During pregnancy, exercise works wonders for both you and your baby, but naturally expectant mothers tend to be more cautious about what they can and can’t do. The fitness team at Vitality is often consulted by members expecting a baby as to which are the best gym exercises during pregnancy. So, we thought we’d share this advice to help ensure you’re doing the right thing for yourself and your baby.
Many medical reports show that working out whilst you’re pregnant offers lots of benefits: a boost in your mood, a decrease in many of the symptoms you may be experiencing during pregnancy (including fatigue, constipation and morning sickness), and a better postpartum recovery.
It doesn’t matter if you were an iron woman or a couch potato until now, you can still benefit from getting active during pregnancy. It’s also perfectly safe, as long as you get the go ahead from your GP before starting any new workout routine and that follow a few pregnancy-specific modifications.
Recommended Exercises During Pregnancy
If you can aim for 30 minutes exercise every day, of varying types, that would be ideal. As far as your heart and general health are concerned, three 10-minute walks sprinkled throughout the day can be just as beneficial as 30 minutes on the treadmill or bike at the gym.
All of the following cardiovascular exercises will also help to increase blood circulation, muscle tone and endurance (which you’ll be thankful for come delivery day):
- Swimming: swimming and water aerobics may just be the perfect pregnancy workout because in the water, you weigh less than you do on land, so you’ll feel lighter and more agile. A dip in the pool may also help relieve nausea, sciatic pain and puffy ankles. And because baby’s floating along with you, it’s gentle on your loosening joints and ligaments (your body’s natural response to pregnancy hormones).
- Walking: there’s no easier exercise to fit into your busy schedule than walking and it’s a workout you can continue right up until your delivery date (and even on D-day if you’re anxious to help along the contractions). What’s more, if the weather’s bad, you can always switch your outdoor walk to a gentle stroll on the treadmill in your local gym.
- Running: if you’re an experienced runner and you want to go a little faster, then you can still stay on track during pregnancy. If you’re running outdoors then stick to level terrain (or a treadmill) and never overdo it (loose ligaments and joints during pregnancy can make jogging harder on your knees — and you more prone to injury).
- Ellipticals and stair climbers: both ellipticals and stair climbers are good during pregnancy. Adjust your speed, incline and tension to a level that’s comfortable for you. Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, you may have a harder time with resistance (so listen to your body) and pay closer attention to where you step to avoid stumbles.
- Group dance or aerobics classes: low-impact aerobics and dance workout classes like Zumba are a great way to increase your heart rate and get the endorphins flowing if you’re a newbie to exercise. As your abdomen expands, avoid any activities that require careful balance. If you’re an experienced athlete, listen to your body, avoid jumping or high-impact movements, and never exercise to the point of exhaustion. At Vitality, we offer a huge number of classes including a ladies only class which is also ideal for expectant mothers.
- Indoor cycling: If you’ve been cycling or spinning for at least six months before pregnancy, you should be able to continue as long as you tone down the workout. Indoor cycling can be great exercise, as it lets you pedal at your own pace without the risk of falling or putting pressure on your ankle and knee joints.
Strength Exercises during pregnancy
Strength workouts help maintain and build your muscles. Stronger and more flexible muscles, in turn, help you to bear the weight you gain throughout your pregnancy and protect your joints from injuries as your ligaments relax. Here are some of the best strengthening exercises for pregnant women:
Weight lifting: lifting weights is a good way to increase your muscle tone when you’re expecting, just opt for more reps (i.e. 12 to 15 in a set) using a lower weight than usual. You might also want to switch to machines, which limit your range of motion to reduce any chance of injury. Try to skip isometric movements, exercises where you hold still in a particular position, because if you accidentally forget to breathe (it’s a common mistake!), you could easily become lightheaded. Use light weights with multiple repetitions instead. And don’t forget to stretch when you’re done!
Pilates: a pregnancy-appropriate Pilates routine focuses mainly on strengthening your core and lengthening your muscles with low- to no-impact, which will help ease backaches and improve your posture as well as your flexibility (and that all comes in handy during labour). Look for a class tailored specifically to pregnant women or let your instructor know you’re expecting to avoid moves that overstretch or otherwise aren’t compatible with pregnancy.
Yoga: Prenatal yoga is another ideal workout for pregnant women. It encourages relaxation, flexibility, focus and deep breathing which all great preparation for the marathon of birth. Again, look for a class specifically tailored to pregnant women, or ask your regular yoga instructor to modify the poses so they’re safe for you (that usually means avoiding deep back bends as well as full inversions like handstands and headstands because of potential blood pressure issues).
Ready to hit the gym? While exercise during pregnancy is generally very safe, there are a few precautions you’ll want to follow to work out safely during pregnancy. Follow these tips:
Staying Motivated During Pregnancy
You can stay motivated by choosing a pregnancy exercise routine that works for you. Pick what you actually enjoy doing and consider switching up workouts to keep things interesting. That way, even on the days when you’d rather be scoffing down a pint of ice cream on the couch, you’ll be more likely to motivate yourself in the direction of the yoga mat.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to fit in fitness during pregnancy, being mindful that there are some exercises you definitely shouldn’t do, too. If you’re at all unsure what’s safe, always confirm with your GP what’s okay and what’s not for you. Whatever you do, try not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to exercising, and don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your pregnancy.
If you need any help with planning your fitness regime during your pregnancy or to find out which of our classes would suit you best, then call Vitality Health & Fitness today on the numbers below: