Pregnancy is a miraculous journey that brings joy and excitement but comes with its fair share of challenges. Expecting mothers experience physical and emotional changes that can be overwhelming at times. Staying active during pregnancy is an excellent way to manage these changes. It can help reduce discomfort, regulate blood flow, improve mood, increase energy levels, and prepare the body for labor and delivery. However, it can be challenging for pregnant women to find safe and effective exercises that are suitable for their changing bodies.
There are many safe and effective exercises for expecting mothers to stay active and healthy during pregnancy. These exercises are designed to be gentle, low-impact, and suitable for all stages of pregnancy. Whether you are a first-time mom or have had multiple pregnancies, these exercises will help you stay fit, healthy, and comfortable during this exciting journey.
Continue reading to explore some simple exercises that expecting mothers can incorporate into their daily routines and why engaging in healthy physical activity is important.
Why is Exercising Important for Pregnant Women?
Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to benefit both the mother and the baby. Studies have found that exercising during pregnancy can improve fetal development and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
Excessive weight gain itself leads to a myriad of pregnancy problems. According to research, a higher BMI increases the risk of thrombosis. Although a high BMI during pregnancy is only one cause of this disease, it is among the greatest risk factors that lead to stillbirth or Intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD). This is why physicians recommend safe and low-intensity exercises for women during pregnancy.
Moreover, exercise can help to prevent or alleviate many of the discomforts associated with pregnancy, such as back pain, constipation, and swelling.
Most importantly, regular exercise can help to prepare the body for labor and delivery. Several exercises emphasize strengthening the muscles used during childbirth, such as the pelvic floor muscles. Pregnant women who engage in such exercises can reduce labor length and eliminate the need for medical interventions such as assisted delivery or C-sections.
Simple Exercises for Pregnant Women
Here’re some safe and effective exercises that pregnant women can do to stay active and healthy during pregnancy:
Walking is a low-impact exercise that is ideal for pregnant women. Many physicians often prescribe brisk walking as it helps to:
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Regulate blood pressure
- Increase oxygen intake
- Strengthen leg muscles, and
- Reduce stress
Walking is also the easiest to fit into a daily routine, whether it’s a short walk around the block or a long walk in a park. Pregnant women should walk for 30 minutes to an hour every day, either indoors or outdoors, on a flat and even surface. You can start by walking for 15-20 minutes and gradually increase it to an hour daily. This will help avoid over-exhaustion and strained muscles. Start slow if you haven’t been exercising lately.
It is important to wear comfortable and supportive shoes and to stay hydrated during the walk. Try to avoid walking on steep or bumpy tracks. If it’s notably hot outside, choose reasonably cooler parts of the day to walk, such as early in the morning or late evening.
Swimming is another low-impact exercise that is great for pregnant women as it reduces pressure on the joints and can help to alleviate any swelling in the legs, feet, or hands. Swimming can also help to strengthen the upper body, improve cardiovascular health, and increase blood flow.
However, not all swimming workouts are safe for pregnant women. You should opt for breaststroke or backstroke. Remember, it’s foolish to try water skiing, scuba diving, deep dives, or jumping into the pool, as this can cause injury and pressure on the abdominal area.
- Prenatal Yoga and Pilates Classes
Prenatal yoga and pilates classes can be an excellent way to stretch and strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility in joints and ligaments, and reduce stress. Many yoga poses are safe for pregnant women, such as:
- Butterfly pose
- Standing side stretch
- Yoga squat
- Cat-cow stretch
- Bound angle pose
- Pigeon pose
- Easy pose
- Corpse pose
Prenatal yoga and pilates sessions are available at several gyms and community centers exclusively for pregnant mothers. However, pregnant women should avoid engaging in yoga and pilates exercises that require them to lay on their backs or do poses that require one-leg balance. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothing and use a yoga mat for support. Keep yourself well-hydrated and take breaks as needed.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can help to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. These muscles are often weakened during pregnancy and childbirth, and you should work on strengthening these muscles to avoid any complications n the third trimester or during labor.
Pelvic floor exercises are often recommended for the last trimester to maintain muscle tone. To do Kegels, pregnant women should contract their pelvic floor muscles for a few seconds, then relax for a few seconds, and repeat it at least 10 times and 3 reps a day (morning, afternoon, and night). Make sure your bladder is empty before you start Kegels.
Pelvic floor exercises can be done anywhere and at any time, as they don’t require any equipment or special clothing.
- Stationary Cycling
Stationary cycling is a low-impact exercise that improves cardiovascular health, strengthens leg muscles, and reduces stress. On top of that, these exercises have a low risk of falling or injury.
If you’re stationary cycling for the first time during pregnancy, start slowly and avoid over-exerting yourself. Adjust the seat height to a comfortable position and avoid standing up or leaning forward while cycling, as this would put extra pressure on your abdomen and lower muscles.
Cycling requires energy, so make sure you stay hydrated. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes during your workout to avoid hurting your foot and calf muscles. Pregnant women should also avoid using resistance or incline settings that are too high, as this can cause unnecessary strain on the body.
- Low-impact Aerobics
Low-impact aerobics, such as dancing or water aerobics, can be a fun way to stay active during pregnancy. Prenatal aerobics classes usually include low-impact movements that are safe for pregnant women. These exercises help to improve breathing, strengthen muscles, and reduce discomfort. However, try to avoid any movements involving sudden direction changes or jumping.
Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits for both the mother and the baby. By incorporating the above-mentioned simple and safe exercises, pregnant women can improve their overall health, eliminate discomfort, and prepare their bodies for childbirth.
However, you should consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercises. While exercising during pregnancy is generally safe and beneficial, certain conditions or complications may require modification or avoidance of certain exercises. Additionally, you should avoid any exercises that may increase the risk of falling or require you to hold your breath.