There are many ways to stay fit and healthy while pregnant, and some of the best exercises during pregnancy include plie bends, leg lifts, planks, weight training, walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical machines, yoga, low-impact aerobics, and many more!
Pregnancy and Exercising
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, what with the expectation of a child on the way, fluctuating hormones, and some of the most unusual body changes that a human can undergo. It can be easy to let your physical fitness slip, as going to the gym in maternity clothes rarely seems appealing. However, it is very important to maintain your physical fitness while going through a full term of pregnancy, even if it seems uncomfortable or like “extra work”. Regular exercise can keep your energy levels up and help prevent common pregnancy complaints, such as chronic back pain and joint inflammation. Keeping your strength up can also help to build endurance for labor and delivery, while also ensuring that your baby is born strong and fully developed.
That being said, you also have a tiny life inside your belly, so a great deal of consideration and awareness is necessary for a successful pregnancy workout regiment. If you exercised regularly before you became pregnant, you shouldn’t work out at the same intensity, as the reactions of your body will obviously be different. Pregnant women should shift their workout styles to consistent, low-impact exercises, rather than more sporadic high-intensity activities. Some exercises are ideal for earlier trimesters, while others are more suitable as you progress through your pregnancy. Speaking to a fitness specialist and your doctor (to check for any existing medical conditions or risks before you begin working out) is essential to establish the pregnancy workout plan that is best for you. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the best exercises during pregnancy!
Best Exercises During Pregnancy
Leg Lifts: To improve flexibility and strength in your thighs and bum, which you’ll need when you’re walking around 8 months pregnant, leg lifts can be an ideal solution. Lay on your left side, with a pillow beneath your hip, your head resting on your left forearm, and your left leg bent at an angle, resting on the ground. Your right leg should be kept straight and lifted slowly, in total control, for 2 sets of 8 lifts, or whatever is comfortable for you. Switch to your opposite side to work out your left leg.
Weight Training: The point of pregnancy exercise is to eliminate high-intensity exertion, so weight training is a logical option, particularly to keep your muscles toned and firm. One-arm rows and arm curls are simple and quick exercises that can be done once or twice today, taking up no more than 5 minutes per set. This will help build your muscles for holding your child once he or she is born, and ensure that you can maintain a sturdy frame without bending or hunching, which will lead to back pain and discomfort.
Planks: Lying with your forearms resting on the ground and your toes to the ground, hold yourself in a plank position for 10-15 seconds at a time (or 1-2 long held breath), being careful not to lie down flat on your tummy after each set. Do not arch your back and try to keep your body as flat and still as possible during this exercise. Plank exercises can help you strengthen your core, shoulder muscles, and endurance, preparing you for the physical tasks of motherhood and keeping your body in shape.
Plie Bends: One of the most common complaints that pregnant women and new mothers have is sore thighs and an aching back. Plie bends (yes, like the ballet movement) consist of standing with your feet hip-distance apart, and your toes and knees angled out to 45 degrees. Then, holding onto a chair for support, slowly squat down, keeping your belly up and your back straight. This exercise can strengthen your balance, as well as tone your hamstrings, quadriceps, and butt. You can repeat this movement as many times as is comfortable.
Swimming: One of the most low-impact sports that anyone can enjoy is swimming. It is very common for pregnant women to take up swimming, as it can instantly relieve stress and strain on the joints, gets you off your aching feet and ankles, and poses very little threat to your baby (who is already living “underwater” in your amniotic fluid!). Swimming can be continued throughout the course of your pregnancy, making it the perfect exercise to keep you consistently working out. It’s fun, easy, and undeniably beneficial for mothers at any stage of pregnancy.
Yoga: Prenatal yoga wasn’t nearly as popular a decade ago as it is now, but this special brand of yoga is designed to accommodate women in various trimesters of pregnancy. Yoga increases flexibility and reduces chronic pain in normal people, and does much the same for pregnant women. It has also been known to reduce the pain and duration of labor. Certain considerations need to be taken, however, like not lying on your back after the first trimester, and not trying any risky balance maneuvers that could endanger your or your child.
Cycling: Aside from swimming, cycling is about as low impact as a sport can possibly get. Even a brief 30-minute ride around your neighborhood can get your heart rate pumping, ease strain on your ankles and knees, and improve your metabolic efficiency. Indoor cycling is also a popular option, but once you reach your third trimester, a slower pace is recommended, as larger baby bumps can often get in the way of the knee pumps needed for cycling.
Low-Impact Aerobics: Although most people associate aerobics with a lot of jumping around and bouncing, neither of which seems particularly appealing when pregnant, low-impact aerobics often take place in a pool, eliminating those issues. These types of aerobic classes are often offered to elderly and pregnant individuals, because the resistance of the water maximizes your workout efficiency, without putting any sharp stress on joints and bones.
Elliptical Machines: It can be hard for dedicated joggers to give up the habit once they get pregnant, but the repetitive impact of running can be detrimental to the pregnancy, and nearly impossible once you are in your final trimester. Elliptical machines, however, provide the same high cardiovascular workout without the constant pounding impact. For those who exercise regularly, elliptical machines can be a good way to slowly wean yourself to a more moderate workout regiment while pregnant.
Brisk Walking: Although jogging and running are not recommended during pregnancy, even brisk walking outside is appropriate, particularly if you’re not used to exercising. A short 20-30 minute walk each day will get your heart rate pumping, ensuring that you remain toned and burn off any excess baby weight that you don’t need to put on!
Kegels: These exercises are more for internal health, but the repeated contracting and releasing of the muscles that compose the pelvic floor can strengthen the uterus and prevent urinary incontinence after you have your baby. This can also help to maintain strength in a woman’s pelvis after delivery and speed the body’s return to pre-pregnancy appearance.
Stretching: Before you do any exercises with a baby on board, you should stretch adequately to avoid pulling or straining any muscles. Your body physiology is drastically different when pregnant, and that should be considered before working out. Spend at least 5-10 minutes stretching before exercising, as any injury while pregnant will be harder to overcome, and will severely impact your ability and motivation to work out.