You have a baby on the way and already have a long to-do list to prepare for your little one's arrival. But are pregnancy workouts on your list? If not, they should be.
Preparing the nursery, sorting your birthing plan, and shopping for everything you need are all important aspects you'll find in just about any pregnancy guide.
But staying active every day until your baby arrives can also make a huge difference in your health and the health of your new family member.
Pregnancy Health and Exercise Safety
When you're an expectant mother, you want to keep your baby safe. If you're concerned about whether or not working out during pregnancy is safe, the best way to find out is to ask your doctor for details.
The general rule of thumb is that if you're healthy and your physician considers your pregnancy to be normal, you're good to go with exercise. While most women will be cleared for pregnancy workouts, there are a few important things to keep in mind when deciding if and what is right for you.
For example, were you already active before you became pregnant? If so, it's more than likely that continuing a modified workout program will be perfectly safe.
If you weren't a regular or occasional exerciser before your pregnancy, it's best to be cautious about the kind of activity you take on. A non-runner will want to avoid picking up running out of the blue. It is also recommended to avoid high-impact exercises during pregnancy, which includes running and jumping.
Of course, expectant mothers who are avid athletes may receive different clearance from a physician to do more rigorous exercise. But for the majority of women, staying active with low-impact workouts will be safe.
Benefits of Pregnancy Workouts
Pregnancy can present a number of different health challenges for moms-to-be. Your body is changing rapidly and those changes can be downright uncomfortable.
In addition to aches and pains, though, some women may be at risk for developing more serious health issues like gestational diabetes. This condition raises women's blood sugar during pregnancy and can pose risks to both mother and child.
One way to combat and prevent this is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of low-impact aerobic activity every week. They advise breaking workouts into 30-minute or smaller intervals for daily exercise.
The benefits of everyday activity can help both you and your baby. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight and avoid developing gestational diabetes, there are a number of other positive outcomes.
Pregnancy workout benefits include:
- Mood improvement
- Elevated energy levels
- Reduction in swelling and inflammation
- Easing back pain
- Lessen symptoms of bloating and constipation
- Better posture
- Muscle toning
- Gaining or improving strength and endurance
- Enhanced sleep quality
- Preparation for the physical demands of labor
In addition to keeping mothers healthier and readier for the birthing process, research shows that prenatal exercise benefits babies too. They're more likely to have better motor skills and be healthier and active through adulthood.
Choosing the Best Pregnancy Exercises for You
You don't have to love exercise or be an athlete to stay physically active during pregnancy. Not every exercise will be enjoyable or beneficial to you. Talk with your healthcare provider and consider your own interests to devise a workout program that best suits you.
If you want a bit of inspiration or some ideas, here are nine pregnancy workouts that can have a positive impact on your mind and body during this important time.
This is the most basic and easiest form of pregnancy exercise. Even if it's simple, it can still be very effective as a mild form of aerobic exercise. Squeeze in a 10-minute walk a few times a day and you've met your daily activity recommendation with little hassle or equipment.
Squats can be a helpful exercise to prepare for labor and improve your posture. They will keep your hips, back, and glutes conditioned. They'll also go a long way toward keeping your pelvic floor strong.
You'll hear a lot about pelvic floor strength during pregnancy. This area includes all the important muscles in your core that help you push during labor. Keeping them strong during pregnancy with pelvic tilts and deep breathing will assist during delivery and recovery.
Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you have to give up or ignore strength training. Picking up some light weights can do wonders for building or maintaining muscle tone and strengthening your bones.
Swimming can be a great pregnancy activity. It's a low-impact exercise that won't be hard on your joints, which can be especially helpful if you're experiencing a lot of back pain while pregnant.
Activity in the water is also an effective way to elevate your heart rate.
Cycling on a stationary bike is another low-impact exercise that offers aerobic benefit. Choosing to do this activity on a stationary bike allows you to go as slow and steady as you like. It will also keep you safe from road hazards or the risk of falls and spills.
Prenatal yoga is a popular workout choice for many expectant mothers. These classes offer pose modifications that will keep your baby safe. Yoga can be excellent for building up the pelvic floor and core strength that you need for labor.
Many yoga poses can also address pain points for pregnant women—such as lower back pain.
Pilates is a close relative to yoga. Like yoga, pilates can provide full-body stretching and strengthening and relaxation benefits.
Low-impact aerobics classes can also be great for heart-rate elevation and cardiovascular health during pregnancy. Taking a water aerobics class can be even more enjoyable since you'll be able to avoid impact on your joints.
This is just a small sample of the many kinds of exercise that can be rewarding and healthy during pregnancy. If you have other activities in mind or workouts you'd like to continue, it's always wise to ask your doctor for the go-ahead.
Tips to Keep in Mind for Safe Pregnancy Workouts
Along with getting your physician's recommendations about safe exercises, there are steps you can take to keep you and your baby safe.
Keep Workouts Slow and Steady
There's no sense in rushing or making your workouts too intense. It's okay to start small and slow, especially if you weren't very active before becoming pregnant.
One way to make sure you keep a healthy pace is to start out with short workout intervals of 10 minutes or so. Once you feel more comfortable, you may be able to work up to 30 minutes of sustained activity.
It's very important to stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts. Avoid any chance of dehydration by carrying a water bottle with you.
You can also monitor your hydration levels by keeping an eye on your urine color. Very dark yellow or small amounts of urine can indicate mild dehydration.
Be Mindful of Weather Conditions
If you're exercising while pregnant during hot weather or in humid climates, exercise an extra level of caution. Don't overexert yourself and stop if you feel any dizziness or shortness of breath.
As a rule, it's best to avoid extreme temperatures to stay safe from dehydration and overheating.
Avoid Reclining Postures
While activities like yoga and pilates can be beneficial for breathing, core strength, and relaxation, they also involve many poses that require lying on your back.
Pregnant women should completely avoid these poses—especially after your first trimester. This position can interfere with blood flow to both you and your baby. In turn, you may feel dizzy and have trouble breathing.
The most important thing to do while exercising during pregnancy is to listen to your body for warning signs that something's not right. Stop right away and consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness
Get More Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Whether you're expecting your first child or welcoming another loved one to a growing family, staying active can make a big difference during pregnancy.
Turn to pregnancy workouts to help make those important nine months more enjoyable and maybe even a little easier on your body. Want more parenting and pregnancy tips? Visit our blog for additional information and support.