It was once believed the only exercise acceptable for expecting women was gentle walking, which is wonderful exercise, but certainly not the only activity safe for pregnant women. There are actually many different forms of prenatal exercise that are extremely beneficial when done in moderation.
The main difference between pregnancy and non-pregnancy exercise is that expecting moms need to listen to their bodies even more than usual, prepare to be off-balance occasionally (as the body grows suddenly), and adjust accordingly.
Special care should also be taken to prevent the body temperature from becoming too elevated, as this is not good for the baby.
Below are 5 pregnancy-safe exercises for expecting mothers:
1. Prenatal Yoga
Yoga is a wonderful way to stay limber and strong no matter what, but when your belly’s growing at an alarming rate, staying flexible and toned can actually help alleviate or even prevent the aches and pains that can come with sudden physical changes.
Tree pose is a wonderful way to build leg muscles and enhance balance during a time when you may feel occasionally off-kilter, and downward facing dog feels amazing when it allows the baby bump to hang freely, giving your back a much-needed rest.
Prenatal yoga can help in the delivery room by keeping women agile and strong, offering deep-breathing techniques to energize and soothe. Just be careful not to lie flat on the back after the 20th week of pregnancy, or do any yoga involving squats after the 34th week, as this can prematurely induce labor.
2. Swimming for Soon-to-Be Moms
Especially in the last trimester of pregnancy when you’re starting to feel heavier and possibly experience the back and leg pains that can come with carrying an ever-expanding belly, swimming can bring relief.
Swimming takes all of the weight off the body, allowing women to float and stretch sore muscles without resistance or gravity that can make loose ligaments and joint stress worse. Swimming is also a favorite because it can be done comfortably and safely right up until the due date.
If you’ve ever considered joining a gym with a pool, pregnancy is a perfect time to make it happen, because swimming is quite possibly the most soothing and gentle exercise available.
3. Walking Will Work Wonders
A daily walk during pregnancy has been shown to help women perform more efficiently in the delivery room, but most importantly, it gets positive, feel-good endorphins flowing through the body, which is great for mom and baby.
It is safe to walk as often as you please, as long as overheating or exhaustion are not issues, with a minimum of 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes being what most fitness experts recommend during maternity.
If you don’t have a safe or smog-free place to walk outdoors, a treadmill can work just as well, but be sure to keep it at a low pace to start out, and hold onto the hand rails to maintain balance.
4. Stationary Cycling
Riding a bicycle outdoors can subject women to the potential risk of falling, jarring bumps, or moving objects such as inattentive drivers, making the stationary bike a much safer version of this exercise.
Cycling on a stationary bike takes the pressure off joints and allows tired pregnant ladies to sit while they increase circulation and move leg muscles, making it an exercise nearly everyone can do.
If your pregnancy is bringing with it back pain, find a recumbent stationary bike that will allow you to lean back and relax while still exercising the legs.
5. Light Weightlifting
Pregnancy is not generally a good time to begin a weightlifting program, but if you normally lift free weights, use the weight machines, or any other form of resistance strength training, you don’t have to sit back in dismay for 9 months and watch the results of all your hard work atrophy.
But you do have to take it easier than usual; meaning no major straining, only maintaining. This is not the time to try to build muscle or move up to a new level.
If anything, you should dial it back until your body feels only invigorated after a session, rather than your pre-pregnancy “no pain, no gain” workouts.
The goal of maternity exercise should be to energize the body and stay in shape, without pushing to extremes or trying to build muscles. The pregnant body is already adding weight naturally, and changing very quickly, so consider maintenance your goal until the baby is born, rather than progress. You’ll have plenty of time to focus on pushing yourself to get back into shape once the baby is born.
If you’d like to embark on a fitness program or modify your existing routine to cater to your growing, beautiful new shape, get clearance from your doctor, and try some of the pregnancy-safe exercises discussed above.