Exercise is now considered an important part of a healthy pregnancy and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise daily. Your second trimester, the feel good trimester, is a great time to make regular exercise a priority -- especially if you struggled to get moving during your first trimester due to morning sickness or exhaustion. So what exercises are safe during pregnancy? We compiled a list of the best workouts for pregnant moms with the help of Jenny Skoog, a New York City-based pre- and post-natal fitness trainer and DONA International Trained Doula. Of course, before you begin any exercise program, especially during pregnancy, you should consult with your doctor first. Exercise during pregnancy has plenty of benefits too -- it can give you a boost of energy, help you sleep better, reduce stress and even make labor and delivery easier. So what are you waiting for? Get moving!
Swimming is one of the best pregnancy exercises. Why? First of all, it feels great! Aside from the cooling relief of being in the water, that also helps prevent you from overheating, in your second trimester – and even more so in your third – you’re carrying around a lot of extra weight, but in the water you’ll feel almost weightless. Swimming is a low-impact cardiovascular activity that’s easy on your joints and ligaments, which become more vulnerable to aches, pains and injuries during pregnancy. If you’re having a healthy pregnancy, you can keep on swimming right up to your delivery date. For more information on swimming during pregnancy, check out our interview with Olympic mom Dara Torres.
Walking is a wonderful way to get those feel-good endorphins flowing! Better yet, it’s an anyone-can-do-it exercise that needs no equipment or gym membership. You can walk just about anytime, anywhere, and just a pair of sneakers and a comfortable outfit will do. It’s low-impact for your joints, and if you’re still struggling with nausea, the fresh air may help quash the queasies. Aim to walk for 45 minutes per session and your workout will help to increase your cardiovascular endurance for labor and delivery.
If you’re struggling to find motivation for lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement or treadmill, enlist a fitness buddy — your husband, your dog, your best friend, or even your equally pregnant neighbor can all be wonderful motivators for sticking to a walking program.
Zumba, Dancing, and Aerobics
Zumba is one of the hottest fitness classes around right now, and it’s a great cardiovascular activity for moms-to-be. While the Latin aerobic dance class is high-energy and can be intense, the follow-the-leader class format makes Zumba a good choice for keeping your heart and lungs strong during pregnancy. You can (and should) easily modify movements to keep the class low-impact, eliminating jumps and twists. Many women rave about taking Zumba during pregnancy and chances are you won’t be the only mom sporting a bump in class.
Other dance and low-impact aerobics classes can be great during pregnancy. Depending on your fitness level and your stage of pregnancy, you may want to stick to low-impact aerobics or try a water aerobics class in the pool. Remember, always listen to your body, and take extra care when trying a new activity that might challenge your balance during pregnancy.
The benefits of prental yoga are huge during pregnancy including stress relief, low-back stretching and easing round ligament pain. Plus since you’ll be in a class filled with other moms-to-be, prenatal yoga can offer a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of belonging as you connect with other women who are expecting. Not to mention the fact that the poses you perform in prenatal yoga will help prepare you for labor and delivery – the practice helps to open up the pelvis and improve the flexibility of the hips and spine.
More and more runners are sticking to their routines during pregnancy and you’ve probably noticed bump-clad women pounding the pavements in your neighborhood. We think 2007 New York City Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe could have something to do with the trend – she kept on running up until the day she gave birth to her baby. If you enjoyed running or jogging pre-pregnancy, you should be able to keep right on logging miles with your doctor’s okay. That being said, you may discover you don’t enjoy jogging, or that you feel uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses – listen to your body, it’s a sign that it’s time to look for a new activity. We’re not saying that you should pick pregnancy to start training for your first marathon or start picking up the pace either. In fact, you will likely need to reduce the intensity of your runs since you’ll feel more winded than normal during pregnancy. Also if you liked adding sprints to your workout, it’s time to slow down. Sprints can lead to a dangerous decreased bloodflow to the uterus.
“Increasing muscular tone and endurance is a great way to prepare the body for labor and delivery,” says Skoog. She suggests focusing on training the back muscles and legs, along with core stabilization. You may find hiring a personal trainer with expertise in working with pregnant women is your best bet for developing a safe weight training program. You can also find safe for pregnancy toning exercises on pregnancy fitness site Tight Bod with a Pod.
For your safety, there are a few precautions you should take. Avoid power-lifting, or weight-lifting that requires you to forceably exhale, which can restrict oxygen to the uterus. Remember to breath throughout your sets – the valsalva maneuver, or holding your breath excessively, can raise your blood pressure. Finally, you must avoid exercises lying flat on your back because the uterus may restrict blood flow to and from the legs.
Biking is another low-impact activity that takes the stress of your body – the bike supports your weight. If you’re an avid biker, your doctor will likely give you the go ahead to keep on pedaling as long as it feels good. However, once your bump starts to get bigger, it can affect your balance, making you more prone to falls. So ACOG recommends sticking with a stationary or recumbent bike indoors later in pregnancy just to be safe. Stationary biking is also a great exercise option for expectant moms regardless of their outdoor cycling skills.