While marathons and supercharged gym sessions may be out of the question, you shouldn’t stop physical activity entirely. Certain exercises during pregnancy are not only safe, but also essential to achieving optimal prenatal health. Staying active when you’re expecting can help alleviate back pain, protect your joints from wear and tear, improve sleep, prevent constipation and better prepare your body for the physical demands of labor.
Play It Safe
The most important rule is to not do anything that puts your baby bump at risk for physical trauma. This includes contact sports or activities that carry a high risk of falling, such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, tennis, football, soccer and basketball. When walking or jogging, avoid rocky or uneven terrain. You should also avoid working out in extremely hot weather. Since you’re going to be pregnant for at least three seasons, you will likely have to adjust your exercise routine as the weather changes. And remember, stay hydrated!
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the following pregnancy-safe exercises unless otherwise advised by your physician:
1. Walking. No matter your current fitness level, walking is a safe, easy way for all pregnant women to stay active.
2. Aerobics. Many of your favorite aerobic exercises and classes — including yoga, Pure Barre and Zumba — also have prenatal versions that are safe for expecting moms. Yoga in particular strengthens and increases preparation for labor.
3. Running. The ACOG endorses running as long as you ran regularly prior to becoming pregnant. Now that you are pregnant, limit your runs to shorter distances at a slower pace. You should never run so hard that you become breathless or extremely fatigued.
4. Cycling. As your belly grows, you may find it increasingly uncomfortable to run. It may be beneficial to transition to stationary cycling in your second or third trimester. Stationary cycling eliminates bouncing movement and takes belly weight off your legs.
5. Swimming. Moving around in the pool is one of the best-suited exercises for pregnancy, especially in your third trimester. The water’s buoyancy alleviates the discomfort of your expanding belly and reduces strain on your joints.
A Word on Weights
Weight training can also be a safe form of prenatal exercise. However, the ACOG does not recommend any form of exercise that requires women to lie in the supine position (on their backs) after the first trimester. This includes bench presses and similar free-weight exercises.
Consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.