Regular exercise during pregnancy has been proven to have many positive effects for both mom and baby, including preparing your body for labor and delivery. Staying fit and active during your pregnancy may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re struggling to find the right routine or worried about the safety of certain exercises, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover our five favorite exercises to do while pregnant and which ones you should avoid.
Is it safe to workout while pregnant?
Generally speaking, exercise during your pregnancy is deemed safe and typically recommended by health care providers. Activities that maintain your physical health and well-being are important during pregnancy. Staying active helps prepare your body for labor and delivery and reduce some common aches and pains associated with pregnancy.
In some pregnancies, an existing medical condition or pregnancy-related condition may prevent you from working out. Your health care provider may not recommend exercising if you have any of the following conditions:
- Bleeding or spotting
- Low placenta
- Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
- Weak cervix
Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine.
Benefits of exercising during pregnancy
Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits your overall health and well-being. According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercise helps:
- Reduce back pain
- Ease constipation
- Decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean delivery
- Promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy
- Improve your overall general fitness and strengthen your heart and blood vessels
- Lose baby weight after your baby is born
Safe exercises during pregnancy
While there are many exercises you can perform during your pregnancy, there will be times those exercises need to be modified or removed from your routine completely. Be aware of movements that become uncomfortable as you and your baby grow through your pregnancy. Some low-intensity workouts that can be done through your entire pregnancy include:
One of the most popular exercises, walking during pregnancy is an excellent way to get physical activity and provides several health benefits. Studies have shown that low-intensity walking can lower the risk of gestational diabetes and unhealthy weight gain and reduce postpartum weight retention, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Walking may also lead to a healthy birth weight for babies.
Swimming during pregnancy comes highly recommended as a low-impact, non-load-bearing activity. Swimming lets you raise your heart rate and get a cardiovascular workout without overheating. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy. (It’s important to note that water skiing, diving and scuba diving do not get a thumbs-up because they place pregnant women at an increased risk of injury.)
Modified or prenatal yoga is a gentle workout that benefits pregnant women. Yoga reduces stress, improves flexibility and encourages focused breathing. A prenatal yoga class uses modified poses that are safe for moms and babies. As your balance shifts with added weight, it's important to be mindful of the poses you can achieve safely and avoid those that require you to be on your back for long periods. If you do not have a prenatal yoga class available, be sure to work with the instructor to modify poses.
Similar to yoga, a modified or prenatal pilates class is a great way to reduce stress, increase flexibility and practice moderate-weight-bearing exercises. Remember to avoid heated classes and any positions that require you to lie flat on your back for long periods.
Light to moderate weightlifting during pregnancy is a good way to strengthen your body and build muscle. While lifting weights, opt for a lighter than usual weight and increase your reps. With the release of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, you may want to switch to a machine to limit your range of motion. Most importantly, remember to breathe while lifting weights!
Exercises to avoid while pregnant
Some exercises and activities put you at an increased risk of injury during pregnancy. Avoid the following activities and exercises:
- Heated workout classes: These types of workouts are growing more popular, but joining a heated class can cause you to become overheated and dehydrated, which could lead to fainting.
- Contact sports: Avoid any activity that puts you at risk of being hit in the abdomen, including boxing, soccer, hockey, basketball and football.
- Any activities with a fall risk: Many individual activities have a fall risk and should be avoided during pregnancy. These activities include skiing, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, cycling or mountain biking and horseback riding.
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