Whether you’re newly pregnant or trying to become pregnant, learning how to stay fit during pregnancy is vital for the health of you and your baby. Even if you didn’t exercise before getting pregnant, now is still a great time to start, including gentle exercise into your daily routine as an expectant mother. How you move and how you eat are two of the most critical factors for a healthy pregnancy. If you were active before pregnancy, you can continue exercising with modifications.
The benefits of staying fit during pregnancy include:
- Exercise helps you control your appetite and make healthier food choices that are good for you and your baby. You are less likely to crave sugar and processed foods when you’re working off your stress by walking every day.
- Exercise helps you cope with stress. It often is the best way to counteract the effects of stress on your mind and body. When you are feeling tired in the afternoon, you may want to curl up on the couch versus wanting to exercise. However, if you put in 20-30 minutes of walking, it will probably put you in a better mood than watching tv.
- It helps you sleep better. You’ll get an energy boost from exercising, and when it’s time to go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
- Exercise helps you feel good. When you exercise, endorphins are released, which makes you feel good. Endorphins are the body’s pain and stress relievers. When you’re feeling uncomfortable in pregnancy, endorphins released during exercise will soothe you and help you let go of tension.
- Exercise puts you in a good mood and helps you maintain a positive attitude toward life.
- It makes your muscles strong and flexible. Strong muscles support your body and protect your joints. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in your back, legs, and shoulders will help ease many of the aches and pains of pregnancy.
- Healthier heart for pregnancy. Your heart works harder during pregnancy because it is pumping more blood to deliver oxygen and nutrition to your baby. Walking, swimming, and other types of exercise that give your heart a workout will help your heart operate more efficiently during pregnancy.
- Some studies show a direct correlation between mothers that exercise during pregnancy and shorter labors and lower cesarean sections. This is likely due to their bodies being stronger and can labor more efficiently.
Exercise Considerations to Stay Fit During Pregnancy
Here are some key points to consider before you start any sort of exercise routine. You need to exercise, but you also need to be cautious during this time.
- Consult your doctor first.
- Be easy on your joints.
- Don’t shake the baby. Avoid sudden stops, jumping, or sudden changes in direction.
- Swimming and yoga are great options.
- You are out of balance as your center of gravity changes.
- Avoid standing in one place for too long.
- Lift lightly and adjust weights accordingly.
- Change positions slowly.
- Keep off your back, especially after the fourth month of pregnancy.
Tips for Exercising
- Rehydrate and refuel.
- Keep cool.
- Warm-up and cool down.
- Mama slows as the baby grows.
- Wear a supportive bra (even two) as your breasts grow and prepare for breastfeeding. If you want to learn more about preparing for breastfeeding, you can enroll in my Breastfeeding with Confidence Course.
- Wear supportive shoes that will support you and your baby and allow for swelling and shock absorption.
How to Make Exercise a Regular Habit
- Use the buddy system and exercise with a friend.
- Schedule it- set apart time in your day to exercise.
- Make it enjoyable- find a variety of activities you enjoy doing.
- Use every opportunity to exercise, especially if you’re short on time. Take the stairs, for example.
- Give yourself a break- listen to your body. If you need a break, allow yourself a day to relax and repair.
Essential Stretches and Exercises During Pregnancy
Consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any new exercise routine. The following exercises can help you stay fit during pregnancy and help prepare you for a more natural labor and delivery. These will also help you recover faster postpartum.
- Kegels (even if you do no other exercise during pregnancy, do these to strengthen your pelvic floor)
- Shoulder rotations
- Standing pelvic rock
- Rotating pelvic rock
- Cat stretch
- Pelvic tilt
- Resting back stretch
- Tailor sitting
- Tailor stretching
Also, it’s important to note that you should not sit in any one position for too long during pregnancy, especially in the final three months. The slow circulation in your lower body can cause your ankles to swell and increases your risk of developing blood clots. If you have been sitting for a long time, get up and walk around. If you have been standing, sit down for a while and put your feet up. In either position, sitting or standing, lift your legs, wiggle your toes, and make circles with your ankles to keep your blood moving.
If you want to stick with an exercise routine while pregnant, mix up the activities you’re doing and choose activities that you enjoy doing. Here are some examples that often have prenatal versions if done in a studio or group setting.
- Brisk walking
- Stationary bicycle
- Yoga and pilates
- Low-impact aerobics and dance
- Prenatal exercise video (BodyFit by Amy is my favorite)
No matter which exercise you choose, listen to your body, know your physical limits, adjust the intensity, check your pulse if you’re unsure.
Key Points for Staying Fit During Pregnancy
- Consult with your doctor/midwife.
- Listen to your body.
- Choose a variety of activities you enjoy.