Best Exercises for Pregnant Women
When answering this question with regards the best exercises for pregnant women, you need to first ensure they are safe, effective, functional and appropriate for each trimester.
I will list below the best exercises for YOU when pregnant based on this set of criteria.
When pregnant, you start to search online for answers to all your questions.
You need answers and you need them now.
But is all the conflicting advice regarding which exercises are best during pregnancy only causing you to have more questions? You’re not alone.
When you look online for answers, you must first look at the source.
Are they qualified to give this advice?
Are they biased as they just try to sell you something?
Who’s interests are they more interested in?
I Get it!
You are experiencing all types of body changes, aches and pains. Maybe you have swollen ankles. Maybe you’re late in your third trimester.
Dare I mention having trouble sleeping?
Welcome to being pregnant!
So, you may be wondering, why would you want to start exercising when you feel like this?
Because there are so many benefits, for both you and baby, to exercising the right way when pregnant. Notice I said the ‘right way’ as doing the wrong exercises may cause harm.
Working out while you are pregnant can decrease many pregnancy symptoms including fatigue, constipation and morning sickness.
One benefit that you may at the back of your mind right now is that exercising during pregnancy helps you during postpartum recovery.
But I am New to Exercise!
If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, it is still recommended that you exercise now.
Yes, you may start off at a low level of fitness. Yes, you may not know where to start. This is where my online program guides you every week.
The Best Pregnancy Exercises?
You need to know which pregnancy exercises are best for you. You also need to know which exercises, sports and activities you must avoid.
I have written an in-depth post here about the exercises you should avoid when pregnant.
There are always new fads and workouts entering the fitness market. Some of these trends can be downright dangerous especially when you are pregnant.
So, let’s get started with safe and effective exercises you can choose from.
First, You Must have Trust in Your Instructor
Just because these exercises or classes are on the recommended list, it doesn’t mean every exercise, movement associated with each mode is safe when pregnant.
A qualified prenatal instructor will be able to modify the movements to adapt to the requirements of pregnancy.
We all know prenatal yoga is highly recommended. But there are some yoga poses that must be avoided when pregnant.
Do I really need to mention that headstands and handstands are out?
So, again, please be sure to only get a program or take a class from a qualified prenatal instructor.
1. Prenatal Yoga
Many of my pregnancy workouts include prenatal yoga. The benefits of yoga are well known.
Your balance can be comprised when pregnant so make sure you know which holds you can and cannot do.
Be aware of the risk of overstretching and causing muscle strains. In the second and third trimesters the hormone relaxin increases in your body to open your joints for childbirth.
Yoga encourages relaxation, flexibility, focus and deep breathing. My clients have found these classes to help them immensely during childbirth.
Try this 20 minute Yoga Workout
Can I Join any Yoga Class?
Most yoga classes that cater to the general population contain poses which are not suitable for pregnant women.
So, I highly recommended you type ‘Prenatal Yoga Classes Near Me‘ into Google and then do your due diligence on those classes listed near you.
As always, your friends may be able to refer you to a quality prenatal class.
Also, avoid Bikram (hot) yoga as you do not want to get too overheated.
2. Prenatal Pilates
Pilates is one of the best exercises you can do during pregnancy.
When selecting your Pilates class, you need to look for one that only includes pregnancy-appropriate Pilates routines.
These classes should focus on strengthening your core.
Lengthening your muscles with low- to no-impact movements.
And exercises to help ease backaches and improve your posture.
As your baby grows inside your belly, the uterus expands. The diaphragm is pushed upwards. And the rib-cage expands.
This causes compression that restricts the function of the diaphragm. This is where Pilates can help you.
Pilates teaches lateral breathing, which will make breathing more effective when you don’t have as much room to breathe.
As your body changes throughout your pregnancy, and the center of gravity shifts, your alignment is jeopardized.
This can lead to:
1. posterior pelvic tilt.
2. internally rotated shoulders.
3. lumbar lordosis.
4. thoracic kyphosis.
5. pronated feet.
Pilates exercises can help reduce the effects of alignment changes.
Transverse Abdominal Strength
Pilates helps strengthen core muscles to help prevent diastasis recti. This can occur when the upper abs start to separate.
Pilates can help strengthen the transverse abdominals to minimize the severity of the separation.
Gluteal Strength and Stretch
Strengthening your gluteals during pregnancy will help increase stability.
It will help prevent pain in your pelvic area. This will help manage pain in your low back.
Gluteal tightness is a common symptom of pregnancy.
Often caused by the changes in weight, overuse of muscles, pelvis shift and alignment shift.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do when pregnant. Aim to walk at a comfortable pace for an appropriate duration.
If you do walk, I want you to make sure you avoid exercising outside in hot conditions. And stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Don’t try to measure your performance against your pre-pregnancy fitness level.
You need to be aware of your altered sense of balance. As your belly grows, your center of gravity is affected. The risk of falling increases.
Only walk a distance that is comfortable for you and remember that you may fatigue quickly.
And be sure to invest in a good pair of walking shoes!
4. Swimming or Aqua Aerobics
Swimming is one of the best exercises for pregnant women. This is because you do not have any high impact movements that can come with running.
The buoyancy of the water can help you exercise more comfortably.
Other workouts in the water such as pregnancy specific aqua aerobics can also be beneficial.
Just be sure to implement normal swimming safety measures.
Avoid water that is too hot and try to stay in the shallow end just in case you need to put your feet down.
If you were cycling pre-pregnancy then moving to a spin bike during pregnancy can be a safer exercise option.
Spinning is a non-impact exercise option that can be performed in the climate-controlled home environment.
Be aware of avoiding extreme intensity and over-exerting. Spin classes can be quite intense so be sure to know your limits.
6. Tai Chi
Tai chi is an ancient form of meditation. It involves slow movements that allow even the least flexible to strengthen their bodies without risk of injury.
If you’re comfortable with it and have experience, it’s fine to continue Tai chi now.
When searching for a class, make sure your instructor is qualified to teach pregnancy-specific classes.
Just in case you need a little convince about why it is important to select the best exercises when pregnant.
I have documented some evidence from research to help motivate you. Just in case you needed it!The Facts about Exercise during Pregnancy
The Facts about Exercise during Pregnancy
(Artal & O’Toole, 2003)
Research indicates that women who exercise throughout pregnancy experience less pelvic, shoulder and lower back pain.
The increased fitness, pelvic floor and abdominal strength associated with an appropriate exercise program assists women through with delivery and post birth recovery.
(American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2002)
In addition to postural changes, vascular changes cause an increase in resting heart rate. Also maximal heart rate and a blood pressure decrease.
Monitoring hydration, heat status, rest periods and changes in position is an essential component of exercise therapy.
(Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2003)
Up to 50% of pregnancies exceed the recommended healthy weight gain. This leads to high-risk pregnancies, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
(Olson & Blackwell, 2011) Additional weight gain during pregnancy also acts as a precurser to postpartum weight retention and an increased risk of obesity for the child in adulthood.
(Siega-Riz, Viswanathan & Moos, 2003)
Women who return to exercise within 6 months of giving birth are more likely to return to a healthy weight range.
(Sports Medicine Australia, 2013)
Habits that are adopted during pregnancy play a major role in shaping women’s health for the rest of their life.
Exercise is highly recommended when pregnant. First consult your doctor.
Once given the all clear, then do your homework in finding a qualified prenatal exercise instructor that understand how you should modify your exercises for each trimester of pregnancy.