There was a notion that pregnancy is not a good time to exercise. That has changed significantly over the years. Obstetricians and Gynecologists even encourage pregnant women to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. However, not all exercises are safe for pregnant women. The good news is there are some safe pregnancy exercises you can do at home.
When it comes to exercise during pregnancy, we moms-to-be most often struggle with fear and lack of motivation. But that shouldn’t be the case. We have to realize that pregnancy is not an illness. It is a gift. Being pregnant does not mean you have to become a couch potato and eat anything that comes to your mind. It is such an important time to start feeding your body healthy foods and combine them with a healthy pregnancy exercise program under the supervision of a trained professional.
The Benefits of Exercise for a Pregnant Woman
Pregnancy is a major transition for new moms. Exercise during pregnancy will make the transition easier for you. You will feel great about your overall physical and mental health. Beyond that, it will make your pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum much easier.
Numerous studies indicate that newborns do better when mothers are active and healthier, and exercise during pregnancy is an important part of this. When mothers practice healthy lifestyle choices, they are more likely to confer health benefits on their babies.
There are some added benefits for you and your baby.
- Pregnant women often feel nervous about giving birth and much more. Regular physical exercise can help you to stay cool and calm throughout your pregnancy.
- Pregnancy causes a lot of physical and harmonic changes. Exercise is a great way to deal with mood changes and other pregnancy emotions. Even exercise helps cope with mild prenatal depression.
- Pregnancy exercises and stretches improve your digestive system. Therefore, you go through a process of healthy weight gain.
- Lack of sleep can complicate your labor. Regular physical exercises will enhance your sleep quality and sleep duration.
- Exercise during pregnancy is an effective way to reduce back pain. It also enhances the strength, endurance, and flexibility of your core and pelvic floor muscles.
- Regular physical exercises keep your body and mind fit for delivery. They even greatly increase your chances of normal delivery.
Best Exercises for Pregnant Women
If you’re pregnant and new to exercise, remember that comfort and flexibility are crucial during exercise. Choose maternity activewear that fits your growing body. Your collections should include:
- A New Sports Bra
- A Maternity Active Yoga Pant
- A Belly Band for Pregnancy Support
- A Casual Blouse T-Shirt Or A Tank Top Pregnancy Shirt
Now, take a look at some safe and easy exercises you can do during pregnancy.
Walking is one of the most popular exercises among pregnant women. If you’re new to exercise, start with a 15-minute comfortable stroll three times a week. Once you form the habit, make it a 30-minute walking session four or more times a week. Take a bottle of water and wear sunscreen if you’re walking on a sunny day. You can also add some vigorous activity to your routine during the early trimesters, like light jogging and light weightlifting. Before you begin any new exercise during pregnancy, it’s important that you consult with your doctor.
Though walking is one of the safest exercises during pregnancy, you should practice some precautions, especially during the 3rd trimester. Try to avoid rocky and pothole-ridden roads. It’s also a good idea to wear supportive footwear.
Swimming during pregnancy is a very good and effective form of exercise. Generally, Pregnant women should be able to swim well into their third trimester, although they may need to modify their routines toward the very end of the pregnancy.
Avoid diving, jumping, or any other activities that might cause too much abdominal impact. It is also important to rest if you experience fatigue or cramps. Bring your water bottle to ensure you drink enough water during swimming.
3. Prenatal Yoga and Stretching
Prenatal yoga and stretches can help you stay flexible and strong throughout pregnancy. In addition, stretching promotes blood circulation and relaxation of the body. If you’re new to yoga, find a prenatal yoga class to ensure you are doing the basic parental yoga poses correctly.
One of the easiest ways to do stretching is once you step out of bed, spend a couple of minutes with your hands pressing against the wall, then with your hips, spine, heels, shoulders, and head as well. Take deep breaths and pull your stomach in, then slowly breathe out and let loose. Doing it a couple of times will give you peace of mind. But be careful while stretching. Make sure you are within your limits.
Cycling is great for our physical and emotional health. Daily cycling can help keep you energetic, fit, and healthy throughout your pregnancy.
You can continue cycling throughout your pregnancy if you want to. Listen to your body, and you’ll know when to stop or slow down. However, it’s advisable that you avoid outdoor cycling after 2nd trimester as there’s a risk of falling.
Dancing is a great exercise for moms-to-be. A dance workout like Zumba is a safe workout option during pregnancy. However, you need to modify your dance routine to accommodate your growing belly.
Dancing during pregnancy is not only good for your own health but also for your baby. Many new moms struggle with emotional attachment to the newborn. Recent research shows that listening to music during pregnancy can facilitate emotional bonding with the baby. It’s fun, too.
6. Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor exercises, help pregnant women improve their muscle strength and tone their muscles around the urethra, vagina, and anus.
You do it by contracting and holding your pelvic floor muscles. Keep the contraction for 10 seconds and then slowly release. You can repeat this process 15 to 20 times every day. If you are doing them at home, make sure you are doing them correctly. You might find this video helpful. However, a licensed physical therapist can guide you in the right direction.
Squatting is one of the best exercises for pregnant women. Squats are great for preparing your pelvic floor for delivery. You may want to lean against a wall or place a yoga ball against a wall for added safety and balance. Then, lean your back against the wall or ball while standing and squat down. After that, stand back up and repeat.
8. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts and stretches help to reduce the pain during labor and delivery. There are a few types of pelvic tilt exercises that are safe for pregnant women.
Sitting: Sit down with good posture on a birthing ball. And then gently use your lower abdominals to help push the ball forward, and tuck your pelvis under. When you’re going to tuck, take a deep breath and return to your neutral starting position. Now, repeat the process 8 to 10 times.
Rolling: Use a birthing ball for sitting and then use your feet to roll around. It is a great birthing ball exercise to induce natural delivery.
Leaning: It’s the backward bending of the upper body. Use a birthing ball to counteract all the backward bending. Then, use your hands and upper body to roll around. As pregnancy changes your body’s alignment, this exercise will help balance your body posture.
Pilates exercises strengthen your stomach muscles as well as pelvic floor muscles. There are a series of positions and movements you can try. However, not all pilates are suitable for pregnancy, so talk to your instructor first.
10. Low-Impact Aerobics
There are two safe aerobic exercises for pregnant women:
Step stool aerobics: Step aerobics keeps your heart and lungs in shape. The step can be any type of raised bench. You can use a wide and raised bench as a step tool and step up and down for about twenty minutes at least once a day.
Elliptical: Elliptical is a low-impact exercise that pregnant women can continue throughout their pregnancy. Stop exercising if you feel dizzy or experience pain.
If you have just started exercising, consider joining a workout class geared toward pregnant mamas. Your instructor is best equipped to modify exercises or advise against certain movements to suit your pregnancy. Besides, you will feel great talking to other pregnant women while exercising under the supervision of an instructor.
Types of Exercise to Avoid During Pregnancy
- Activities with a high risk of falling: Avoid activities such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, off-road biking, snowboarding, surfing, gymnastics, and waterskiing.
- Dangerous contact sports: High-contact sports include scuba diving, skydiving, soccer, basketball, and ice hockey. These activities come with a high risk of getting in contact with the stomach. You should avoid them after your first trimester.
- High-impact activities: Take a break from high-impact activities like running, hopping, jumping rope, skipping, jumping jacks, plyometrics, and kickboxing.
- Lying on your back: Avoid yoga poses and any other activities that require lying on your back longer than just a couple of minutes.
- High-altitude exercise: Talk with your doctor or midwife before planning to visit high altitudes.
Warning Signs: When to Stop Exercising
Don’t beat yourself up for being too sick to exercise when pregnant. You can’t do what your body won’t permit. You must stop exercising immediately and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Having abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or persistent contractions.
- Feeling dizziness or feeling faint.
- Having a headache.
- Feeling chest pain.
- Sudden swelling in your ankles, hands, face, or calf pain.
- Having muscle weakness.
- Having an irregular or rapid heartbeat.
- Less movement of the baby.
- Having difficulty breathing.
- Having difficulty walking.
Exercise and pregnancy both take energy. If you are just getting started, you may need some support and motivation to get going. Try a pregnancy exercise class, work out with other moms-to-be, or join a mommy forum to share exercise goals and advice.
You need to understand that every pregnancy is different. Listen to your body if it is telling you to take it easy. It’s not good being sedentary, but more importantly, don’t stress yourself out. If you are stressed about exercising during pregnancy, then it defeats the purpose. Do what makes you happy and relaxed.