Pregnancy can bring on its fair share of discomforts: back aches, swollen ankles and bloating are just a few. But did you know that exercise is one of the best cures for these pregnancy symptoms? And that’s especially true if you do the right exercises. Whether you were an athlete before you got pregnant or you’re starting from scratch, this article can help you get the most out of your pregnancy fitness routines.
When it comes to exercising during pregnancy, the safest bet is to pick low-impact aerobic exercises that work up a sweat without straining the joints and muscles. These include swimming, walking and elliptical training (at a moderate pace). Some people find that yoga or Pilates are great workouts for pregnant women, too—but be sure to find an instructor who has experience with pregnancy-specific movements and is familiar with modification for pregnant clients. You should also avoid moves that compress the belly, such as twisting toward your midline or bending at your waist.
You can find pregnancy-specific classes at many gyms and studios, too. But if you’re not comfortable in a group setting, try doing exercises at home with the guidance of a DVD or online video.
The amount of aerobic exercise you should do each week during pregnancy will vary based on your level of activity before becoming pregnant. Healthy pregnant women are advised to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. A good way to judge if you’re exercising at the right intensity is to use the talk test: If you can comfortably hold a conversation while doing your exercise, you’re probably not working too hard.
In addition to aerobic exercise, you should also focus on strength training. Studies show that resistance exercises can increase the strength and muscle mass of your muscles. However, it’s important to avoid lifting heavy weights during pregnancy. That’s because the added weight can put too much pressure on your joints and cause aches and pains.
If you’re a beginner, you should start with light weights and gradually increase the resistance as you become more confident. You can also incorporate some plyometric exercises, such as jumping rope or high-low knee jumps.
Other forms of non-aerobic strength training are also good for pregnant women. These exercises can improve your balance and coordination, which is important for preventing falls during pregnancy, when the risk is greatest.
Remember to drink lots of water—preferably before, during and after exercise—to stay hydrated. When you’re pregnant, you’ll need to drink even more fluids, as the extra blood flowing through your body increases your thirst. The amount of fluids you need will be even higher if you’re sweating a lot. If you’re unsure how much water to drink, ask your health care provider for more information.