There are a lot of things about your life that change when you’re pregnant. Some food and beverages become temporarily off-limits; your wardrobe becomes extra floral-y courtesy of all your maternity clothes; even your exercise routine has to undergo a few prenatal tweaks. Luckily, figuring out what pregnancy workouts are safe for both you and your baby is relatively straightforward and easy to fit into your daily schedule. In fact, you may come to find that not a lot of your normal workout regime needs to change throughout the course of your pregnancy — so long as you adhere to a few simple rules along the way.
As a first-time mom, I remember being worried about what particular exercises I should or shouldn’t do as my belly continued to grow. On the one hand, I knew remaining physically active was important, but I also didn’t want to do anything that could put my baby in danger. After a little research, though, I soon discovered that a lot of the things I was already doing before those little lines turned blue were still completely safe to continue doing throughout not one, not two, but all three trimesters. There are just a few factors to keep in mind along the way. It goes without saying you should always consult with your obstetrician before you engage in physical activity.
How often should I exercise during pregnancy?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women who are pregnant should ideally aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. This could mean going for a power walk or even doing some household chores like gardening — anything to get your heart rate elevated, but not to the extent where you can no longer talk.
You can also choose to divide the 150 any way you’d like. Some may prefer working out for 30 minutes, five days a week while others may want to divvy it up with three 10-minute workouts throughout the course of a day. Don’t forget that these are just helpful guidelines, so feel free to do whatever you feel most comfortable with and what your healthcare providerer recommends.
Benefits of Pregnancy Exercises
While working out in some capacity is good for your overall health regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant, exercise can have specific benefits for those who are expecting. For example, keeping active can help reduce the risk of:
- back pain
- gestational diabetes
- ease constipation
- Increase blood flow, which helps to strengthen your heart and blood vessels
In other words, it’s a win-win!
Safe Pregnancy Exercises
As I mentioned earlier, walking is always a great go-to exercise that helps to work all facets of the body, however, it’s not the only option at your disposal. Here are some other ones you should try:
- Swimming. Swimming is another great activity that is low-impact and works all of your key muscle groups.
- Spinning. Riding a stationary bike can also be beneficial and a lot safer than riding a regular bike (even if you’re a cycling pro, there’s always a higher risk of falling off and getting injured). Speak to your OB about your plans to spin, just in case they have any specific recommendations for intensity or time on a machine.
- Yoga. Of course, there’s always prenatal yoga, which can help reduce stress and is a great way to work on strengthening your core and Lamaze breathing — two important factors that will come into play during childbirth.
- Pilates. That’s prenatal pilates, to be clear. This workout can help lower back pain, strengthen your pelvic floor, and improve your balance, among other benefits.
- Walking. Had to add this back on the list, that’s how beneficial it is to overall health for a pregnant person.
Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
This should basically encapsulate anything that has a high risk of you getting injured. So any activity that involves you making physical contact with another person can and should be ruled out immediately (think football, basketball, soccer, kickboxing, etc.).
Activities you should avoid:
- hot yoga or hot pilates
- lying flat on the back (especially in the second and third trimester)
- twisting exercises like side planks or ab twists
- high impact and contact sports like volleyball, basketball, hockey, kickboxing, trampoline, jump rope
- Zumba (the twisting motions in Zumba should be avoided)
- activities that could result in a fall such as skiing, surfing, horseback riding, gymnastics, lacrosse, rollerblading
- abdominal exercises like crunches, sit-ups, leg raises