With a go-ahead from your doctor, exercising daily for 20 to 30 minutes at a time gets a big thumbs up from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Not only does routine fitness while pregnant boost blood flow and keep your muscles and joints nice and limber, but it helps you maintain a healthy weight to support baby and avoid pregnancy complications.
In addition, exercise can help alleviate some pregnancy-related back pain (as well as swelling and constipation), lower your risk for gestational diabetes, boost overall energy levels and mood, as well as line you up for a shorter, less risky labor when baby arrives.
So what are some good exercise ideas while pregnant:
Water Aerobics: The weightlessness of exercising in the pool fosters a prime environment for aerobic training. Water exercises reduce stress on your joints, strengthen the heart and lungs, and there is no risk of falling or injury to you. As well, water immersion keeps you cool and prevents overheating.
Join a weekly water aerobics class for pregnant women at your local gym or YMCA. In waist to chest-high water you will warm up with gentle, low-impact movements and move into exercises like squats, back leg curls, knee-ups, and leg lifts, in addition to treading water to get the heart pumping. Remember, no jumping, diving, or high-impact movements in the pool – save those for after delivery!
Walking: That’s right, a great workout can be as simple as taking a brisk 20 or 30-minute walk. Walking is gentle on the joints and muscles, boosts your endurance and builds up lung and heart strength. Finding low-obstacle, relatively flat surfaces to walk on (like your road or the gym track), and warming up with a more leisurely stroll allows you to avoid falls and injury, and helps you build up to a more moderate, brisk pace before slowing down to cool off.
Rainy days keeping you indoors or other pregnancy ailments making it tough to get up and out to the gym? Take advantage of indoor pedal exercisers! The best pedal exercisers are relatively small pieces of machinery that mimic a stationary bike. They can sit on your floor and allow you to pedal exercise while you watch TV, work on the computer, or read a book. Pedal exercisers are portable, multi-functional (pedal with your hands for an arm workout too), and can be adjusted for varying resistance difficulty as you and baby get bigger.
Prenatal Yoga: Practicing yoga while pregnant is another fantastic low-impact way to tone muscles, boost blood flow, and improve balance and flexibility as your body grows to support baby. Not only that, but the deep breathing and relaxation techniques that are just as integral to the practice of yoga as movement and poses, benefit you come labor and delivery time – helping you control pain and remain calm.
Experts remind pregnant yogis to keep moving though. Staying in one position or pose too long can limit blood flow and cause swelling and other risks for baby. Find a prenatal yoga class near you by checking with your gym, YMCA, or looking at a local yoga studio.
Pregnancy Exercise Reminders
In addition to yoga, water aerobics and walking, other low-impact exercises like light weight-lifting, prenatal pilates, and activities to strengthen abdominal muscles are fun and beneficial during pregnancy. As with most things you do while pregnant, however, there are big cautions to take into consideration:
ALWAYS talk with your doctor prior to starting an exercise routine – limits may vary based on your specific situation
Be mindful of your calorie intake and don’t over-exercise
Stay hydrated with consistent water intake, especially when exercising
Avoid any fitness programs or sports that involve any chance of collision, falling, or loss of balance
Do not exercise in high heat or humidity
Do not lie flat on your back or you could reduce blood flow to your heart, brain and uterus
Be careful when sitting down and getting back up from exercises because your center of gravity shifts as your pregnancy progresses
Do not get your heart rate up over 140 beats per minute when exercising
Always warm up to moderate exercise and then cool down
If you were a regular fitness guru prior to becoming pregnant, keep it up! If you are new to working out but interested in optimum health for you and baby, then definitely get started. Simply keep your exercises mindful, gentle, and regular – and you’ll be set for success.