Best Pregnancy Exercises
Updated 10-03-2021 – Lucy Walters
Right from the very moment you see those two blue or pink lines, you start preparing for your new life in every way possible. Now, this should include you getting ready physically as well, keeping yourself physically strong and fit, so you and your little one can pass in flying colours!
Having a proper workout plan and exercising regularly during your pregnancy can make you stay healthy, for you and your baby. Following a proper pregnancy exercise routine can improve your health; reduce the occurrences of some common pains pregnant women encounter, like backache; reduce fatigue, which again is quite common during pregnancy; prevent you from gaining excess weight; and can even make your delivery a bit easier by improving your stamina. Also, being physically active during pregnancy can help prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes experienced during pregnancy) and improves your mental wellness too. Above all, exercising regularly when you are pregnant can give your little one a healthier start to life as well.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
It is a well-known fact that your body changes during pregnancy. If you have been an active person all your life, or even for a few years before getting pregnant, you should have no problem in carrying on with your regular workouts in moderation, of course, with an OK from your gynaecologist. But, if you become complacent, taking pregnancy as your free pass to skip workouts, you are basically closing down on any connection or conversation with your body during this vital phase, which means you will have to start from scratch all over again when you wish to establish a pregnancy workout regime or your doctor advises you to do the same.
According to the American Pregnancy Association and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), exercising during pregnancy:
- reduces swelling, bloating, constipation, and backache
- increases the chance of vaginal birth
- lowers the chances of excessive weight gain during pregnancy, C-section birth, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and low birth weight
- improves your posture
- improves your mood
- increases your stamina and energy
- promotes endurance and strength
- helps you sleep better
- makes it easier to get back into your regular active lifestyle after giving birth
Similarly, a study published in the Sports Health journal revealed the following:
Moderate-intensity physical activity during the first half of or throughout pregnancy decreases the risk of babies being large for their gestational age. Also, there is no negative impact on fetal development caused by exercise during pregnancy.
- Exercise during pregnancy can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
- Exercising regularly during pregnancy may reduce the duration of labour as well as reduce the chances of C-section and instrumental or operative-assisted vaginal delivery.
- Regular exercise during pregnancy helps prevent and manage gestational diabetes. Even in women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, performing resistance exercises can reduce the chances of requiring insulin during the rest of their pregnancy.
- Pregnancy workouts also help modulate maternal weight gain.
Warning and Precautions
Before you start exercising during pregnancy, you need to consult with your gynaecologist or healthcare provider and get their OK, because, after a thorough examination, your doctor might advise you to not work out at that specific time for different reasons. Some of those reasons are:
- Cervical issues like weak cervix
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Medical issues like heart disease, lung disease, asthma, etc.
- Persistent spotting or bleeding
- Low placenta
- Risk of preterm labour
- Severe anemia
- Threatened miscarriage
If your doctor gives you the OK and you start following a regular pregnancy exercise routine, there could be times when you may have to stop working out, which include the following signs and symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the abdomen
- Chest pain
- Painful contractions
- Leakage of amniotic fluid
- Calf pain or swelling
- Decreased fetal movement
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath) before a physical activity
And when you follow a pregnancy workout routine, there are certain precautions you should keep in mind and follow:
Warm Up, Stretch, and Cool Down
As you would be aware, warming up, stretching, and cooling down are essential parts of working out, and it is especially important during pregnancy. Warming up before starting your workout prepares all your muscles and joints for activities, thereby preventing strain. When you are pregnant, your heart rate will be higher than usual; therefore, warming up is an excellent way to keep your heart rate at a moderate pace, and cooling down after your workout sessions also helps with the same. Stretching and cooling down after exercising will gradually bring your heart to its resting state.
When you have a new life growing inside of you, it becomes all the more crucial that you don’t get dehydrated during your workouts because it can lead to contractions, and also, your body temperature can reach a level that can be harmful to you as well as your little one. Therefore, drink lots of water before, during, and after your exercise. If you feel dizzy, find your heart racing, or notice dark yellow colour urine or that you are urinating less frequently or in small amounts, these could be signs of dehydration.
Avoid exercises that increase the risk of your getting injured and those that can throw you off your balance. As your baby grows and your belly gets bigger, your body naturally becomes less stable, which means you will not be at your best state in terms of balance. Therefore, avoid workouts and sports like gymnastics, skiing, scuba diving, and those that involve prolonged standing, and laying on your back (supine position) after the first trimester.
Regardless of whether you are just starting to be physically active because you were advised by your doctor, or you are generally a physically active person or even a pro athlete, just remember that pregnancy is not the time to test your endurance or strength, begin a whole new workout routine, or lose weight. The main reason behind practicing the best pregnancy exercises is to keep yourself healthy during this important phase in your life and make your baby feel the same. Therefore, do your workouts in moderation, starting with 5 to 10 minutes a day, 3 to 4 days a week, and then move on to 30 to 45 minutes on most or all days of the week.
Best Exercises for a Healthier Pregnancy
There are many exercises that are safe to be practiced during pregnancy, given that you do the same in moderation. Here are some of the safest and efficient ones:
Walking is one of the very few exercises that you can do throughout the 9 months of your pregnancy if you are comfortable doing it. It is also the best way to start a fresh workout routine if you were not an active person before pregnancy. It doesn’t require much; a quick stroll around your neighbourhood or even brisk walking in your backyard will be extremely helpful. Some of the other ways you could include walking in your daily routine are by walking to the neighbourhood store for grocery shopping rather than driving, going around the community park, or join a friend on morning walks for an entertaining company. Walking is a workout that will have less to no impact on your ankles and knees while keeping you healthy and fit during the most important months of your life.
Yoga is a physical activity that benefits you both physically and mentally. It helps improve and maintain your posture and flexibility and is more gentle on your joints than any other traditional workout.
It also works on toning your body, reduces your chances of getting injured, stimulates blood circulation, strengthens your muscles, and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Mentally, yoga during pregnancy makes you feel more calm and relaxed and helps you remain calm and composed during labour and delivery. You can join a prenatal yoga class, online or physical class, with a certified yoga instructor, and you will notice the difference in no time.
Swimming, water aerobics, and hydrotherapy are all safe and ideal as pregnancy workouts. Swimming works your whole body, from arms and legs to even your heart and lungs, and you will absolutely love swimming especially during the later stages of pregnancy, when your belly is huge, because the water will make you feel weightless, which can also be relieving. When swimming, practice the strokes that you are most comfortable doing because the goal is to not strain your back, and since the water will be supporting your body weight, the risk of injuries to your joints also decreases. If you like taking group classes or want to meet other mums-to-be, you could join an aquanatal or aqua/water aerobics class.
Jogging / Running
If you used to job or run on a regular basis before finding out that you are pregnant, you could continue with the activity even during your pregnancy, as long as you feel comfortable and your doctor gives the green signal. Running is an amazing aerobic workout that works your body and heart, and your baby will not be harmed by the movement.
This is a low-impact pregnancy workout that is known to be safe even for those of you who are new to exercising. Cycling on a stationary bike is the best-recommended method because you can get going with your workout even as your belly grows, which can otherwise put you off your balance if you do actual cycling. Stationary cycling is a great way to increase your heart rate without applying too much pressure on your joints or pelvis.
Pilates focuses on helping you improve your posture, flexibility, balance, and strength, which makes it an efficient pregnancy workout type that will mould your body to comfortably manage the extra weight it is carrying. It also strengthens your core muscles, and more importantly, your pelvic floor muscles. When you join a pilates class, make it a point to let your instructor know that you are pregnant, so she can assist you accordingly and teach you appropriate exercises.
Strength training workouts work towards making your muscles stronger, and you can practice some basic workouts in the category, like push-ups, squats, using weights, walking uphill, etc.
Pregnancy Workout Tips
Following are some basic tips/guidelines that pregnant women should keep in mind during their workouts:
- When it comes to your workout clothes, wear light and loose-fitting clothes that make you feel comfortable and are easy to remove as well.
- Always exercise on a flat and level surface.
- Wear a sports bra that offers good support to your growing breasts, is comfortable, and fits well too.
- Do not eat anything at least an hour before starting your workouts.
- Do not overheat yourself when working out.
- If you do a floor exercise, get on your feet very slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
- Drink water before, during, and after your workout.
- Do not exhaust yourself; if you find it difficult to breathe or your heart is pumping faster than usual, slow down and stop your workout gradually.
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