Pregnant women can enjoy most forms of exercise if they take some precautions or seek out workouts specifically tailored to pregnant women. Because starting or continuing any form of exercise, make sure to consult your doctor.
Pregnant women should exercise so long as they are comfortable.. Doctors recommend 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. Good exercises include swimming, weight training and prenatal yoga and Pilates, but even something as simple as a brisk walk has cardiovascular benefits. According to the American Pregnancy Association, workouts that donâ€™t put stress on weight-bearing joints like the knees are best.
Women in their second and third trimesters should avoid exercises that require them to lie on their backs. Other exercises to avoid: any contact sports, sports that may involve falling (rock climbing, gymnastics) and scuba diving. Scuba diving should not be done at any time during pregnancy, as restricted oxygen may be harmful to the developing fetus.
Prenatal yoga is all the rage, and for good reason. It is a terrific way to increase flexibility and reduce stress without strain on the joints. The breathing exercises taught in yoga help expectant mothers calm themselves during labor.
Joints loosen during pregnancy, so care must be taken not to overdo stretches. For this reason, some yoga practitioners advise that pregnant women avoid Bikram yoga, since the heat also has a joint-loosening effect.
Women should avoid poses that require them to lie on their backs. Use props, padding and support as necessary.
Pilates is often specifically recommended for pregnant women because it can strengthen the pelvic floor and Kegel muscles. Toning up these core muscles can make for both an easier delivery and a faster recovery from childbirth. All Pilates sessions are tailored to the individual, which makes it especially easy for Pilates instructors to make modifications for expecting women as their pregnancy progresses.
Swimming is perhaps one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women, especially women in their second and third trimesters. It is low-impact, easy on the joints, and a good form of cardio exercise. Women who feel heavy and ungainly will especially relish the sense of weightlessness that water exercise provides. The breaststroke helps lengthen the back muscles, easing the back pain so common in pregnancy.
Pregnant women (not to mention new moms) can benefit from weight training. Weight training can build stamina and strength, both of which will come in handy when giving birth or toting an infant. Women in their second and third trimesters should not lie on a bench to lift free weights. In general, any situation where a weight could fall on the stomach should be avoided. Ideally, pregnant women should sit down when lifting weights. Resistance bands help create stress on the muscles without adding weight.
The general rule of thumb with weight training while pregnant: more repetitions, lower weight.
Regardless of the exercise you choose, concentrate on certain body parts:
- Strengthening the back can prevent strain and discomfort as the belly grows.
- Work on the outer hips can also help hips from becoming sore as muscles ache from pregnancy.
- For toting baby after pregnancy, work now on the arms. Weight training, like seated bicep curls, can help.
- Avoid working on the abs and inner thighs. Those muscles are already loosened from the stresses of pregnancy. Targeting them directly risks injury.