chest.
- Step out with your right foot into a lunge position.
- As you step out, press the ball
If my stint on the beam in childhood gymnastics class taught me anything, it’s that balance is no small feat. While strength and flexibility get a lot of accolades in the fitness world, your relationship with gravity is just as important. That’s why I tapped yoga teacher-slash-physical therapist Lara Heimann, PT, for balance exercises that you should make a point of incorporating into your fitness routine.
“Balance is a host of different variables that are all orchestrated in the brain,” says Heimann. Your vision, mobility, proprioception (your “sixth sense” that tells you where your body is in space), and the vestibular system (a network of organs in the inner ear) all play a role in keeping you upright. It’s an intricate system that works together in complex and fascinating ways, and Heimann breaks it down as follows.
“There are receptors lining your joints, in your ligaments, and in your tendons that are telling you where you are in space. They’re constantly communicating with the brain,” says Heimann. “If you’re walking over pavement and then suddenly the terrain switches to gravel, it’s not like you have to look down and adjust. Your body makes a really quick response, and that’s a part of balance.” All of this is encompassed by the term proprioception. Meanwhile, the vestibular system acts like a leveler in your body, keeping you from leaning too far one way or the other. Vision and mobility are a little more straightforward; you need both for balance because you need to see what’s around you and move with ease to take the path of least resistance.
“The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse.” —Lara Heimann, PT
Working on your balance is a lifelong commitment and one that’s well worth your time, says Heimann. “The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse. It doesn’t tend to stay static,” she says. When we habitually do less large movement patterns (as sometimes happens as we get older), our body develops a fear around them and they get harder to do. That’s why physical therapists often use the sitting-rising test (which involves sitting down then standing up without using your hands) as a marker of longevity.
Before you dive into workouts that will better your balance better, Heimann says she likes to recommend a little test that you can use a diagnostic that will lay bare exactly how your body’s feeling about gravity these days. (Hint: It involves standing on one leg—so get excited.)
The single-leg exercise for testing your balance
Remember your schoolyard days when you would try to hopscotch with just one leg once you’d mastered the move with two? Well, Heimann wants you to channel your younger, carefree self to see how your bod really feels about balance. “Stand on one leg. Stand on your left leg and bring your right knee up to about hip height,” instructs Heimann. From there, Heimann wants
This is hardly a hot take, but it’s still something too many golfers ignore: Mobility is incredibly important for getting the most out of your swing.
Whether you spend 40 hours a week at a desk or you play golf every day, you probably don’t focus enough on your mobility.
If you feel tightness in your hips, aches in your lower back, tension in your neck and shoulders or just feel fatigue after a long day, you could benefit from a good mobility routine.
Any of this sound familiar? If so, it’s a common issue among amateur golfers and weekend warriors. As Rachel Duvall, NASM CPT explains, this happens because sitting messes with your muscles and movement patterns which leads to muscle and joint dysfunction, instability and misalignment. All of this contributes to aches, pains, and could lead to more severe injury down the road.
However, with a simple mobility routine like the one below, you can combat the negative effects of being sedentary, and more importantly, play better golf.
1. 90-90 Hip Stretch: