NB: This post was originally authored by me and published on guardian.ng, an online news site.
Visceral fat, fat found around the abdominal region, has been defined as the most dangerous type of fat.
It is caused largely by late night eating, junk foods and drinking especially sugary drinks and alcohol.
Almost every lady’s nightmare, especially for aesthetic reasons, workouts targeted at the core are some of the most popular, especially sit-ups and a wide variety of crunches.
However, one time the midsection is permitted to increase in width is in pregnancy, and working out the core is not exactly what you would find a pregnant woman engaging in as flat tummy is no longer a goal, plus a fear of possibly harming the growing fetus.
However, with my second pregnancy, I learned that some abdominal workouts are not just safe, but help strengthen your core region to carry well through pregnancy and labour, provide balance, and eventually help those abdominal muscles bounce back faster after delivery.
Here are three safe prenatal abs workouts that can be done at home whether in first, second or third trimester.
Please note that as with most activities in pregnancy, it is your responsibility to always check with your Doctor and get an approval before you engage in any form of exercise.
Also find a very comfortable position and aim for balance and safety over speed at all times.
1. Standing side elbow-to-knees
Stand with feet planted safely on a level surface, shoulder width or slightly more apart, lock both hands at the back of the head, just above the shoulder, and then slowly raise the knee and bend the elbow simultaneously until they meet in the middle, and then return to upright position.
Take it slowly, find your balance and go at a pace that is both comfortable and safe.
Do this first on one side before doing the second side, as alternating left and right sides at the same time may be tricky for balance.
Depending on your fitness level, you could go anything from 10 to 25 per side, and then take a rest before repeating.
A slight modification to this workout would be to plant feet on the ground but instead of locking both hands behind the head, rest your palm on the wall and then perform the exercise.
This would really help if you are struggling with balance or are new to exercising.
2. Side bends
Place feet shoulder width apart on level ground and arms by the side.
Gently bend sideways as far as you can get comfortably, allowing the arm on the side to which you are bending follow the downward move, while the other arm comes slowly up into an akimbo, then return to neutral position.
Complete reps on one side before flipping to the next side.
A good number to begin with is 10-a-side and work it up as you get used to the move. You may also hold on to the wall for balanced if you so desire.
If you are able to, hold on to your dumb bells on one or both hands to promote this to a compound move, working both obliques and biceps.
Most women wonder if planks are safe in pregnancy. Yes, on a general note, they are, except your doctor contra-indicates them for you. They help not just the abdominal area but also strengthen your arms and lower back which can reduce back pain associated with pregnancy.
Even though there are a few safe prenatal plank variations, I will focus on the palm planks as they are the most comfortable especially for beginners.
Get down on all fours on the floor or an exercise mat with the palm directly underneath the shoulders. Make sure both palms are resting on a level surface to avoid injury to the wrist.
Gently extend the feet one after the other backward till your spine is neutral, that is perpendicular to the floor while ensuring that the palm is still directly underneath the shoulders, look forward and hold that pose for a few seconds, then gently drop back to the knee for a few seconds of rest and then repeat.
Hold in your belly and breath through the move, even though it may be tempting to hold your breath. Breathing will oxygenate the body and give more strength and endurance to you through the workout.
If five seconds is all you can begin with, that is fine, then gradually work your way up to 30seconds or even more. Repeating at least 3 to 5 times in a workout session proves very effective for your core.
All three workouts can be done at home and even bare-footed if comfortable.
Remember that you should always rehydrate while working out, take frequent rests, workout in a well-ventilated environment, and if you feel light headed, dizzy, a headache or generally unwell, pause or completely stop the workout.