Pregnancy isn’t the time to start training for an ultramarathon, but a moderate amount of exercise can have many positive effects for future moms. The best benefit is the greater sense of calm and well-being, and exercise can also potentially decrease your risk of C-section, decrease fetal stress, and shorten your time in labor. Before you begin any exercise program, however, you should consult with your obstetrician, especially if you were living a relatively inactive life before you got pregnant. The main point to remember when exercising while pregnant is to listen to your body–don’t strain or overexert yourself. Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
• Avoid exercises where you are lying on your back for a prolonged period
• Stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day
• As your pregnancy progresses don’t do exercises that focus on balance
• Exercises that aren’t weight bearing will reduce your risk of injury
With those things in mind, here are four great, mild to moderate exercises that can help you stay fit while pregnant.
Basic Yoga Routine
Yoga is the perfect exercise for moms-to-be. Its focus on holding postures and deliberately controlling your movements is low impact and great for people trying to avoid any potential injuries. The mind-body aspect of yoga can also reduce the natural levels of stress that come with pregnancy and thoughts of the future. And studies have found that prenatal yoga leads to significantly less discomfort at the end of pregnancy, during weeks 38-40. Here is a basic yoga routine, though you should feel free to modify it, based on the poses you prefer.
Kegels help make labor easier, and they can also prevent bladder leaks and hemorrhoids, some common side effects of pregnancy. And, they’re one of the easiest exercises you can do. Simply contract the muscles of the pelvic floor, the same ones you use to hold your pee. Hold the muscles for three seconds, relax, and then repeat. A set consists of doing this contraction about 25 times; do 3-4 sets at a time, several times a day. The best thing about kegels is that you can do them anywhere– no one can tell what you’re doing! And strengthening your urethra, bladder, and uterus will help stave off incontinence later in life and make your orgasms stronger in the meantime.
Swimming is the perfect cardio exercise for pregnancy. It’s completely low impact and has a low risk of injuries. You aren’t adding any weight to your already stressed out joints, and you’re unlikely to become overheated while in the pool. Many pregnant women love swimming because being in the water returns an ease of movement they haven’t felt since before they got pregnant. During the first and second trimester you can safely swim up to 30 minutes a day, or longer if you feel up to it. In the third trimester, the breast stroke can help align back and chest muscles that can get out of whack during pregnancy.
Yes, I know it’s not that exciting, but walking is a great way to stay active while you’re pregnant. The low-impact exercise gets your heart rate up, without the risk of knee stress or falling that comes with jogging and running. Make sure you’ve got good shoes, and some good music or podcasts to keep your entertained.