Exercise is a powerful tool for helping you feel strong (and sane!) through all nine months of your pregnancy. It helps relieve aches and pains, adds to that pregnancy glow, can help ease labor, and get you back to your pre-pregnancy body faster. Still, it can be overwhelming to trying to find exercise that’s safe and doable during pregnancy. While it’s important to run any fitness activities by your doctor first, here are a few great starting points for anyone who’s expecting.
Hormones got you down? Boost your mood by taking a leisurely stroll. Even a casual stroll can help reduce stress and boost mood. Plus, as you progress into late-pregnancy, walking may help ready the baby for delivery and bring on contractions. (Not to mention, it’s one of the last exercises you have left!)
You may not want to pick up a running routine right about now, but if you ran pre-baby, you should still be able to hit the road, says the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Consider scaling back your routine, and avoid any trails that may cause you to trip and fall. Also avoid running in the heat, as it’s easy for your pregnant body to get overheated, which isn’t good for the developing baby.
Whether you join a class or rock out at home, low-impact dancing is an excellent way to work out and boost your mood (we’re suckers for MOVE! with Keaira LaShae). Keep the intensity moderate — during moderate exercise, you should still be able to speak while shaking it, according to the American Council on Exercise. Substitute stepping in place of jumping and keep balance in mind the further into your pregnancy you are. If you’re more in the mood for a slower pace, try ballet. The barre is especially helpful for maintaining balance.
These core-challenging routines aren’t recommended during the third trimester, but there are plenty of Pilates moves that are first and second trimester-friendly. Keep in mind: Pregnant women are advised not to lay on their backs (which can put pressure on major blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the head and uterus, and cause a slew of other aches and pains). You also don’t want to overly challenge your range of motion, due to increased risk of strains and sprains, some experts suggest. Either join a prenatal class or communicate your needs and concerns to the instructor who can provide modifications as needed.
5. Prenatal Yoga
Yoga calms the mind and body — perfect for expecting moms with a whole lot going on. The key is to seek out a prenatal-specific yoga class, where instructors will be in tune with your specific needs. Beyond the much-needed R&R, prenatal yoga has also been shown to help expecting moms maintain strength and flexibility, and bounce back quicker post-pregnancy. Look for a prenatal yoga class near you, or, to get moving at home, DailyBurn’s Beautiful Belly prenatal yoga program takes users through a series of pregnancy-safe yoga routines, filmed over the course of celebrity yogi Briohny Smyth’s own pregnancy.
Swimming is a near-perfect form of exercise for alleviating the aches and pains of carrying extra weight around your belly. The buoyancy of the water helps relieve some of the pressure, and swimming works the whole body at once. While some worry the chemicals in pool water could be problematic, one study found that women who swam in a pool had no more pregnancy complications that those who ran or swam in un-chlorinated water.
7. Water Aerobics
The 65-plus set has one thing right: Water aerobics is perfect for achy joints and muscles. If you aren’t already a swimmer or familiar with the swimming strokes, water aerobics can be an easy way to ease into aqua-exercise. As with swimming, there may be some concern surrounding the chemicals in pool water, so opt for a chemical-free destination, or rinse off as soon as you finish your workout, if you’re concerned.
8. Do-Anytime Exercises
Not every exercise has to be part of a workout. If you have a few minutes, you can do a handful of exercises right in the comfort of your own home. Try kegels, which can help reduce incontinence, or squats, which, some believe, can help ease labor.
If you can find them, prenatal aerobics classes are a great way to get your heart pumping (safely!) while expecting. Though it’s important to check with your doctor first (as with all these activities), for some, regular aerobics class can be a great option too, since it’s easy to lower the intensity and remain upright for most of the class. Avoid classes that require too much coordination or quick step changes, recommends FitPregnancy, and play it safe by walking or marching instead of jumping.
10. Strength Training
What better way to prep for lifting baby than by lifting dumbbells? Strength training is perfectly safe during pregnancy, according to research, and it’s one of few workouts you can do while sitting or laying down — meaning no risk of slips, trips or falls. Just keep the routine at a light to moderate intensity and be sure your doc knows what you’re up to.
Cycling is low-impact and easily adjusted to an intensity that’s appropriate for expecting moms. Because the bike supports your weight, there’s less impact or stress on your body, says the American Pregnancy Association. Studio cycling is extra-safe, since it reduces the risk of any falls. Plus, upbeat music helps lighten the mood and make the outing to the studio feel like an escape. It is worth noting that as your baby grows, it may get harder to reach the handlebars, and cycling could put stress on your lower back. Take things at your own pace and do what feels right to you.
12. Try Something New
Pregnancy can limit many of the activities you once loved (wine nights with friends, for one). Fill the void by finding new activities to enjoy with your friends or partner. If you’re early in your pregnancy and have the energy, try something you’ve never done before, like some noncompetitive tennis (try doubles to lower the intensity if you’re worried about getting hit) or bellydancing. As your movement grows more limited in late-pregnancy, keep things fresh by walking a new route or swimming in the ocean or a lake instead of a pool.