One of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby during pregnancy is exercise. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Exercise improves energy, decreases joint pain, and helps you sleep better. It improves circulation, which can help prevent headaches, constipation, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids (which we all want to avoid during pregnancy!). It also helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, increase your flexibility, and improve your overall endurance, which will help you during the labor and delivery process.
By maintaining a regular fitness program during pregnancy, you are less likely to gain excess weight, which will help both the health of you and your baby and make it easier to lose the weight after giving birth.
While there is no question exercise is beneficial during pregnancy, many people aren’t aware what the best exercises for pregnant women are!
The following activities can be appropriate and beneficial for women in all stages of pregnancy. To make sure you are safe when exercising while pregnant, make sure you do not become overheated and that you stay within a recommended heart-rate level. Both of these could take blood flow away from your developing baby. Keep yourself hydrated and avoid any activities with a chance of falling on your belly.
Please consult with your health care provider before beginning a new exercise routine, and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
Here a five of the best exercises for pregnant women.
Walking is one of the best exercises for overall health and fitness, even when you aren’t pregnant. It becomes even more beneficial when you are pregnant and other activities start to become uncomfortable. It improves circulation, joint mobility, and strength in a very safe and gentle way. If you would like to make your walks a little more challenging, you can try adding some light hills or stairs. Walking can also be very calming and can help decrease any nervousness or anxiety you are feeling about your pregnancy or upcoming birth.
2. Strength training
Strength training with weights is a wonderful way to exercise when you are pregnant! It helps to burn calories and fat, keeping you at a healthy weight, but it also strengthens muscles that you are doing to need once labor and delivery come. You will want those leg muscles strong during those contractions and the pushing phase! Strong arms and upper back muscles will help during long feedings and rockings after your beautiful baby arrives. If you aren’t comfortable with weights at home or the gym, find a trainer or prenatal class that will help you learn a few exercises you can easily do during your pregnancy.
Swimming can be especially wonderful towards the end of your pregnancy, when the weight of the baby is causing pain and pressure in your back and pelvic area. The buoyancy of the water helps to relieve some of the pressure on your joints. Swimming itself is a wonderful cardiovascular exercises that also strengthens muscles in your arms, legs, and core.
4. Low-impact cardio
For some people, walking and swimming are either not comfortable or not practical (especially in those cold winter months). There are many cardiovascular options for exercise. Make sure you are choosing low-impact options during your pregnancy. Activities such as indoor cycling classes, hiking, or the elliptical machine can be a fun change of pace while giving the same overall health benefits.
5. Yoga or Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are both wonderful options during pregnancy. They combine the benefits of strength training and stretching, while also giving you a chance to really connect with your body before labor and delivery come. If you’ve never done yoga or Pilates before, you may want to find a specialized introductory or prenatal class to serve your specific needs. Both types of classes should have knowledgeable instructors who can help you modify poses and positions as your pregnancy progresses. Please keep in mind that it is recommended you avoid hot yoga classes during pregnancy.
To help get you started, here is an exercise routine video I’ve put together that gives some strengthening and stretching that is appropriate for most stages of pregnancy. I oftentimes give these exercises to my physical therapy and Pilates clients during pregnancy to help improve strength and overall fitness.
Don’t be afraid to exercise while you are pregnant! It is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Listen to your body, stay in communication with your doctor, and have some fun with it!
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com