Exercises you can do while working
Keeping active with some light-to-moderate exercise a few times a week will help maintain healthy fitness levels during pregnancy.
But it can be hard to feel fit and healthy if your job involves working at a computer or other desk-bound tasks. If your work commitments tend to keep you off your feet for the majority of the day, there’s no reason why you can’t turn the situation to your advantage with some simple exercises which can be done while seated.
Luckily, many key stretches and movements can be done while sitting in your office chair. And some of them are so inconspicuous, it’s likely your co-workers won’t even notice.
Correct your posture – First things first, before you do any exercise, you want to make sure you’re sitting with good posture. Sitting with poor posture (hunched over your keyboard or slumped down in your chair) for long periods of time is not good for your back and neck – and seeing as these areas are already being put under added strain by the weight of your second trimester bump, you will definitely want to avoid anything that adds to the problem.
Imagine you have a piece of string attached to the top of your head that is pulling you upright. This will help remind you to sit straight. You may want to slightly arch your back, but don’t arch it too much, because this will be too uncomfortable to maintain. Keep your legs apart and your knees bent at a right angle so your knees are in line with your ankles. You should also avoid crossing your legs as this can reduce circulation. You may need to adjust the height of your seat so the top of your screen is at eye level. This will help avoid you bending your neck to read what’s on the screen.
Importantly, if your seated position or desk/screen set up is causing you pain, you must adjust your equipment or speak to a manger so that new equipment can be sourced in order to keep you safe while at work.
Foot exercises – Foot exercises are a small yet crucial part of pregnancy. The NHS recommends them as a way of improving your circulation, reducing swelling in your ankles, and preventing cramps. So, while you’re at your desk, try these moves:
- Lift one foot slightly above the ground and rotate it in a circle eight times clockwise and then eight times anti-clockwise. Repeat with the other foot
- Place your feet flat on the floor. Then lift up the toes of both feet as far as you can (yes, you may need to take your shoes off for this one), hold for a few seconds, and relax. Then clench your toes as hard as you can, hold, and relax. Repeat this ten times.
- Starting with your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels up, keeping your toes on the ground. Hold this for a few seconds and then do the reverse, lifting the front of your feet while keeping your heels touching the floor. You can alternate between these two positions for ten repetitions.
Leg extensions – This simple exercise can help strengthen your thighs (which is useful for labour) and prevent leg cramps. While sitting with your feet hip width apart and knees over your ankles, lift one knee up and then slowly stretch your leg out. Bend your knee to bring your leg back to the starting position, all the while keeping it lifted. Do around ten repetitions for each leg.
Pelvic tilt exercises while sitting – The pelvic tilt is a versatile pregnancy exercise that can help ease back pain. You can do it while sitting, standing, or on all fours (but perhaps this position won’t be suitable in the office!). A fitness ball, or Swiss ball, is a great choice of support when performing a seated pelvic tilt, but your office chair should act as a fine substitute. Make sure you’re sitting forward on your chair with good posture. Then arch your back so you stick out your chest and bottom. Then slouch down, curling your tailbone under you so that your spine flattens towards the back of the chair. Alternate between these two positions, moving your pelvis back and forth, for ten repetitions.
Pelvic floor exercises – If you’ve been reading up on pregnancy exercise, you probably already know how to do this essential muscle contraction by now. The best thing about pelvic floor exercises is you’re not restricted in where you do them, and no one around you will even be aware you’re giving this important muscle a workout. Try to alternate between sets of slow and fast squeezes and remember to continue breathing normally as you do them.
Shoulder circles – These are pretty much self-explanatory. Roll your shoulders backwards in a large circle to help relieve tension and prevent rounded shoulders.
Keep in mind that while these are all quick, low-intensity exercises that pose very low risk of injury, you can never be too careful. If you feel pain and discomfort while doing any of these exercises, you may have an underlying injury that a medical professional should check out.
While all of these beneficial work exercises can be done while sitting, it’s always good to get up and stretch your legs whenever you can. Try not to stay stuck to the same spot for too long, even on your really busy days. You want to be walking for at least a few minutes during every hour. Take a quick break from your desk and have a quick walk along the corridors of your office building. Even if it doesn’t seem like much, it will all add to your total number of steps for the day (it’s suggested that you aim for 10,000 steps a day – you can buy a pedometer to monitor how many you’re doing).
If possible, try to go out for a walk during your lunch break. Your break can be a great opportunity to get in some low-intensity exercise, so be sure to take it and make the most of it. And because you only need to do 20-30 minutes, you should have plenty of time left over for a healthy lunch, too.