Prenatal Exercise for a Fit Pregnancy
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise during pregnancy offers many benefits, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise may lower your risk of gestational diabetes, help control weight and possibly lower your risk for other health problems like preeclampsia, which can reduce your risk of having a Cesarean-section or preterm birth. Exercise can also improve your mood and reduce anxiety associated with pregnancy.
We recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week for healthy women that are pregnant—two to three times a week of resistance training or strength training, and two to three times a week of flexibility training to keep your body in good shape.
Types of Exercise
- Walking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics, and cycling on a stationary bike are all good forms of aerobic activity.
- As far as strength training, you can use machine weights, dumbbells or your own body weight to keep your muscles strong throughout your pregnancy.
- For flexibility training, try yoga or Pilates to help with the core and stretching.
Aerobic exercise is very important for a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Getting 30 minutes most days of the week would help your heart, your lungs and your mood. One of the things you could do is indoor cycling on a stationary bike. If you don't have access to one, you can always walk with a friend outside or meet up inside somewhere to walk.
One exercise you can do to strengthen your lower body is squats. You can do these in a gym or at home in front of your couch.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
- Put your arms out for balance
- Lower your body down toward the surface but don’t touch the surface, then slowly come back up.
- Keeping the abs strong, exhale on the way up and inhale on your way down to strengthen the legs and your glutes, which will keep your legs strong throughout your pregnancy
Another exercise to help keep your core strong during your pregnancy is something I like to call the bird dog.
- Start on the floor with your back in a tabletop position
- Take your right arm out and your left leg back, squeezing the glutes as you lift the leg
- Draw your abs in and take your elbow to meet your knee (or as close as you can) and extend it back out.
- Do 10 to 12 on one side, and then take it down and switch into the other arm and the opposite leg and repeat to keep your core and low back strong
Another good exercise to do for strength is a chest press or a push up. If you don't have access to a gym to do an upright chest press, which is good for the chest and shoulder muscles, you can always do a modified push-up on the floor or even one on the countertop or table. Make sure you draw your abs in when you do this so you will also work your core.
- Start with your hands on a countertop or table
- Draw abs in and tilt pelvis under
- Slowly lower your chest down toward the tabletop or counter and slowly come back up, all while keeping your hips in line and your abs tight
In the gym, you have lots of equipment to work abs, but at home you might have to get creative with it.
- Since you're not supposed to lay directly on your back after the first trimester, lay on your forearms or you can even use a resistance ball to help support your back and keep your chest lifted.
- Slowly bring one heel down to the floor and then the other using your abdominal muscles
- Do 10 to 12 of these
A good way to strengthen your arm muscles for lifting your baby is bicep curls.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells hammer style or forward
- Lift up to the shoulder and slowly lower them down
- Don’t let momentum take over – but slowly and controlled, lift them up and down for 10 to 12 repetitions
- If you're very active, you can do two to three sets. If you're a beginner, keep the weight very light and just do one set
Hamstring stretch is a good flexibility exercise. At home, you can do them on the floor or in a chair.
- Take your right leg up, holding on to a surface for balance if needed
- Lift the chest and fall forward just at the hips until you feel a mild pull in the back of your leg
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other leg
Using a pool to do your cardiovascular exercises is a great idea for pregnant women. Swimming takes the pressure off your back and other joints, so it feels better and may help relieve back pain. If you do water aerobics can keep that heart rate up also. Just be careful because you sweat in the water as well, so you want to stay hydrated while doing this.
Tips for Exercise
Don’t exercise in a hot, humid environment; this time of year, you may want to exercise indoors to stay cool. Be sure to drink lots of water before, during and after so you do not get dehydrated.
Exercises to Avoid
Avoid high intensity exercise, especially if you haven't been exercising, unless you consult your physician. Also, you want to avoid doing anything on your back like crunches after your first trimester, so you don't put too much pressure on your major arteries that go to your heart. Also avoid racquet sports and contact sports or anything that might cause you to fall.
The first step is to consult with your physician and get clearance. Then we can design a program to help you throughout your pregnancy.
In addition to health benefits, exercise can improve your mood and reduce anxiety associated with pregnancy.