How you felt when you saw those two lines appear on the pregnancy test is likely something you’ll never forget. And now that you’re pregnant, you might wonder what you should change in your life and what can stay the same. Staying active through regular exercise is at the top of the list of things to keep doing for the next nine months.
Whether you’re looking to start a new workout routine or continue your current one, we’ve got you covered. From cardio and swimming to stretching and core exercises, here’s everything you need to know about finding pregnancy-safe workouts.
Benefits of Pregnancy Exercise
Because of your pregnancy, you’re likely more tired than usual, your back may ache, and your ankles may be swollen. So the last thing you probably feel like doing right now is exercising.
But did you know that working out can help relieve specific pregnancy side effects? Plus, exercise will benefit you and your baby in many ways. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy can lead to a lower risk of:
- Excessive weight gain
- Preterm birth
- Cesarean birth
- Low birth weight
- Hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia
- Gestational diabetes
Staying active through pregnancy-safe workouts is also a great way to:
- Reduce lower back pain
- Maintain physical fitness
- Manage depression and anxiety symptoms
- Decrease stress
- Achieve better postpartum recovery
Exercise can improve your mood, make your recovery time after delivery quicker, and help with the nausea, constipation, and tiredness you’re probably experiencing right now. In addition, all the exercises listed here will increase your muscle tone, endurance, and blood circulation. You’ll be thankful for all these health benefits once it comes time to deliver!
It is difficult, though, to get moving when your body’s aching, your ankles are huge, and you can’t sleep. But you can be motivated by the tons of benefits that exercising while you’re pregnant offers.
Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?
You might be worried about the dangers of working out while you’re pregnant. The answer to the often-asked question “is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?” depends on how much you exercised before you got pregnant.
Were you a regular at the gym before getting pregnant? It’s OK to keep working out. Just be careful; since your body’s producing a hormone that loosens your joints, it’s more prone to injuries. Also, as you grow during your pregnancy, your center of balance changes which could cause you to fall during a workout.
Did you avoid the gym or working out at all costs before you got pregnant? Now isn’t the time to start a workout plan. Your body is using lots of energy creating a baby, so you may be too tired anyway. You might want to wait to start any training plans until after you give birth, but still do some light pregnancy-safe workouts.
The CDC suggests pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, which could look like 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It is best to exercise throughout the week instead of all in one or two days.
Before starting any exercise routine, make sure to get the go-ahead from your doctor. They can provide you with recommendations tailored to you.
5 Pregnancy-Safe Exercises
1. Prenatal yoga helps you relax, practice deep breathing and increase flexibility. These things will come in handy when you give birth! Most communities offer prenatal yoga, or you can ask a regular yoga instructor to modify your poses. Just steer clear of Bikram yoga (a.k.a. “hot yoga”) because it’ll raise your body temperature too high.
Even if you’ve never practiced yoga before, you can start off at the beginner level and get great benefits. Here are 6 reasons why you need prenatal yoga in your life:
- Relieves pregnancy aches and pains
- It keeps you toned, flexible, and strong throughout your pregnancy
- Improves your balance (something that changes as your belly grows!)
- It keeps your body toned, so it’ll be easier to lose the “baby weight” later
- Relieves stress and is calming
- Decreases your morning sickness and exhaustion
2. Low-impact cardio classes…If you’re new to exercise, classes are a great way to get your heart rate up and your endorphins flowing. As you get farther along in your pregnancy, don’t do any exercises that have you trying to balance. (Your center of gravity is moving as your belly grows). If you’re a fitness newbie, make sure that you’re not working so hard that you feel like you’re going to collapse!
3. Swimming is one of the best pregnancy workouts. When you’re in the water, you weigh a lot less than you actually do, so swimming will make you feel lighter and more agile. Swimming can help with back pain, puffy ankles, and nausea. It’s also gentle on your joints, which loosen up during pregnancy.
4. Walking is an easy workout to fit into a crammed day. And, you can keep walking throughout your pregnancy. You don’t have to purchase fitness gear or pay for a gym membership. Just don’t walk on uneven paths, especially late in your pregnancy, when your belly gets in the way of seeing the way.
5. Prenatal Pilates, which lengthens your muscles and strengthens your core. A strong core will improve your posture, help with backaches, and improve flexibility. If you can’t afford a Pilates class, try searching for “Prenatal Pilates” on YouTube. Just make sure that the videos are meant for pregnant women.
BONUS: Here are five prenatal yoga poses (with photos!) to help you get started:
Bound Angle Pose
- Sit on a mat keeping your back straight
- Bring both heels together, with knees facing opposite directions
- Bend forward, keeping your back as straight as possible
- Kneel on your yoga mat with both big toes touching
- With your butt resting on your heels, bend forward until your torso is nestled in the hip-wide gap between your thighs
- Stretch both arms on the mat in front of you
- Expand your back by stretching your neck and tailbone
Seated Eagle Pose
- Kneel on your yoga mat with your big toes touching
- Sit on your heels
- Stretch arms parallel to the floor. Put your right arm above the left arm and bend elbows (your palms should face each other)
- Raise arms away from your face to get better balance
- Get on your knees, with your legs and arms parallel
- The Cat Pose: exhale and tuck your chin, stretching your spine upwards. Slant your pelvis downwards and draw your chest and stomach in
- The Cow Pose: inhale and incline your tailbone and pelvis up. Smoothly lift your head up and stretch out your body
- Repeat the cat pose and cow pose at least 5 times
Legs Up the Wall Pose
- Sit in front of a wall, with your knees bent close to your chest
- Lower your upper body, using your elbows as support, while at the same time raising your legs up the wall
- Your entire upper body should be resting on the floor
- Hold this position for a few minutes. If it makes you dizzy, stop right away and sit up
We encourage you to talk to your doctor before starting these or any exercise when you’re pregnant. If this pregnancy post helped you, we suggest you sign up for our pregnancy newsletter. You can tell us what month of pregnancy you’re in, so the newsletter is customized especially for you! Sign up here.
The newsletters cover many things, like pregnancy nutrition and how your baby is growing. They also share essential pregnancy tips. Any information you provide about yourself is kept confidential.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on January 29, 2016, and has since been updated.
Heidi Keefer is a Content Creator for Lifetime Adoption and has 15 years of experience in the field of adoption. An author of thousands of blog posts over the years, Heidi enjoys finding new ways to educate and captivate Lifetime’s ever-growing list of subscribers.
Heidi has a keen eye for misplaced apostrophes, comma splices, and well-turned sentences, which she has put to good use as a contributor to Lifetime’s award-winning blogs. She has written and published hundreds of adoption articles which explore the various facets of domestic infant adoption today.