I think one of life's little known secrets is that correct posture, which actually starts in your pelvis and not yours shoulders, can significantly tone your stomach, butt, back, shoulders and even arms. I can't tell you how many weeks and months I've skipped formal exercise in lieu of this trick, and it works. Posture is an issue for everyone, male, female, pregnant or not, but the effects of bad posture are especially rapid and noticeable during pregnancy in the form of lower back pain, a slowed walking pace and a slow or incomplete recovery of your stomach muscles postpartum.
The picture on the left:
In this picture I'm letting gravity take over. This is what women tend to do, pregnant or not, and a lot of men do it too. It's is the most automatic way to stand, walk and sit because it makes friends with gravity and requires less muscle work. Over time it weakens your abs, glutes and back muscles. It also wears out the cartilage between vertebrae, which in curving are being compacted (i.e. mercilessly squished). And I'm pretty sure that for pregnant women it can contribute to the development of stretch marks because it puts more pressure on your skin.
The picture on the right:
This is not only good posture, it's a simple way for anyone to build core strength and muscle tone all over just by doing every day activities. It also helps you bounce back faster after baby because it continuously engages your abs. Since you're carrying a heavy load in there it makes them work extra hard. Basically it's like doing crunches every day of your pregnancy, and the same is true for people who are not expecting.
Contrary to what mom told you, good posture doesn't begin in your shoulders. It begins with pulling your pelvis forward instead of tilting it back. This automatically contracts your abs and lats which in turn supports the baby and keeps your spine in an ideal, straight position. It also automatically contracts your glutes which over time gives you that nice "yoga bum" without doing yoga. I had to keep my arms up to show you the spinal alignment, so I'm not showing the shoulder and chest positioning here, but your shoulders should be pulled back and down, and your chest pushed slightly up and out-- a position that is easier to maintain when you have correct lower body alignment.
With this posture, you will notice that it takes more leg muscle work to bring your legs forward as you walk and this helps build your quadriceps and hamstrings. It also keeps your hips from giggling around as you walk. As a cherry on top, holding your upper arms firmly to your sides as you walk, instead of letting them dangle, will tone your biceps and triceps.
Try to remember to hold this posture in everything you do: walking, sitting, and standing still. At points I even set my phone to give hourly reminders to check my posture. I usually remember while walking but I sometimes forget while standing and sitting. You may feel a bit robotic at first, but people will be watching and thinking wow he/she has great posture, must be a dancer, etc.
P.S. We still have a week to go before baby, but between now and then don't scratch your head if there are pauses on the blog. I promise not to leave you hanging! I will try to post a "We're on the way to the hospital!" post when the time comes...