6 Workouts for Pregnant Women (and Why/How You Should Do Them)

Category: Posted on: 05/10/18 5:21 PM

A pregnant woman working out on an inflatable exercise ball.

We know that the last thing on your mind when pregnant is working out. Pregnancy can make it harder to be active, but there are a lot of benefits to it! Don’t worry, like exercising in general, keeping active is a lot easier than getting active while pregnant. So, let’s get right into it with some benefits of a pregnancy workout routine.

Benefit 1:  You’ll more likely avoid prenatal depression.

A lot of pregnant women experience depression due to the hormone changes that come with it. If you work out in bright light, however, you’re much more likely to avoid this. This is a huge win in our books, because depression can wreak havoc and make pregnancy harder in general.

Benefit 2: You’ll have more energy.

Let’s be honest – most of us don’t want to get moving. This is especially true when you’re pregnant. With pregnancy, diet and exercise can really give you a boost in energy to help you tackle the rest of the day. Even a quick 10 minute power-walk will revitalize you.

Benefit 3: Your back will thank you.

Back pain just sort of comes with pregnancy. It makes sense; your back is carrying a lot of added weight. With certain workouts during pregnancy, yoga for example, you can really strengthen your core and back and relieve some of that pain.

Benefit 4: You’ll likely gain less weight.

This is going to help with the back pain. You could gain up to 7 pounds less than the average pregnant woman, and still stay within the healthy weight-gain range.

Benefit 5: You can be more relaxed when uncomfortable.

This one applies mostly to prenatal yoga. Especially when practiced during pregnancy, yoga can really help relieve a lot of stress. With its emphasis on deep breathing, meditation and the like, yoga is truly perfect for relaxing, especially when experiencing discomfort.

Benefit 6: You’ll feel more confident.

And last, but certainly not least, is the confidence boost! When you complete a workout while pregnant, you’re probably going to get a quick boost in confidence. This will spill over into your general day-to-day life, and make you feel much more confident on the whole.

Tips for safe workouts while pregnant

We mentioned it before, but the best bet for a safe workout while pregnant relies on whether you worked out before you got pregnant. If you did, feel free to follow a more involved pregnancy workout routine. If not, don’t worry too much about it as it could strain your body. Just stick to power-walking and some stretches. That said, here are some other tips for safe workouts while pregnant!

Tip 1: Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting a workout routine.

Your doctor will know best about whether or not you should start or continue an exercise regimen while pregnant. If you have a somewhat uncomplicated pregnancy, it should be safe, but it’s still best to consult your doctor. There are some cases where it’s not at all okay to exercise during pregnancy, however, so you will definitely want to make sure you’re not on that list before proceeding.

Tip 2: Warm up before each workout.

This goes without saying usually, but it’s especially important for a pregnancy workout routine. It prepares your muscles and joints for exercise and slowly increases your heart-rate instead. Without a pre-workout warm up, you’re likely to find yourself with more aches and pains than otherwise.

Tip 3: Don’t lie on your back.

This is because the weight of your uterus after the first trimester is going to be pressing down on a major vein. This will reduce blood flow to your heart, and could affect your brain and uterus as well. It will likely cause dizziness, and could make you feel nauseated. It’s a good idea to put pillows or something else under your shoulders to prop your back up a bit when working out like this.

Tip 4: Don’t over-do it.

You’re definitely going to want to slow down after you hit a certain point. You don’t want to workout until you’re exhausted. As usual, listen to your body. If you can’t keep going or something hurts when you do it, stop.

Tip 5: Be careful not to over-stretch.

A hormone that comes out during pregnancy, Relaxin, will let all of the ligaments in your body stretch more than they usually would. This seems really great, but you do need to be cautious when stretching. During pregnancy, yoga can be extremely beneficial but also somewhat dangerous for this reason. The rule of thumb is this: Don’t go too deep into a pose.

Tip 6: Avoid workouts with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma.

This one is a bit obvious, but still important to say outright. You want to avoid heavier sports like basketball, soccer, gymnastics and more. This is to prevent damage to the abdomen and uterus during pregnancy.

Guidelines for safe workouts while pregnant

For moms who were active before pregnancy:

As mentioned before, this is where your previous activity level comes into play. If you were active before your pregnancy, it’s usually safe to continue working out as often as you were before. That is, as long as the intensity isn’t too high for your body to handle, and the exercises are safe.

For moms who weren’t as active before pregnancy:

This is where you want to check with your doctor before doing anything. If they give you the go-ahead, you can start with two to three days per week of very low intensity exercise, eventually working up to most days per week.

In general:

Don’t go to the gym once or twice a week and bombard yourself with a longer, higher intensity workout and expect that to hold you over. This can actually hurt you in the long run. You would be better off committing to smaller-scale, shorter, lower-intensity workouts each day of the week.

6 Safe Workouts

From pregnancy yoga to swimming and Pilates, there are actually a lot of things you can do to stay in shape and keep active while pregnant. So, without further ado, here are six safe workouts while pregnant:

1) Walking

This is one of the most common exercises for pregnant women. It’s safe for just about everyone, especially pregnant women at the start of their exercise journey. A brisk walk isn’t likely to have you falling over and you can easily control how hard you push yourself. It also is low impact and is a great heart rate exercise; pregnancy calls for a healthy heart, after all.

2) Swimming

Swimming is a full-body workout, and like walking, it’s very easy to control your exertion with basically no falling risk at all. It’s a great cardiovascular workout, and provides limited muscle strain as the water supports your weight. All in all, swimming is a great workout for pregnant women.

3) Light weight training

A pregnant woman in a yoga pose on the floor.

We mean it – Light. With some light weight training, you can see some benefits in strength and flexibility, which helps adapt the body for some of the changes that happen during pregnancy. If focusing on lower back strength, you can really help your body deal with any potential back strains from the added weight.

4) Prenatal yoga

This one’s great for a lot of things, as mentioned in the Why section. The stretches that come with yoga help improve flexibility and can help relax your muscles. The meditation and deep breathing exercises help you relax your mind. In general, during pregnancy, yoga is one of the best workouts you can do. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you’re going to need to go to a class or meet with an instructor that does workouts for pregnant women. Other than that, you want to avoid over-stretching.

5) Pilates

Pilates is one of those workouts you can do in basically every trimester. It will help you build stamina, which is really necessary to give birth. Pilates exercises can also help your core strengthen, which can help you when it comes to back pains. It also can feature Kegel exercises, which will ultimately help you when it comes to any bladder issues you might have after birth.

6) Cycling

While biking itself can be a good workout for pregnant women, it’s even safer to ride a stationary bike. It’s a great cardiovascular workout, and will help you work out your leg muscles. This will be especially helpful when you’re carrying the extra weight of a baby on your feet.

Bonus: 6 UnSafe Workouts

So, we just gave you 6 workouts to look forward to for your pregnancy, but it’s time to touch on the ones you really should avoid. This is mostly to make sure you don’t accidentally hurt yourself, and you can absolutely ask your doctor for a more complete list.

1) Heavy weight training

We mentioned this in the section about light weight training, but heavy weight training is bad news. It can seriously strain your cardiovascular system as well as your musculoskeletal system. It might not be the be-all-end-all of bad exercises for pregnancy, but you want to avoid it, nonetheless.

2) Contact sports

This one’s a bit obvious, but it still bears saying. Don’t go in on any heavy contact sports like hockey, soccer and basketball. You’ll be risking abdominal trauma, joint stress and potential falls – none of which are good for you or your baby.

3) Balance workouts

Anything that tests your balance is an obvious no-go, here. You don’t want any risk to fall, whatsoever. This includes gymnastics and skiing, of course. If you can alter the exercise somehow to avoid any fall risks, go for it. Unless you can do that, though, you’d do best to avoid it.

4) Hot yoga

You’re going to want to avoid anything that introduces your body to excessive heat, to be honest. That includes hot tubs, hot yoga, or working out in the sweltering heat. If working out at all causes you to feel overheated, you’re going to want to reduce the intensity or finish your workout altogether.

5) Holding your breath during a workout

This one isn’t quite a workout so much as it is something that happens during a workout. You don’t want to limit oxygen to your body (and your baby.)  This includes scuba diving due to large amounts of pressure, as well. You’re also going to want to avoid any sorts of yoga that involves heavy breath-work that involves holding your breath.

6) High-impact aerobics

You’re going to want to avoid anything that causes you to bounce around. This can jostle the baby and just in general cause a higher risk of injury due to your loosened joints.

That’s about it! We hope we’ve helped you on your journey to a healthier, fitter you.