Exercise during Pregnancy: How safe is it?
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Need a reason to hoist your expectant self off the sofa and head to the gym? There are actually plenty of perks to working out during pregnancy — so lace up those sneakers, pick a pregnancy-friendly workout, and let's get moving, Mama!
By What to Expect
Don't Miss This
Sign Up for OurWomen's HealthNewsletter
Thanks for signing up!You might also like these other newsletters:
Have you heard the news? The health benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy keep stacking up, compiling quite the compelling case for staying active when you’re expecting (instead of staying on the sofa). Active moms-to-be tend to sleep better, experience milder pregnancy symptoms (less fatigue, swelling, constipation, gas, and fewer backaches and headaches, just to name a few), have fewer mood swings, and enjoy a happier state of mind (since exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that give a natural high). Exercising during pregnancy can also lower your risk of developing certain pregnancy complications (such as gestational diabetes), make labor easier, and help your body bounce back sooner postpartum. Some research has even shown that regularly exercising moms deliver smarter babies, with significantly higher IQs (go figure!). And if that’s not enough to send you sprinting to the nearest prenatal aerobics class, exercising during pregnancy will allow you to eat more and still keep your weight under control (and who can argue with that?).
You’re convinced, but you’re queasy…or aching…or beat…or feeling like a beached whale…or all of the above? It’s true, getting motivated is easier than getting a move on. But guaranteed: The more you exercise, the better you’ll feel. The better you feel, the easier exercise will become and — here’s the real payoff — the better off you, your pregnancy, and your baby will be. That’s why experts recommend that expectant moms who are having a normal pregnancy get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most if not all days (and yes, vacuuming the floors or taking a brisk walk with Rover counts — and no, you don’t have to do all 30 minutes in one shot).
Thirty minutes…say what? If you haven’t set foot in a gym since you were last required to in high school, then a half hour of daily exercise can sound like an eternity, and frankly, something of a punishment. On the other hand, if you’re an über-athletic (as in a marathon woman or mountain biker), you may be wondering how you’ll manage to tone down your workouts now that you’re expecting. Not to worry. Once you’ve gotten a medical clearance from your practitioner, there are plenty of pregnancy-safe (and fun) exercises to choose from — something for everyone, confirmed couch potato to avid athlete.
Exercises to Try During Pregnancy
Whether you have a gold membership at the gym or a season ticket to your sofa, there’s a prenatal exercise program that’s right for you. Here are some pregnancy workouts to choose from:
- Walking.No gym membership needed for this perfect-for-pregnancy exercise — and no excuses either. You can walk anytime, anywhere. Power walk around the block with a friend or your partner, walk to the supermarket instead of taking the car, get off the bus one stop early, or step onto the treadmill (adjust the machine’s speed and incline to a level that’s comfortable for you and your level of fitness). Can’t squeeze a 30-minute walk into your day? How about two 15-minute walks, or three ten-minute sessions?
- Aerobics.These get your heart pumping while strengthening and toning muscles. Stick with low-impact aerobics if you’re an exercise newbie (water aerobics are perfect for pregnancy since you’ll get all the workout without any of the impact). If you’re a serious athlete in good shape (and you have your practitioner’s blessing), you can continue dance, step, kickboxing, and other aerobic workouts, but you’ll need to tailor them to your pregnant body (which is why it’s best to stick to a routine or class designed for pregnancy). Keep the intensity moderate, and never exert yourself to the point of exhaustion, since that could deprive your baby of oxygen. Also, keep in mind that pregnancy hormones loosen ligaments and joints during pregnancy, which can make aerobics and other high-impact workouts harder on your knees and make you more prone to injury — yet another reason not to overdo it.
- Swimming and water workouts.A water workout can give you maximum results with zero impact. It’s an ideal choice for a pregnant woman because it boosts strength and flexibility but is gentle on those joints — and can’t overheat you, like rigorous exercise in a hot environment might. It also helps ease swelling in the legs and feet, and relieves a variety of pregnancy aches and pains, including sciatica. Not to mention, you get to feel weightless (enough said?).
- Yoga and Pilates.There’s a reason why pregnancy yoga and Pilates classes are fast becoming the expectant workout of choice. These low- to no-impact routines tone muscles, strengthen your core, improve posture and flexibility, and ease a variety of pregnancy symptoms, from leg cramps to back strain and sore shoulders. Just as important for the pregnant, these exercises also encourage relaxation, focus, and paying attention to your breathing (see breathing exercises below) — helping to relax you now (and later when you really need to pay attention to your breathing during childbirth). Better breathing (and posture) also leads to a better oxygen supply for your baby. Look for a class tailored to pregnant women or let your instructor know you’re expecting so that you can avoid pregnancy-inappropriate moves (you don’t want to overstretch those over-loose ligaments and joints).
- Weight training.No need to be a body builder (after all, you’re doing that already), but exercising with light weights will increase your strength and keep you toned. The emphasis is onlight. No heavy lifting, and no holding your breath while you lift.
- Kegel exercises.Haven’t joined the Kegel craze yet? You definitely should. All pregnant women can (and should) fit in their Kegels — there’s no equipment needed (besides the kind women come with), they take minimal effort, and you can do them sitting, standing, or lying down. While they don’t get your heart pumping (which means you can’t count them as part of your 30 minutes of daily workout), Kegels help prevent urinary incontinence by strengthening your pelvic floor, a muscle group that controls the flow of urine and is weakened by the pressures of pregnancy and delivery. Kegel exercises can also help you avoid a bad tear during delivery or an episiotomy, and can improve sexual satisfaction postpartum, when those muscles will need some tightening up. To locate your pelvic-floor muscles, stop the flow of urine when you’re on the toilet; these are the muscles you’ll want to tense when doing Kegels. Try tensing and holding these muscles for at least five seconds. Then slowly relax them. Keep practicing until you can do three sets of 20 each day. Do Kegels at your desk, in line at the supermarket, and definitely when you’re making love — the very best way to mix business with pleasure (do it and you’ll see why).
- Breathing exercises.Deep breathing can benefit anyone these stressful days, but it’s especially important for the expectant set. Not only is it relaxing (and reduced stress during pregnancy is good for you and your baby), it can also improve your body awareness and teach you to control your breath — especially helpful in coping with labor pain. Plus, when you breathe deeply, your lower abdomen and lungs expand fully, allowing more oxygen to get to the baby. Here’s how to do it: Sit up straight and place your hands on your belly. Feel it rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale.
Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
Most of the activities that are off-limits during pregnancy are ones you’d probably have a hard time doing anyway once you have a basketball growing from your belly (like competitive basketball).
Video: Study: Exercise During Pregnancy Can Benefit Obese Moms
Falafel Salad with Turmeric Houmous Recipe
New Green Bean Casserole
How to Prevent Blood Clots With Vitamin E
How to Obtain Money from Your Parents
How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers
5 Ways to Slice Bread
How to Make Peanut Butter Frosting
Move Over French Girls It-Brit Style is Back
The True Story of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdons Love Affair
Career Guide Series: Job Search
How to Do Office Yoga
How to Bathe a Schnauzer
It treats pregnancy as a normal occurrence, rather than an illness
13 Ways to Cook With Beet Greens and Beet Root