Ah, the conundrum that is the prenatal workout. You want to stay fit but not push too hard. You want to keep things sweaty but safe. And all the while, you want to ensure that you’re moving appropriately for the trimester you’re in.
Based on what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology has to say, it’s generally safe to exercise throughout your pregnancy, provided you modify your exercise of choice for your changing body.
In fact, exercise is not only okay, but highly recommended. There’s a possibility that exercise may increase your chances of vaginal delivery (if that’s what you’re after), and decrease your chances of everything from hypertensive conditions to preterm birth.
Exercise during pregnancy also helps:
- Keep stress levels down.
- Improve your mood. (If you’re feeling really low or you have been feeling down for some time, check-in with your doctor. Prenatal depression is real and requires treatment.)
- Reduce pain in your lower back.
- Generally, keep you fit and strong over these nine months.
The recommendation? About 20 to 30 mins of low-intensity exercise, three to seven days a week throughout your pregnancy. Keep your workouts to under 45 minutes to avoid low blood sugar.
(Pssst. If you’re not feeling very motivated, we’re here to help.)
When should you start doing prenatal workouts?
You can start right away.
You may have heard that exercising in early pregnancy can lead to miscarriage—but, provided you stick to low-intensity pregnancy workouts, there is no evidence to suggest this.
Most exercises you were doing pre-pregnancy can be carried over into pregnancy—sometimes with a little modification.
Can you exercise 9 months pregnant?
Yes—although you may not feel like it.
You will likely want to stick to very gentle exercises at this point.
Steer clear of anything that makes you overexert yourself or puts you in any kind of danger.
The key is to listen to your body. It may not want much more than a gentle stroll.
What are the best prenatal workouts?
Focusing on some aerobic exercise and some strength training is a good way to go.
But, like any kind of workout at any time of life, the best prenatal workout is one that makes you feel good.
Not everyone likes the same kind of activity, so seriously, do what works for you.
Pregnancy workout plan
Every prenatal workout plan is going to be different. Here are some great activities to include:
This may feel like we’re stating the obvious here, but walking is pretty wonderful as a prenatal activity.
As this literature review shows us, walking has a variety of health benefits.
For example, it can potentially decrease the risk of GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus) for you and avoid low birth weight for your baby.
It’s also a manageable form of exercise even when you’re nauseous or exhausted.
Plus, walking in nature is a seriously good option when it comes to decreasing stress and fatigue and elevating mood. (Check out this study for more on this.)
And, unless you’ve specifically been told not to by your doctor, walking is generally okay to do at all stages of pregnancy.
If you have access to a swimmable body of water, you might find swimming to be your ideal pregnancy workout.
It’s low impact, can help reduce swelling and muscle pain, and keep you cool.
And while there is some debate about whether the disinfecting products in pools might have negative effects on your pregnancy, this study calms those fears.
Provided you stay away from too much jumping and high-intensity twirling, dancing can be a really fun way to keep fit while you’re pregnant.
Also, while more research is needed, there is a recent interest in dancing right up to and through labor as a way to increase comfort and reduce pain.
Prenatal fitness class
Many fitness classes are now available that are specifically tailored to the needs of pregnant women.
They contain a combination of aerobic and strength training activities that complement one another.
Prenatal classes can also be a great way to meet other women going through the same journey. (You know another great way to meet other pregnant peers? Peanut.)
Before you go to class, just check with your healthcare provider to see if there are any risks to you personally. Also, always tell your instructor that you are pregnant.
Here are our favorite prenatal exercise classes:
- Yoga. Prenatal yoga classes will help you get the best out of your class without the risks. The breathing and relaxation techniques that are such a huge part of yoga practice can go a long way to eliminate stress. Just go at your own pace and listen to your body.
- Barre. This ballet-inspired workout is a combo of dancing, pilates, and yoga.
- Spinning. Just watch the intensity and length of the class. And know that you can bow out at any time.
- Water aerobics. Get your aerobic exercise in a low-impact way while cooling down at the same time? Yes, please.
- Circuit training. A great way to get in both strength and cardio—just be gentle with yourself and don’t overdo it.
- Suspension training. Suspension trainers used in TRX (Total Resistance Exercise) can help relieve some muscle tension and aches and pains.
Pregnant exercise videos
Of course, in the uncertain world that Covid has brought us, getting together in person is easier said than done—so if you’d prefer to take your prenatal workout online, you can find everything from barre classes to prenatal yoga.
And sometimes just having it all available at a click of a button makes it that much easier to do.
Which exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?
There’s no doubt that the benefits of exercising are huge—but not all activities are ideal. Here are some exercises to stay away from:
- Hot yoga. Excessive heat is dangerous for your fetus and may affect the development of the spine. The bottom line? Keep your yoga chilled. For the same reason, stay away from saunas and hot tubs while you’re pregnant.
- Serious weight training/bodybuilding: Keeping strong is a good idea. Keeping the strongest you’ve ever been is not. This is not the time to lift very heavy weights. Particularly in later pregnancy, opt for weight machines rather than free weights.
- Any high-risk sports: Try to stay clear of anything that is going to cause you to fall or hurt yourself in any way. Staying away from contact sports like hockey and basketball is recommended—and maybe not the time to start extreme mountain climbing or whitewater rafting.
- Anything that makes you overdo it: If the exercise you are doing leaves you breathless, it’s time to mix things up. High-intensity training (HIIT, for example) is not a good idea.
Other than that, enjoy, mama!
More on looking after yourself while pregnant from The 411:
Exercise During Pregnancy: 8 Helpful Tips
Your Complete Guide to Pregnancy Workouts
How to Take Care of Yourself During Pregnancy
Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?
8 Healthy Pregnancy Meals
What Are the Best Prenatal Vitamins?
Getting a Flu Shot While Pregnant: All the Info