Whether you’re a dedicated gym rat or you haven’t broken a sweat since Lycra leotards were in style, there are plenty of benefits to being active throughout your pregnancy. Find out about the types of workouts that are good for you and your baby, and which exercises to avoid until after you’ve popped out that watermelon…
Depending on how your pregnancy is going, the words “pregnancy” and “workout” in the same sentence could either make you shudder with fear or giggle with glee (OK, maybe not giggle, but at least feel somewhat positive about the experience).
I was that perky girl with the high ponytail and the can-do workout attitude during my first pregnancy. If you’d met me then, you probably would’ve hated me a little. But my second pregnancy with twins was an entirely different story. The mere thought of exercise made me need to lie down. I was constantly nauseous and exhausted, so I did nothing more strenuous than waddle for six months.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. But only you know the exact amount of exercise that’s right for you – listen to your body and do as much as you feel capable of doing.
Why are pregnancy workouts so great anyway?
Exercising during pregnancy has plenty of benefits. It can help:
* Relieve pregnancy symptoms, including morning sickness and constipation
* Reduce pain and discomfort
* Increase energy
* Boost mood
* Improve sleep
* Control weight gain
* Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and other pregnancy conditions
* Reduce edema (swelling)
* Make labor easier
* Seed up postpartum recovery
* Decrease children’s risk of chronic disease later in life
* Improve children’s academic and sports performance
Which pregnancy workouts are safe?
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding exercise during pregnancy. Your mom may have told you that she heard running is dangerous for the baby (it’s not if you were a runner before pregnancy, but now’s probably not the time to start a 10K training program if you’ve never even run to the corner before). Or your bestie may have warned you that you shouldn’t be lifting weights now that you’re packing a fetus (not true – just make sure you use light weights and do more reps).
If your pregnancy is progressing normally, you can keep up most of the workouts you were doing before pregnancy as long as you take it easy. But if you’re new to exercising or you have any pregnancy conditions, such as placenta previa or anemia, consult your healthcare provider to find out if it’s safe for you to exercise.
So, which workouts are the most beneficial for mom and baby? Here are five of the best.
Prenatal yoga: Not only will prenatal yoga ease your pregnancy pains and improve your flexibility in preparation for childbirth, it will also relieve stress and help you sleep better.
Swimming: Swimming and water aerobics will get your heart rate up while offering welcome relief to sore joints thanks to the weightlessness of the water.
Walking: As long as it doesn’t cause you lower back pain, walking is a great exercise that you can keep up until the day you give birth. You can integrate it into your daily routine by walking to and from work or take your daily stroll in nature for a calming, meditative experience.
Pilates: Pilates will help you build a strong core and improve your flexibility, which can make your labor easier. Pregnancy Pilates classes may also include Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and prevent post-partum incontinence. If you can’t find a pregnancy Pilates class near you, make sure to advise your instructor that you’re expecting so they know to avoid unsafe movements.
Weight training: Use free weights weighing no more than five pounds or resistance bands. Do 12 to 15 reps per exercise and make sure to use correct form.
Which pregnancy workouts should I avoid?
Steer clear of workouts that could make your body temperature rise too high – an increase of more than 1.5F can be dangerous for the baby, so bikram yoga and running in the midday heat are out. You should also avoid activities that carry a risk of falling, such as downhill skiing, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Other pregnancy workout no-nos include heavy lifting, holding your breath, jumping vigorously and performing deep back bends or side twists. You should also stay away from exercises that involve lying down on your back because the weight of your uterus could restrict your circulation, as well as exercises such as sit-ups and leg lifts that push your abdominal muscles outward as they could cause abdominal separation.
Some extra tips
To ensure your pregnancy workouts are safe and comfortable, make sure to:
* Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout
* Have a light snack before and after your workout
* Wear comfortable, breathable and supportive clothing – nothing beats BLANQI’s revolutionary range of high-performance maternity activewear!
* Invest in a good pair of shoes to reduce your risk of injury
* Listen to your body and adjust your intensity or try a different workout if you feel any discomfort