Staying fit and healthy during pregnancy is important for the well-being of both you and your baby, and the benefits of light exercise during this time are widely documented. Alongside improving sleep and boosting mood, specific exercises can help alleviate a whole host of symptoms associated with pregnancy, from back pain through to stress.
It’s recommended that pregnant women keep their heart rate below 140 beats per minute, but within that range, there are still loads of options for staying active during pregnancy. As a general rule, no- or low-impact exercise is best and it’s especially important to stay well hydrated. Above all, listen to your body: if it doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it, and be sure to speak to a medical professional before beginning an exercise regime.
Here are the five best exercises for pregnant women:
Carrying around that ever-increasing extra weight can wreak havoc on your posture, commonly causing back pains as your body – and baby – grows.
A great active option to consider in this case is swimming. With the water effectively supporting your body, it won’t jar the joints, unlike high-impact exercise like running. Added advantages include muscle toning and improved circulation, but best of all, swimming when pregnant creates a very welcome feeling of weightlessness, no matter what size you’ve reached.
Whilst it’s widely considered one of the safest activities out there for pregnant women, do remember that it can be harder to register feelings of thirst when you’re surrounded by all that water. Staying hydrated is important, so plan accordingly and top up on liquids during your swim.
Having a baby is a joyful, life-changing experience. But let’s be realistic for a moment: anxieties about impending motherhood, the physical toll on your body, and for many, financial pressures can all cause stress. Any exercise will help manage these inevitable feelings of worry, but yoga in particular is an especially good choice during pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga classes are widely available, and can be a great way of improving balance, circulation and strength, as well as providing low-impact exercise that’s great for toning a range of muscles. Just as important, it can also be very calming, placing an emphasis on breathing, relaxing and generally feeling attuned with your body – all important factors in the run-up to childbirth.
Specialist prenatal classes not only provide a great way to meet other expectant mums-to-be, instructors will also be trained in the dos and don’ts of yoga during pregnancy. Specifically, pregnant women should modify or even avoid certain abdominal poses, deep twists and inversions.
We all know by now that regular physical activity is good for us, but frankly speaking, not only is it not always practical, we also understand it’s not for everyone. If you weren’t especially sporty before getting pregnant, kicking off a new exercise regime once you’re expecting might not be such a great idea. However, there’s still an easy, inexpensive, low-impact activity that all expectant mothers could try: walking.
Unlike many other forms of exercise, walking can be done almost anywhere and requires minimal equipment: all that’s needed is a good pair of shoes that offer adequate support. A great cardiovascular exercise, regular brisk walking can get the heart pumping and strengthen abdominal muscles. Good posture is important, and as with all types of exercise during pregnancy, make sure to stretch thoroughly both before and after you walk to keep muscles limber.
Love the feeling of weightlessness you get from swimming but finding all those laps a little tedious? A fun alternative might be prenatal aqua aerobic classes, widely available and great for meeting fellow mums-to-be.
As with swimming, aqua aerobics – also known as water aerobics – is a great low-impact option for toning a range of muscles. Where conventional aerobics places stress on ligaments and joints, the water’s buoyancy supports the body, minimizing the risk of injury
As with its land-based alternative, an instructor will lead the group in a series of movements in chest-high water, usually to music. Working against the water’s resistance is a great way to improve stamina, whist its buoyancy allows for stretches that many pregnant women find impossible outside of the pool.
Another plus: the water’s temperature will keep you from overheating during your workout, but as with swimming, be sure to stay well hydrated, even though you may not feel thirsty.
Finally, whilst they won’t provide endorphin-releasing energy boosts, practicing Kegel exercises is a sensible habit to embrace in the run-up to childbirth. Kegel exercises work by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles: supporting the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum, they can suffer damage during pregnancy and childbirth, often resulting in incontinence. By improving circulation, they can also help prevent hemorrhoids and give women more control over their muscles during labor.
All in all, exercise puts mums-to-be on track for a healthy pregnancy, and helps prepare the body for childbirth by strengthening muscles and building stamina. Looking beyond labor, staying in shape now means it will be much easier to shed the baby weight. If you’ve never been the sporty type before, there’s no better time to kick-start healthy habits for you and your baby to see you through pregnancy, motherhood and beyond.
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.
A collective group of “lady experts” at Intimina who love sharing our personal experiences, even when they are a little too personal. We believe it’s time to start breaking down the taboos around menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and start owning our female health.