The benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy are no mystery. But many women don’t know where to begin. We’ve got tips on some great pregnancy workouts like dancing, aerobics, swimming, walking, weight training, and yoga. Plus, our experts let you know whether activities like bowling, doing sit-ups, or biking are safe during your pregnancy.
Exercise during pregnancy
Pregnancy can sap your energy, but regular bouts of exercise will help you get through your day. And the good news is that you can safely start an exercise program during pregnancy even if you’ve been an avid couch potato until now.
Seven great benefits of pregnancy exercise
Does exercising sound too much like a chore? We’ve got seven fantastic reasons why you’ll actually love it!
1. Boost your energy
Pregnancy can sap your energy, but regular bouts of exercise will help you get through your daily tasks or cope with a demanding schedule: Exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t tire as easily. With muscles that are strong and toned, you need less effort to engage in any activity, whether that means grocery shopping or sitting through meetings at the office.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you can safely take part in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise every day, as long as you don’t have a medical condition or complication that your doctor or midwife has told you rules out exercise or limits your activity level.
2. Sleep better
When you’re carrying an extra 15 pounds (or more!) in front of you, finding a comfortable sleeping position can be a real challenge. But exercise will help you work off any excess energy and tire you enough to lull you into a more restful sleep.
3. Reduce pregnancy discomfort
Overall, regular exercise stretches and strengthens your muscles, which helps your body cope better with the aches and pains of pregnancy. Stretches ease back pain, walking improves your circulation, and swimming can strengthen your abdominal muscles.
4. Prepare for childbirth
It makes perfect sense: The better shape you’re in, the stronger you’ll be come labor and delivery time. Giving birth is akin to running a marathon, which requires stamina, determination, and focus. Though it hasn’t been well researched, training for childbirth through exercise may ease labor and even shorten the time it takes to deliver your baby.
5. Reduce stress and lift your spirits
Having a child is a life-changing, momentous experience that can leave you feeling simultaneously ecstatic, overwhelmed, and anxious. One study found that exercise boosts levels of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood, putting you in better spirits.
6. Improve your self-image
Watching the scale inch its way up to numbers you’ve never seen before can be disheartening. Staying active helps you feel better about yourself and improves your odds of gaining a healthy amount of weight.
7. Get your body back faster after childbirth
This alone is motivation enough for many women to embark on a pregnancy exercise regimen. When you’ve maintained your strength and muscle tone all through your pregnancy, your body will have an easier time bouncing back after you give birth. You’ll also gain less surplus weight if you exercise during your pregnancy.
What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?
Going for a run is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body, giving you a mental and physical boost when you feel tired. Plus, like walking, it’s easy to fit into your schedule.
Is it safe for me to run during pregnancy?
It depends. If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it’s fine to continue — as long as you take some precautions and first check with your doctor or midwife.
But pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine, according to Julie Tupler, a registered nurse, certified personal trainer, and founder of Maternal Fitness, a fitness program for pregnant women and new moms in New York City.
Pregnancy’s also not the time to start training for a marathon, a triathlon, or any other race, cautions Tupler. “The first trimester is when the baby’s major organs are forming, and overheating’s a real issue. If a woman’s core temperature gets too high, it could cause problems with the baby, so why risk it? Instead, train for the marathon of labor by strengthening your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles,” she says.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless you’re an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout at least until after your baby arrives. For now, focus on exercises that are safe for pregnancy.
First trimester tips
Follow the usual precautions, such as drinking lots of water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even cause premature contractions.
Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well supported.
Second trimester tips
Your center of gravity’s shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips and falls. For safety, stick to running on flat pavement.
If you lose your balance, do your best to fall correctly, says Tupler: Try to fall to your side or on your behind, to avoid trauma to the abdomen. Or put your hands out to break your fall before your abdomen hits the ground.
Consider running on a track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where you won’t get stranded in case of an emergency.
Third trimester tips
Be as careful as you’ve been during the first two trimesters. And remember: If you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful.
Most avid runners find that their jogging pace slows down considerably during the third trimester — a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date approaches.
Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby.
Stop running or jogging immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you have any of the following symptoms:
- vaginal bleeding
- difficulty breathing, especially when resting
- chest pain
- muscle weakness
- calf pain or swelling
- preterm labor (contractions)
- decreased fetal movement
- fluid leaking from your vagina