Your body goes through a ton of changes during pregnancy, especially if this is your first pregnancy. Even if you’ve done this before, you might be wanting a more “fit pregnancy” where you get to keep working out, but in a way that’s safe for you and your baby. We’ve picked out 10 pregnancy exercises plus tips on how to exercise safely right through your pregnancy.
Working Out While Pregnant: Pregnancy Workouts That Work
If you’ve gone beyond FAQs like “How long is the first trimester?” and “Can I eat shrimp?” to “Seriously, when can I go back to the gym?”, then this article is for you. The only reason to stop exercise completely when pregnant is if your doctor advises you to. This could be due to blood pressure or other risks, such as preeclampsia, although some women can reduce the risk of preeclampsia with gentle pregnancy exercises, so always listen to your physician.
In a healthy pregnancy, exercise is normally beneficial to you and your unborn baby. Benefits include:
- Weight management
- Less chance of gestational diabetes
- Blood pressure management
- Better mood and self-image, which may reduce the risk of postpartum depression (PPD)
- Physically fit women normally have easier births with fewer interventions
1st Trimester Pregnancy Exercise Tips
- If you feel nauseous, take light exercise and work to your own limits.
- Always have plenty of water with you and easy access to a bathroom.
- Start your Kegels (see below) early and continue them throughout your pregnancy.
- Snack healthily – getting used to eating little and often will help you out later in your pregnancy when it feels like there’s no room inside you for a big meal!
- Make sure you have comfortable gym wear or fitness gear and supportive shoes to protect your knees and hips.
- Aim for 30 minutes of gentle exercise three times a week. If you can make this a habit, you will be stronger both when giving birth and when recovering from postpartum
10 Exercises for Pregnant Women
These exercises have a range of benefits and are generally low impact, so they are suitable for most pregnancies. If you experience any discomfort while exercising or feel unusually tired or out of breath, seek medical assistance immediately.
Kegels or Pelvic Floor Exercises
This absolutely crucial pregnancy exercise is one you can do without anyone even realizing it! Many medical professionals will simply say, “squeeze your pelvic floor,” as if it’s something you do every day. Well, it is, but you might not realize it is. Your pelvic floor is the set of muscles that stops you from peeing yourself when you need to go or stops you from passing gas.
Sit or lay down. Squeeze these muscles and draw them up as much as you can – as if you’re trying to close everything tightly. Hold for three seconds, then relax. Do this 10 times.
Variations include squeezing and releasing the muscles rapidly, 10 times in a row, having a break then doing it again. Alternatively, squeeze those muscles a little, then a little more, then a little more, and visualize an elevator rising up through the floors. Hold at the “top,” which is as tight as you can squeeze them, then let the elevator back down in stages.
Remember to breathe, as it’s tempting to hold your breath while you hold the contraction in. Learning to breathe normally while your pelvic floor is tense will help you during labor.
Pushups are safe to do during pregnancy. As your belly gets bigger, you can adapt your pushups by moving onto your knees instead of your toes. Always have your knees behind the hips, and keep your back straight. Start with 10 reps and increase each session if you can.
You can continue strength training during pregnancy as long as you don’t strain or twist your core or your back. Bicep curls with 5-10 kg weights are a gentle way to keep your arms toned.
A plank is like a pushup where you don’t move! The idea is to support your own bodyweight with your arms and toes, or your knees, with a straight back. This improves core strength and is ideal as a 1st-trimester exercise.
Walking keeps you fit, toned, and is a great way to stay social and get outdoors. Keep walking after your baby is born by taking your child out and about as soon as you’re able to.
Pilates focuses on core strength and balance and can help you tone up, especially early on in your pregnancy. Avoid twisting exercises or any that focus too heavily on the belly.
Side Leg Lifts
Lay on your side and support your head with one arm or a pillow. Lift the top leg, hold it for 3 seconds, and gently lower it back down. Repeat 10 times on each side. This keeps your thighs toned and gently works on your core.
Yoga is excellent for both stretching and toning your body and learning how to breathe effectively. It also helps you manage stress and sleep better. Look for prenatal yoga workouts, many of which are adjusted for those who struggle to move their pelvis or lay on their backs.
Swimming is a great exercise during pregnancy because the water provides a natural support for your body, making it low impact on the joints.
If your pelvis is healthy, you can do squats throughout your pregnancy, tone your leg muscles, and give your back much-needed support for your baby’s extra weight! Remember always to have your feet firmly planted and a little wider than your hips. Squat as if you were going to sit, then rise up again, not too quickly. You’re looking for a smooth movement. Start with 10, take a break, and do 10 more if you can.
Exercise during pregnancy is not only possible but often beneficial to you and your baby – as long as you’re safe and don’t overdo it. In a healthy pregnancy, the best pregnancy exercises include stretches, gentle strength training, and pelvic floor exercises.