Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. But there’s one thing that doesn’t have to change during a healthy pregnancy: your workout routine.
“A common misconception is that pregnancy workouts can cause miscarriage,” says Brooke Cavalla, B.S.Kin., a certified pre- and postnatal exercise specialist and creator of The Struggles of a Fit Mom.
Multiple studies show that the risk of experiencing a miscarriage is low, even with vigorous workouts.
Another common myth? That you can’t start working out during pregnancy if you weren’t an exerciser before.
“Most women can either continue their current exercise routine—or slowly begin one—as soon as they find out they are pregnant or feel ready,” adds Cavalla.
That said, there are a few things you need to know about safety before you pull on your favorite pair of leggings and lace up your sneakers.
Some pregnancy-safe exercise programs to consider include:
Walking is hands-down the easiest — and safest — cardio workout for pregnancy.
All you need is a good pair of shoes and a flat terrain to walk on.
And if you need some motivation to lace up your sneakers? Enlist your dog— or borrow your pal’s pooch.
A study of 11,000 pregnant women conducted by the University of Liverpool found that those with dogs were 53 percent more likely to get at least three or more hours of activity a week.
While some cardio workouts might be more challenging during pregnancy because of the added weight, swimming can make you feel lighter and more agile, meaning you’ll feel better while working out.
Even better: Studies show that swimming can improve both heart and lung function, two things you need to have for both pregnancy and life as a new mom.
3. Group Fitness Classes
Some types of low-impact group aerobics classes can be a fun and low-stress way of getting your heart rate up, but try to steer clear of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that involve a lot of jumping and sudden shifting.
“These movements can strain your joints, which already loosen significantly during pregnancy, as well as place extra stress on your abdominal area,” says Sergio Pedemonte, a Toronto-based personal trainer and owner of Your House Fitness.
Participating in prenatal yoga classes is a holistic, full-body way of preparing for childbirth.
The postures — known as asanas — help to strengthen your lower body and pelvic floor for labor.
Not only that, but it helps improve breath awareness and mindfulness, two vital skills that can reduce stress and anxiety before, during, and after delivery.
You can participate in prenatal yoga classes starting in the first trimester, but “during the second trimester and third trimester as the body starts changing more rapidly, certain movements need to be modified,” says Cavalla.
“Anything that involves lying on your back for an extended period or exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure and cause abdominal separation, known as diastasis recti.”
These moves can also put pressure on the vena cava, which can cause dizziness or lightheadedness.
You can avoid these pitfalls by following yoga classes specifically designed for each stage of pregnancy.
Like yoga, barre workouts are comprised of simple, low-impact moves that take elements of Pilates, cardio interval training, and ballet.
These total-body workouts not only raise your heart rate, but also work to strengthen your upper body, triceps, hips, legs, and back — all areas that need to adapt to changes during pregnancy.
And, like with yoga, it’s important to modify moves as you move throughout the trimesters. The Pre & Post Natal Barre Blend program from Beachbody Super Trainer Elise Joan can help you do just that.
While you shouldn’t get under a barbell if you weren’t already doing it before pregnancy, weightlifting with dumbbells can help with muscle toning and increase endurance.
It’s ideal to keep the weight light and opt for anywhere from 12 to 15 reps per set.
Benefits of Pregnancy Workouts
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), exercising during pregnancy increases your chances of delivering your child vaginally.
Pregnancy workouts may also lead to lower chances of experiencing the following issues:
- Excessive weight gain
- Gestational diabetes and hypertension
- Early birth
- Lower birth weight in babies
Pregnancy workouts can also help reduce lower back pain, reduce stress, and improve recovery.
But the benefits aren’t only for the moms: According to a 2019 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the babies of moms who participated in pregnancy workouts scored higher on motor functioning and neuromotor tests.
Should You Do Cardio During Pregnancy?
According to the ACOG, healthy moms-to-be should strive for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.
That doesn’t mean you’re capped at 30 minutes, though.
“Most exercises are safe during pregnancy except for exercises that can cause you to fall, contact sports, scuba diving, and skydiving,” says Cavalla.
So, if you’re up to it — and your doctor approves — you should strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, a guideline set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A good maternity workout routine should include some resistance and flexibility training to prepare your body for childbirth.
With OB-GYN approval, you can add in bodyweight or strength training.
Tips for Staying Safe During Pregnancy Workouts
Staying safe and healthy is undoubtedly your biggest concern when starting any prenatal fitness program.
Getting your doctor’s permission is the most important thing to do before starting any pregnancy workout routine, but besides that, there are other safety tips to keep in mind:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
- Stay away from extreme temperatures. Don’t sign up for hot yoga classes or workout in hot or cold weather. Instead, try to workout indoors where the temperature is more controllable.
- Listen to your body. Stop any workout immediately if you experience dizziness, headache, chest pain, or muscle weakness.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you experience bleeding, abdominal pain, calf pain or swelling, or fluid leakage during or after a workout.