Even if you’ve never been a fitness buff, pregnancy can be the perfect time to start an exercise routine. The benefits to you and your baby are great motivators for adding a workout to your routine. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that nearly every pregnant woman can benefit from a starting a fitness program. Continuing to work out right up to your due date can help lower your risk of gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, low back pain, and complications during labor and delivery. Read on for tips to help you get started with a prenatal fitness program.
Some prenatal conditions make exercise unsafe, so check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s okay for you to get started. If you don’t have much exercise experience, think about taking an instructor-led prenatal exercise class. It’s a great way to get supervised instruction and monitoring to keep your routine safe.
Best Activities for Beginners
There are plenty of low-impact, fun, and effective exercise options for pregnant women. In fact, many of the cardiovascular workouts you do regularly are suitable to continue during pregnancy. Here are some of the best workouts for your prenatal fitness program.
This is one of the best choices for beginners as we all know how to do it, and you can usually build in a walking route near your home or work. If the weather makes outdoor walking an issue, think about switching to an indoor track or even taking laps around the mall.
This activity is perfect for pregnancy as the buoyancy of water takes the stress off your joints. You can take a water aerobics class or swim on your own. Either way, any time spent in the water will feel great.
Stationary Exercise Equipment
A stationary bike, elliptical machine, or other cardio machine are great options to safely build fitness. You’re able to control the pace and duration of your workout so you can work at your desired level of intensity. Just remember to get a tutorial from a fitness instructor before using a new piece of equipment.
Instructor Lead Prenatal Class
The gold standard for pregnant women who wants to get fit during pregnancy. In an instructor lead class, you’ll have someone to help you keep your workout safe, as well as the fun opportunity to meet other pregnant women.
Aaptiv also has multiple maternity programs in-app. These programs are led by pre- and postnatal certified trainers and divided by trimester so you’re always equipped with workouts specific to each week in your pregnancy experience.
Activities To Avoid
Of course not all exercise is safe for pregnant women. As you body changes and your belly grows, your center of balance changes and it can be hard and even dangerous to perform some activities. Here are some workouts to avoid in your prenatal fitness program.
The risk of an abdominal injury from soccer or basketball make these types of sports too risky for pregnancy. Always make sure you have at least two legs lengths between you and other participants when exercising, and avoid high impact activity such as kickboxing or boxing.
Balance issues can increase during pregnancy making sports such as downhill skiing or mountain biking riskier. If you are skilled in these types of sport and want to continue doing them, pay close attention to how your body is adapting to the sport as your pregnancy progresses. If you notice that your balance is getting worse try modifying the activity (do easier ski runs or switch out hilly biking terrain for flatter trails). Cut the sport if you continue to feel unstable while doing it.
High Altitude Sports
Going from a low altitude to high altitude puts you and your baby at risk due to the reduced oxygen at high elevations. Check with your doctor before heading off to the mountains for skiing or hiking, and monitor for the following signs of hypoxia (low oxygen).
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing and/or a cough
Hot Yoga, Hot Tubs, and Saunas
Sustained high heat conditions during the first trimester have been associated with fetal neural tube abnormalities. It’s a good idea to avoid any exposure to high heat conditions throughout your pregnancy. Remember, if you feel overheated your fetus is overheated too.
Tips For A Great Prenatal Workout
Always hydrate before, during, and after exercise.Your urine color should be fairly clear. If it’s dark yellow, it’s a sign you’re not drinking enough water. Always keep a liter bottle of water with you and sip throughout the day to make sure you get the recommended eight to ten cups of fluid a day.
Fuel Your Body
Eat a protein-rich snack 30 minutes before your workout. Protein rich foods will provide a slow-burning source of energy throughout your workout. Try peanut butter on slices of apples or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with granola. Both of these offer a perfect combination of protein, fats, and carbs.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Always ease your way into and out of any physical activity. Give your body time to adjust to the increased intensity and your heart rate a chance to gradually rise. The best way to warm up is to slowly increase your activity for the first five minutes of your workout. Cool down by slowing down your intensity for the last five minutes of exercise.
Avoid High Heat and Humidity
The best way to reduce your internal temperature is through sweat evaporation. High humidity reduces evaporative heat loss. So to avoid you or your fetus overheating, switch to an air-conditioned room for workouts when the heat index is in the danger zone.
Protect Your Skin
Your risk of melasma (dark pigmentation spots) is higher during pregnancy. When working out outdoors, wear clothing that wicks sweat and protects your skin from sun damage. Wearing broad spectrum, high SPF protection, and a hat will help prevent melasma and skin damage.
Exercise and Rest Rule
Build in a rest period after exercise. A rule of thumb is to rest for as much time as you work out. Rest is as important as exercise. This is especially true for pregnant women who may feel tired more often than they’re used to. So always allow your body time to repair and recover.
Keep It Comfortable
Modify your workout for comfort and safety. As your pregnancy progresses your body may have a harder time with your usual workout. Continue exercising by swapping out an activity that causes more discomfort with one that puts less stress on your body (such as switching from running to walking or indoor cycling). Remember, if it hurts, don’t keep doing it. There are plenty of alternatives to try.
Pregnancy is the perfect time to add exercise to your routine as a mom-to-be. If you’ve never exercised before, pregnancy can be your motivation to build healthy lifestyle habits that can last a lifetime for you and your baby.
Catherine Cram is an exercise physiologist and a leading expert in the field of maternal fitness. Her consulting company, “Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness” specializes in providing the most current maternal exercise information and continuing education courses to health and fitness professionals.