"Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychologic well-being." - ACOG
Gone are the days where you have to give up your workout routine because of assumption that it could be unsafe for a healthy pregnancy and baby. In fact, in light of recent studies and research over the past few years, a safe and effective fitness routine is not only highly recommended but also beneficial for a variety of reasons. In addition, it helps increase your body's oxygen capacity which helps transport red blood cells to your baby which is extremely important for growth and development. Because definitive and concrete research on types of exercise and pregnancy are limited, it is important to listen to your body to best understand its limits.
Here are 4 workouts suitable for pregnancy:
1. Pilates. Pilates based workouts are one of the most effective ways to stay toned and build strength for your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and beyond. There are a variety of pilates workouts to consider: Pilates Mat, Pilates Reformer, or SLT (a megaformer based routine that tones the entire body). Pilates based exercises focus on strengthening your core muscles (the deeper layers) - predominantly the torso region. The goal is to keep these different abdominal layers strong so that they support the physiological process of labor and delivery. Pilates is considered low-impact. When engaging in either the mat or reformer variations, movement that shapes your body into a C-spine, abdominal crunches and laying supine are all contraindicated during pregnancy.
2. Yoga. Yoga is not only relaxing but it is also effective for supporting the growing belly as well as the physical changes associated with pregnancy. If you're familiar to yoga, you may not necessarily need to switch to a prenatal focused yoga, but rather familiarize yourself with modifications. Yoga helps relieve tight hip flexor muscles, release upper back and neck tension and increase blood flow to sore muscles. When performing the Sun Salutation vinyasa series - avoid the upward dog and instead push back up from chaturanga with your knees on the mat. The flexion is contraindicated during pregnancy. In addition, postures that require lying down should be supported with a bolster. If you are taking a regular yoga class, be sure to inform your instructor for additional guidance. Note: Hot yoga is not recommended during pregnancy because it could increase internal body temperature greater than what is appropriate for during pregnancy.
3. Swimming. Water workouts are safe and effective for pregnancy. They're low-impact and help relieve the pressure of achy muscles and joints. If you're not an avid swimmer, there are other prenatal friendly water workouts to consider. The reason water is preferred as a medium is because you could perform the same exercises you would do on "land" but with less strain to the body. Take advantage of the pool if you have access to it!
4. Strength conditioning. These days strength conditioning classes appear in various forms. If you're a member of a gym, you may see classes such as "Total Body Conditioning," "Athletic Conditioning," "Pure Strength," etc. These classes all offer forms of strengthening appropriate during pregnancy. When taking them, it is important to understand a few things: 1) Inform your instructor so that they are aware and if they are prenatal certified they'll be sure to monitor your form and offer modifications 2) Monitor your heart rate so that you're able to see what exercises cause the spike, as too high of a heart rate affects blood flow to the placenta 3) Listen to your body by taking breaks and hydrating as needed.
We'd love to hear what your favorite workouts have been during pregnancy! Comment below. Having trouble getting to a gym or a class? Here are simple ways to build a prenatal workout into your day!
Photo by Amy Frances Photography.