Pregnancy is a magical time, but it can also be downright uncomfortable! Fortunately, regular exercise can help reduce unpleasant symptoms, such as aches and pains, excessive weight gain, and even your chance of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Best of all, regular exercise can help you have a smoother labor and delivery! With your doctor’s permission, the following exercises can help you stay healthy and happy until delivery day (and beyond).
Walking is one of the best prenatal exercises, especially for those who were sedentary prior to pregnancy. If walking for 30 minutes sounds intimidating, begin by taking the stairs, parking farther from the door, or tracking your steps with a pedometer. You can also incorporate 10-minute walking sessions into your day, such as before work, during your lunch break, and after dinner. Small steps can truly make a big difference!
Low-impact water activities are perfect for pregnant women, especially in late pregnancy. Refreshing, cool water and a wonderfully buoyant feeling can provide amazing relief from aches, pains, and stress. Additionally, a 2010 study found that swimmers have a reduced risk for preterm labor. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, try water walking, water aerobics, or even an aqua dance class. The possibilities are endless!
Indoor cycling is a great option for expectant mothers. In addition to being low-impact, indoor cycling is less risky than outdoor cycling, where the elements and road conditions may cause falls or injury. New exercisers should try to cycle for at least 10 minutes at a low-to-moderate intensity, while experienced exercisers may prefer a heart-pumping group cycling class. Whichever option you prefer, keep in mind that you’ll have to adjust your bike as your belly grows. To accommodate changing proportions, raise your handlebars to sit more upright and adjust your seat for maximum comfort. It’s also vital to stay hydrated, pace yourself, and listen to your body. If you feel lightheaded or winded, it’s time to take a break.
If you’re new to exercise (or just plain sore), low-resistance, low-incline elliptical training is a knee-friendly alternative to walking. If you’re craving a bit more intensity, add some intervals, vary your resistance, or try one of the machine’s pre-programmed workouts. Like indoor cycling, elliptical workouts can be adjusted to suit all fitness levels. Just remember to keep your intensity in the low-to-moderate range, stay cool and hydrated, and stop exercising immediately if you feel any discomfort or unusual symptoms.
Prenatal yoga is a particularly therapeutic form of exercise. Research confirms that this ancient activity can improve sleep and decrease pregnancy-related lower back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and nausea. Prenatal yoga classes are also a great place to socialize with other expecting moms, which can reduce pre-birth jitters and the likelihood of developing postpartum depression. Better yet, this gentle form of exercise can help prepare your body for delivery!
Pilates, a core-focused form of exercise typically performed on the floor, can be modified to suit the prenatal population. Research has shown that Pilates exercise can prepare your body for pregnancy by strengthening and stabilizing your core, pelvis, and spine to prevent injury and pain as your body changes. Pilates is also an excellent way to recover from mild diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) after birth. Trust us, your core can benefit from Pilates practice before, during, and after pregnancy!
Remember, it’s important to consult with your doctor before beginning a prenatal fitness program. While exercise is beneficial for most healthy pregnant women, many conditions can make physical activity dangerous. When you’re cleared to exercise, we’re here to help you stay active and healthy! VHP offers many classes that are appropriate for prenatal clients, including beginner walking, yoga, cycling, and Pilates classes. Simply log-on to register for a live fitness class or peruse our media library.