When it comes to exercising through pregnancy, it’s not a case of one size fits all. Exercise opportunities depend largely on what your fitness levels are, which trimester you’re in and how you’re feeling. One thing that is unanimous, though, is that exercise is important! It can help minimize aches and pains, improve your sleep and even lower your risk of gestational diabetes and depression. Your labour and birth process could even improve! And getting back in shape afterwards won’t be as challenging. If you’re pregnant and discovering that your moods and energy levels aren’t as predictable as always, here are a few options that might make exercising easier for you.
Some General Exercise Rules
Always consult your Ob-Gyn before new exercise habits: While it’s usually best to stick with what you were doing pre-pregnancy, there is no reason why new forms of fitness can’t be beneficial and safe. Whatever you choose, get the go ahead from the doc beforehand.
Improve your skincare habits: Pregnancy hormones can leave your skin more sensitive to sun damage. Always factor in an SPF when you’re exercising outdoors.
Plot your potty breaks: Bladder control is of prime concern as you move up in your trimesters. Whatever the exercise discipline, have an idea of how quickly you can get to a toilet while you’re there.
Avoid dehydration at all costs: Sufficient water is even more important during pregnancy, as low water levels could initiate early labour.
Listen to your body: It won’t be capable of what it was before pregnancy, and there will be days when a light walk is a better idea than an hour of hard exercise. Go with your gut feeling.
Exercises For Every Mood and Energy Level
If You’re Feeling: TIRED
Why: Whether it’s first trimester nausea or final trimester baby weight that’s left you feeling exhausted, walking is the easiest exercise to undertake. It doesn’t take much mental commitment to head out for a walk, and you can add a little intensity with a few speedier intervals or gentle inclines if you feel like it. You can even up the ante with toning shoes for a slightly more intense walk and an increased number of calories burned. Add even more incentive by taking your route past kid-friendly parks. You’ll be too distracted by your research to notice you’re exercising.
Precautions: Your feet are likely to swell during your pregnancy, especially during your final trimester. Too-tight shoes can leave you susceptible to foot injuries and imbalance, so it’s better to take a size up. Also stick to familiar routes and avoid uneven terrain.
Why: You aren’t as susceptible to falling or injury, you won’t overheat and your joints will be spared 50% of the impact.Swimming is an ideal, low-impact exercise for women in the later stages of their term and feels a lot less strenuous than a session on the treadmill.
Precautions: Pregnant women don’t only run a risk from high temperatures. They need to avoid chillier ones as well, so steer clear of freezing water. If you think you’re prone to slipping, wear aqua shoes in the shallower areas.
If You’re Feeling: Stressed
Why: Hiking is a wonderful way to get outdoors and enjoy your environment while also improving your cardio and strength fitness. The fresh air and connection to nature will also work wonders on your mood, and a scenic path acts as a natural destressor.
Precautions: Opt for a steady terrain – save the bundu-bashing or explorative routes for post-pregnancy. Check that your current hiking shoes are still meeting your needs and consider taking hiking poles along for added stability. Always take a buddy along for your hikes too.
Why: The prospect of a new baby accompanied by changing hormones can leave you a little on the edgy side. Yoga not only strengthens your core and improves flexibility, with its emphasis on breathing and meditation it fosters a sense of calm. New studies have even shown women’s depressive symptoms to decrease steadily during consistent yoga training, while mindfulness increased.
Precautions: In the second half of your pregnancy, avoid exaggerated twists and movements that tug on your belly, as well as those that require you to lie on your back or belly for longer than a few seconds. Inversions like headstands and shoulder stands are a no-no.
If You’re Feeling: Energetic
Why: Some of the lucky few pregnant women sail through their terms with little aggravation. If you’ve been blessed this way, you can have a blast with a Zumba session. The hip rolling and core conditioning in this standing ab workout works your pushing muscles, while the choreographed moves improve your ever-changing sense of coordination and balance. A lot of women lose confidence during their pregnancy, so you’ll feel sexier with all the hip shaking as an added bonus. You’ll also burn a ton of calories in the process.
Precautions: Stick to the indoor/studio classes versus natural environments with potentially uneven grounds. Your teacher should be trained in prenatal exercise, so make sure she shows you modifications to the usual moves, particularly those with a lot of bending and twisting. These classes can also up your intensity without you realizing it, so make sure you can sing along to the music at all times. If you’re lucky, there may even be an aqua-Zumba in your area, which minimizes impact to nearly zero.
Why: Cycling can ease back pain, boost your mood and improve sleep, which means spinning does just the same. Spin classes are often a go-to exercise for those who love the ‘runner’s high’ and have plenty of energy to expend. Opting for a stationary bike versus cycling outdoors is also a necessary precaution during pregnancy.
Precautions: Spinning classes can be intense – if you’re panting or gasping for breath you need to take it down a notch. Pregnancy is also not the time to join the keen-beans who stand during their spinning session, as it adds intensity and can stress extra-flexible joints. If you’re finding your lower back is suffering, relieve the tension by sitting back more – you’ll need to adjust the handlebars and bring them in a little closer to you.
If You’re Feeling: Strong
Your Normal Strength Routine
Why: If you were training hard before your pregnancy, there is no reason not to stay in the gym. Strength training is one of the best ways to minimize aches and pains, and weight machines are great as they control your range of motion, which is important as your joints increase in flexibility. Building upper body strength also helps with the biomechanics of motherhood – think lifting, bending and holding. A few modifications are all you need for a safe session, as well as aiming to maintain rather than build muscle.
Precautions: Steer clear of machines with pads that press on your belly, and give any exercises with overhead lifts a skip – these can increase the curve in your lower spine during pregnancy. Make sure that any advice you seek on modifying your workouts comes from a credible professional.
Why: Pilates helps maintain a powerful core, which will support your growing belly, minimize back pain and give you strength during delivery. It is also an excellent non-impact form of strength training that boosts your mood and energy.
Precautions: There is a lot of mat work in Pilates, which will mean modifications as you progress through your pregnancy. Make sure your Pilates instructor is skilled in prenatal training, or seek out a pregnancy-focused class. An angled foam spine support (found in most Pilates studios) will help keep your head higher than your belly during flat back exercises.
If You’re Feeling: Nervous
Prenatal Fitness Classes
Why: Pregnancy is not a smooth trip for many, and moms are often nervous – especially if it’s their first time. If you have access to prenatal exercise classes, sign up! Not only are the workouts modified for your pregnancy for a guaranteed safe experience, you’ll have the support of other moms-to-be in the class who are also going through what you’re going through.
Precautions: Almost none! If you’ve checked out the credibility of the instructor, you should be in very safe hands. Prenatal instructors will also be more sensitive to your needs and moods than the average instructor.
Why: If you’re determined to keep fit, sessions with a personal trainer are one of the safest ways to do it. You enjoy the company of an expert when it comes to modifying traditional exercises, and you’ll have the security of someone double checking your safety the whole way through your session.
Precautions: Credentials are a big one – make sure your trainer comes highly recommended by other moms-to-be.