Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pregnancy Exercise Tips & Preventing Leg Swelling with Fitness Expert Leah Keller

I’ve been extremely MIA on this blog, in the third trimester of my pregnancy. Once I wobbled into month six, the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, with about twenty days left to go, a serge of energy has washed over my body. If you haven’t been following me on twitter (one of the few things I have managed to maintain), then we have a LOT of catching up to do.
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Leah Keller, an expert in pre- and postnatal fitness with a proven track record of restoring clients to fitness levels that surpass their pre-baby shape. “Sign me up,” I told my friend Anna, who handles Leah’s PR. If you’re not in NYC, have no fear. This Mother's Day, Leah is launching The Dia Method(tm), a home exercise system that equips every mom to embrace the best body of her life.
Leah Keller, Pre- and Postnatal Fitness Expert
With access to such a wonderful fitness guru, I had to pick her brain on what we belly bump babes can do to maintain our sexy figures during pregnancy. You’ll notice, many questions revolve around my personal pet peeve – leg cramps and swelling!

Pamela Pekerman: My motto is Never Surrender, so I've been very conscious to avoid swelling by eating plenty of potassium rich foods and also staying active. What exercises tips do you preach for pregnant women to help prevent leg swelling?
Leah Keller: Moderate cardio is essential. It can be as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk six days a week. If you have access to a pool, alternate brisk walking days with 30-minutes of swimming. Frequent, moderate cardiovascular exercise does wonders for circulation and blood flow. **

PP: How about all-over body water retention?
LK: Water retention during pregnancy is usually a sign of inadequate protein and, as counter-intuitive as this sounds, inadequate consumption of salts and water. This all relates to albumin synthesis in the liver and how it changes during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is retaining water, I recommend consuming 80-120 grams of protein per day, adding one cup of salty (not low-sodium) soup broth to the daily diet, and drinking more water. **
If pregnant, but not retaining water, continue to salt food to taste (trust your body to tell you how much salt it needs and monitor your protein consumption for a few days. If you're consistently eating under 80 grams, add a little more protein to the diet as a preventative measure. And, continue drinking plenty of water. **

PP: Is there exercise we can do in the last month? 
LK: During the final month of pregnancy, many of my clients feel great continuing with the workouts we performed together all along. This typically includes resistance training, moderate cardio, and light stretching. However, every pregnancy is different, so please listen to your body, consult your doctor, and adjust accordingly. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. **

PP: What exercise should women avoid, especially in the third trimester?
LK: I'm not a fan of jogging during pregnancy because of hormone-induced joint laxity, which increases the risk of a sudden fall, but also because it strains the uterine ligaments. The impact of running or jumping combined with the weight of the uterus (during 3rd trimester, estimate 13 lbs. for baby + placenta + amniotic fluid, etc.) will easily overstretch the uterine ligaments. This dramatically increases your risk of uterine prolapse, a condition I would do everything in my power to avoid.

PP: Any other tips to help with pesky pregnancy issues woman may encounter?
LK: Elevating the legs for 10 minutes a day is helpful, especially after work or after a lot of standing. For severe leg swelling, compression tights help dramatically. **

PP: I’ve actually tested those out, myself. Preggers by Theraform is a great option to help with swelling and improve circulation. What else?
LK: Well, many of my clients also notice improvement when they soak in a warm (not hot) bath with Epsom salt for 10 minutes about twice a week. Magnesium from the Epsom salt absorbs through the skin to relax leg muscles and banish those excruciating calf cramps. **

PP: Please share your top exercises every pregnant woman should be doing to help stay fit and sexy throughout her pregnancy.
LK: First, Core Compressions, which is a foundational exercise of The Dia Method. Sit upright, either on the floor with your legs crossed or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keep the spine lengthened and perfectly still. Rest both hands on your belly, upper and lower.
The Dia Method, by Leah Keller
Exhale as you tighten your abdominal muscles toward the spine. Repeatedly pulse the abdominal muscles tight to tighter, tight to tighter, exhaling with each slow and controlled squeeze. Close your eyes, and envision hugging your baby to the spine with each exhalation. This is a deep, subtle movement - yet powerfully effective. Start with 5 minutes a day. After one week, work up to 10 minutes a day (either 10 minutes all at once or 5 minutes twice a day). You are powerfully strengthening your core to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy, labor with strength and bounce back fast. My second recommendation is Kegels. Work that pelvic floor! Lastly, do moderate cardio.**

PP: What are some great Kegel exercises to keep it right downstairs?
LK: During pregnancy, the muscle release is as important as the squeeze when it comes to Kegels. Always be sure that you're completely opening and relaxing the pelvic floor between each muscle contraction. I recommend my clients perform 2-3 minutes a day of each kind of Kegel:
  • Elevator Kegels -- Slowly draw your entire pelvic floor up and in, holding it as high and tight as you can (feels like you're trying not to pee your pants) for 10 seconds. Then slowly release and relax completely. Imagine yourself opening like a flower. Then repeat, squeezing your pelvic floor closed and up, up, up inside you. Hold for 10 seconds. Then soften, release, lower and open completely. Perform 10 elevator Kegels daily (about 2-3 minutes) to strengthen the endurance muscle fibers.
  • Sprint Kegels -- These are power moves, working the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your pelvic floor. Squeeze as hard as you can, drawing quickly up and in. Then release completely. (Note: never bulge your pelvic floor forcefully downward.) Always draw 'up & in' when engaging the muscle and then simply allow it to relax and fall open between squeezes. Aim for 50 sprint Kegels (2-3 minutes) each day. **
PP: How can exercise aid in sleep disorders during pregnancy? And, what specifically would you recommend?
LK: No matter what you do, sleep can be frustratingly elusive during pregnancy, especially towards the end, as it's virtually impossible to find a truly comfortable position and you're getting up several times a night to empty your bladder. That said healthy activity during the day improves sleep quality. Exercise can help your body settle into biorhythms that help you fall asleep more easily and rest more deeply. I recommend working out early in the day, anytime up until about 4:00 pm. A very light workout can be fine later in the day, but avoid vigorous workouts that rev up your energy as bedtime draws near. Incorporating the following into your weekly routine: moderate cardiovascular exercise, resistance training that targets the postural imbalances of pregnancy, and light stretching. Perform core compressions and Kegels daily. **
** Consult your doctor before starting any exercises. The above is not meant to substitute instructions from your doctor/obg-yn.


  1. I am going to have a baby this year, so your advice is more than useful.

    1. Elena,
      Best of luck!! Remember that anything is possible if you want it. Enjoy your pregnancy in sexy style and good health!
      PS I'll be posting my post delivery updates soon. :)

  2. Very well explain coz exercise is more important in pregnancy period it stays you fit and reduce all complication, i have good article related to problem like this
    So need regular exercise in must

  3. Wow.. I am not a 3 months pregnant can I do this exercises? or should I check it first to my ob?

    Thanks for sharing!

    exercise barbell

    1. Hi Tinita,
      Always check with your doctor first. Every BODY is different. Ask your OBG-YN and proceed. I wish you a healthy, happy and sexy pregnancy. I recently had my daughter and will be getting back to blogging soon. For now, find quick updates and tips on how I Never Surrendered during my pregnancy by following me on twitter @PamelaPekerman and Instagram PamelaPekerman.

  4. My wife would love to read this. This sounds so effective.
    Pro Lean Wellness

  5. Women should be advised that moderate exercise during lactation does not affect the quantity or composition of breast milk or impact infant growth.

    Maureen Muoneke