You’re aching and you can’t sleep and your back is killing you and your ankles are swelling and you’re constipated and bloated. In other words, you’re pregnant. Now if only there were something you could do to minimize the aches and pains and unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. There is: Working out while you’re pregnant offers lots of benefits — a boost in your mood, a decrease in many pregnancy symptoms (including fatigue, constipation and nausea), and a quicker postpartum recovery.
So how much should you aim for during pregnancy? The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests expecting moms get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, most days of the week. What counts toward that 30 minutes? As far as your heart and general health are concerned, three 10-minute walks sprinkled throughout the day are just as beneficial as 30 minutes on the treadmill. For that matter, even non-exercise activity — like 15 minutes of vacuuming and 15 minutes of light yard work — counts toward your daily goal.
Worried about the potential risks of working out while pregnant? While it’s true that now isn’t the time to learn to water ski or enter a horse-jumping competition, as long as you get the green light from your practitioner to work out you can to enjoy the majority of fitness activities. In fact, most exercises that are off-limits during pregnancy are ones you’d probably have a hard time doing with a baseketball-sized belly anyway. So lace up those sneakers and try these safe exercises during pregnancy.
SAFE AEROBIC PREGNANCY EXERCISES
All of these cardiovascular exercises increase blood circulation, muscle tone and endurance (which you’ll be thankful for come delivery day):
Swimming and water aerobics may just be the perfect pregnancy workout. Why? In the water you weigh a tenth of what you do on land, so you’ll feel lighter and more limber. A dip in the pool may also help relieve nausea, sciatic pain and puffy ankles — and because baby’s floating along with you, it’s gentle on your loosening joints and ligaments (your body’s natural response to pregnancy hormones).
There’s no easier exercise to fit into your busy schedule than walking…and it’s a workout you can continue to fit in right up until delivery date (and even on D-day if you’re anxious to help the contractions along). What’s more, you don’t need any special equipment or a gym membership to participate — just some good sneakers. If you opt for a hike, be sure to avoid uneven terrain (especially later in pregnancy, when your belly can block your view of that rock in your path), high altitudes and slippery conditions.
Want to go a little faster? Experienced runners can stay on track during pregnancy. Just stick to level terrain (or a treadmill or an elliptical machine) and never overdo it (loose ligaments and joints during pregnancy can make jogging harder on your knees — and make you more prone to injury).
Group dance or aerobics classes
Low-impact aerobics and dance workout classes are a great way to increase your heart rate and get the endorphins flowing if you’re a newbie exerciser. As your abdomen expands, avoid any activities that require careful balance. If you’re an experienced athlete, just be sure to listen to your body and never exercise to the point of exhaustion.
A wonderful way to break a sweat without putting pressure on your ankle and knee joints, indoor cycling lets you pedal at your own pace without the risk of falling. Try transitioning your cardio workouts to a stationary bike, or hop into an indoor cycling class for a more structured ride. (Just make sure your instructor knows you’re expecting, and feel free to sit out sprints and hills if you feel overheated or exhausted at any point.)
If you're an avid outdoor cycler, talk to your doctor about whether it's safe to continue bicycling outdoors after getting pregnant (and if, at some point, you should stop). The extra weight of your baby belly can affect your balance, and you don’t want to risk toppling over when baby is on board.
A pregnancy-appropriate Pilates routine focuses mainly on strengthening your core and lengthening your muscles. And all that core strengthening will help ease backaches and improve your posture (which you’ll also be grateful for as your belly gets bigger) as well as your flexibility (which comes in handy during labor).
Prenatal yoga is another ideal workout for the mama-to-be: It encourages relaxation, flexibility, focus and deep breathing — all great preparation for the marathon of birth. Look for a class specifically tailored for pregnant women, or ask your regular yoga instructor to modify the poses so that they’re safe for you. Just avoid Bikram yoga (the kind done in a hot room), since you need to pass on exercises that heat you up too much.
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