Wondering which workout to choose when you’re pregnant?! Worry not. We have curated the list of safe pregnancy exercises here, plus a complete guide to workout tips!
Hello there! Pregnancy is one of the best phases in a woman’s life. People around you are extra sweet and they want to make sure you are comfortable. Well, a life growing inside your body is a miracle, so you deserve all the attention! But on a serious note, being pregnant isn’t only about getting pampered, your body goes through a lot of changes and it is important for you to maintain a healthy diet and exercise as well.
Being pregnant, you may feel you want to rest and fulfill all your cravings. Or if you feel nauseous or feeling uneasy, you just want to rest and relax. Well, all these symptoms are just a part of your pregnancy journey. Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you’re a patient. You can lead a normal life just like others.
It’s highly recommended to have some kind of physical activity to have a healthy and safe pregnancy. If you have a go ahead from your gynecologist, then there’s no reason for you to laze around. So, we have listed the easiest pregnancy exercises that you can try. Let’s check ’em out!
Please note: The following exercises are based on our personal experiences. Please consult your doctor before starting any of these. Your doctor may guide you on the intensity, poses, etc. that are safe for you, or may recommend you to skip exercise altogether.
Pregnancy Exercises: Which Month to Start Exercising During Pregnancy?
Well, you can start right from the day you conceive. Yes, absolutely! It is super safe to start off exercising from day one provided that you regularly exercised or indulged in some kind of physical activity before conceiving.
If you’ve been active before pregnancy, you can continue doing it, but take it slow. Your body will start to expand and will go through many changes so be mindful of the intensity of your workout. If you have not been active, then it’s better to get a go ahead from your gynecologist first. You can start off with outdoor walking, mild sukshma yoga like just stretching your feet and hands and other mild movements. This helps in some kind of movement over sitting idle.
The first trimester is a crucial period in the baby’s development, and your body is undergoing many changes. The muscles are more relaxed, so heavy exercises during this period can pull your muscles. Be sure to keep it slow.
If you’re not at all comfortable with exercising, you can keep yourself busy with some kind of physical activity like doing the dishes at home, or just taking little breaks every 45 minutes by walking for a minute or two.
Having an active pregnancy helps you to have a healthy pregnancy, great birthing experience and healthy postpartum recovery.
Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start Pregnancy Exercises
Here are a few pointers that you need to consider before starting your pregnancy exercises.
1. Try to have a fixed schedule
Scheduling your day helps you to have a routine. Since you will be exercising at a slower pace compared to your pre pregnancy body, you may feel demotivated and workouts may feel more time consuming. So, try to dedicate a fixed time for exercising. If you have other commitments or you already have a toddler to take care of, always seek help. Or try to workout during your toddler’s sleep time.
2. Eat your meals at least an hour before exercising
Ideally, you should eat your meals two hours prior to your workout/ exercise time. If you don’t have time or feel that you need more energy, then eat a light meal at least an hour prior to your workout. You can even grab a snack like a fruit or a nut and seeds bar.
3. Hydrate well
Hydration is important during and after pregnancy, too. So, drink sufficient amount of water throughout the day. Drink a glass of water 15 minutes prior to your exercise practice. Keep sipping a little water during your workout session and once you’re done, too.
4. Go slow with your practice
It’s essential to go slow with pregnancy exercises. The whole idea is to stay active. Do not exhaust yourself, rather go slow with your activities. If you feel uncomfortable or out of breath, take a moment and relax and then continue. “Just do what you can do comfortably without stressing yourself,” says Dr. Neelu Thapar Koura, a Obstetrician, Gynecologist and General Physician in Moga, Punjab.
5. Wear comfortable and loose clothing
Wearing comfortable clothing is essential while doing pregnancy exercises. A pair of pregnancy leggings with a loose tee shirt is ideal. Do not wear tight clothes as it may cause uneasiness and may put pressure on the abdomen area.
6. Consume healthy food and enough calories
You need enough energy to do pregnancy exercises. So do not count your calories. Consume healthy food that is rich in proteins and good fat. Having a well balanced meal throughout the day will ensure you regain your energy levels post workout, too.
7. Invest in a good sports bra
Whether you workout at home or you walk at a park, always choose a well fitted and good support bra. Your body undergoes a lot of changes when you’re pregnant. The breasts will enlarge and you may feel uncomfortable if they keep bouncing while you exercise. It’s better to invest in a good sports bra for your pregnancy workouts.
8. Invest in comfortable pair of shoes
Another major change that you go through when you’re pregnant is you feet. They may swell up during your second trimester and continue to do so until the end of your pregnancy. Your shoes feel tighter as your feet get bigger. If you’re planning to walk then it is better to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Also, if you’re into aerobics or Zumba then a comfortable pair of new shoes are a must.
Pregnancy Exercises | Activities to do During Your Pregnancy
While being pregnant, you’re told not to do many things. From consuming caffeine to wearing jeans to exercising, the list goes on. But anything done in moderation and with the approval of an expert, you know what’s best for you. If you feel comfortable exercising, then go ahead or you can stick to some basic physical activity that keeps your body engaged.
It is also important to note the intensity of your workout based on your trimester. For example, you should not stretch your body during first trimester. In fact, it’s better you avoid any kind of exercises the first two months after you conceive. You can start off with low intensity workouts and gradually increase the pace according to your comfort in the next trimester. By the last trimester, it’s best to decrease the intensity.
We have rounded off a list of pregnancy exercises that you can try!
Walking is one of the simplest pregnancy exercises that you can do. You can start walking for a short period of time starting from first trimester itself. Try to stay hydrated and take small breaks in between if you feel tired. Also, sipping water once in a while is also a good idea. Don’t tire yourself by overdoing it. Always remember you’re not achieving any goal. You are just engaging in physical activity for a healthy pregnancy.
Personally, I enjoyed walking during my pregnancy. I used to walk in the park for half an hour every day throughout my pregnancy. Also, our very own Shilpa, too, says she enjoyed walking during her pregnancy. She also suggests to do light stretches post walking. However, she says not to stretch during the first trimester, unless your gynecologist gives you her approval.
You need to be extra careful if you’re stretching post any workout during pregnancy. This is because your body is going through a lot of changes and you’ll be more flexible. A hormone called relaxin is produced during pregnancy which loosens the ligaments in the pelvis region to make the process of delivery easier.
So, go slow and don’t overdo it. Your neck, lower back and chest requires stretching as there tends to be tightness in these regions. Try simple stretches for your chest, upper arm, calf muscles and thighs. Do warm ups before stretching to avoid injury, in the form of walking or light jog/ spot jog.
2. Yoga & Pilates
Prenatal yoga is quite popular. Most women engage in yoga during their pregnancy as it is slow and calming. I started practicing yoga during my second trimester after getting a go ahead from my doctor. Personally, I have been a regular practitioner so I was expecting that level of intense poses. But to my surprise, my yoga instructor advised me to go slow and asked me to stick to very basic poses that help in overall body movement.
It is always best to practice yoga with an instructor rather than doing on your own. Initially go slow with basic yoga flow or the sukshma yoga where you stretch or exercise every part of your body either from head to toe or vice versa. After a week or so, you can start off with poses like the cow and cat pose, down dog pose, puppy pose and so on. The good news is these pregnancy exercises in yoga will be altered. There are many types of pregnancy yoga that you can try like hatha yoga, aerial yoga and chair based yoga.
Pilates is yet another type of pregnancy exercise that is low-impact. It is a combination of flexibility and strength training using your body. It is quite similar to yoga and it relaxes and strengthens the muscles. It also helps in maintaining a good posture. You can practice it using equipments like reformers, trapeze tables, exercise balls and resistance bands or without these, too.
Pregnancy pilates focuses on the muscles used for childbirth. If you’re planning to take up pilates, find an experienced trainer who has worked with pregnant women before. Be sure to stop if you experience any abdominal pain.
Shilpa tells about her experience, “I was pregnant with twins and my gynecologist approved prenatal yoga in my second trimester. But I couldn’t continue with it because I felt pain in my abdomen while changing positions. Even though I practiced yoga regularly pre pregnancy, I opted for walking, stretching and light cardio during pregnancy.”
Swimming in general is a wholesome full body workout and it is quite beneficial during pregnancy. If you’re into swimming, then you should consider doing so once or twice a week. It builds strength and is a form of aerobic activity as it gives similar results.
It is safe to swim in a swimming pool. Speak to your doctor once if you’re concerned with chlorinated water. If you’re planning to swim in a sea, be mindful of the safe areas. It is also important to watch out the temperature of the water while swimming. Ideally, your temperature should not rise above 102.2°F.
Swimming is a great pregnancy exercise as water soothes your body. If you’re experiencing any sort of pregnancy aches or pains then this is a great option. But just like other pregnancy exercises, be mindful of the frequency and do not overdo it.
4. Zumba or Aerobics
If you enjoy cardio exercises and have been practicing during your pre pregnancy, Zumba or aerobics are the best option. In fact Shilpa says she practiced aerobics in the second trimester but she was mindful with the stretching after the workout. It is important to stretch your back and shoulders.
Zumba is also a great way to enjoy your exercise routine. Tune into your favorite songs and start moving to the beat. Avoid jumping too high or landing very harshly on your feet. Just take it slow and enjoy the workout.
An ideal cardio session can last for about 20-25 minutes per day. You also need to note that these cardio sessions will increase your heart rate. So if you’ve been into cardio in your pre pregnancy then you can continue, otherwise be careful or completely avoid it.
5. Strength Training
If you’re not a fan of walking in the park or high intensity cardio sessions then strength training is your cup of tea. Of course, there are a lot of myths about lifting weights during pregnancy but each individual is unique. We have seen women athletes lift weight and play sports while being pregnant.
If you’ve been into strength training, then you can continue exercising with lower weights, or remove the weights altogether, as your gyne recommends. You can also try half litre water bottles or plastic bottles filled with sand. These are a great alternative to dumbbells. It’s always better to wait until 12 weeks of your pregnancy to start strength training.
Pregnancy Exercises if You’re in Bed Rest
If you’ve been advised for bed rest due to some medical condition then it’s better to avoid exercising altogether. However, you can practice meditation with normal breathing by closing your eyes to calm your nervous system.
Breathing exercises help during your delivery process, too. So, it’s a great idea to start practicing these exercises. You can try alternate breathing or deep breathing. Do not practice deep breathing without the consent of your doctor. Instead you can practice chanting sounds or mantras to focus.
The meditation technique soothes your mind and body and fills you with positivity. You can practice just for 7 minutes initially and increase as your pregnancy progresses.
You can practice mild chest openers by opening up your hands back and forth. This helps in opening up your lungs for good breathing. But always consult your gynaec before trying it.
When Should You Stop Exercising?
It’s important to be mindful with your exercise routine. If you’re feeling uneasy, nauseous, experience breathlessness, tire your muscles, experience bleeding, you should stop exercising immediately and seek doctor’s help. During your third trimester, only exercise if you’re not out of breath. Overdoing yourself may induce early labor.
Pregnancy is indeed the most beautiful journey. So, try to have the best one with a healthy lifestyle and pregnancy exercises! Do let us know what workout you love the most!
Sahana is a Senior Staff Writer at ShilpaAhuja.com. With an experience in fashion and lifestyle writing, Sahana is responsible for Indian and international fashion week coverage every year, and is developing an expertise in apparel trend forecasting. She also writes about health and fitness, having pursued yoga for 6 years now. She’s not a gym person at all but is all for “running in the park” and is an amateur cyclist. Books and coffee are her other passions. She’s also an amateur photographer. She’s a hardcore Bollywood fan and she loves to cover the nostalgic topics on the same. From fashion trends to famous characters, she can make anyone love Bollywood! Her best article has been 90s Bollywood fashion, a readers’ favorite so far! Prior to her experience with ShilpaAhuja.com, Sahana has written as a freelance author for online magazine, Mashup Corner, and interned at EventsHigh as a content writer. Her blogs on basic fashion, makeup, fitness and city’s food joints that gave her a chance to experiment with her writing. She also has voiced her opinions about feminism and equal rights for men and women at PolkaCafe journals and after quitting her job, she decided to take up writing as her full time career.
Sahana is an engineering graduate and has worked in an MNC, Tesco, for more than a year as an Operations Support. It was her sheer love for fashion that made her quit the monotonous 9 to 5 job to pursue a career in the fashion industry. She’s originally from Bangalore and is currently settled in Chennai (she’s loving the city)! For any queries and discussions, contact her at [email protected] You can also tweet her at https://twitter.com/Sahana_17