The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women exercise five to seven times per week. Their guidelines include 150 minutes of cardio and inclusion of strength and conditioning exercises. Flexibility exercises are also important and can help ease common pregnancy complaints such as aching backs and hips, gastric upset and difficulty taking a deep breath. Include variety in your exercise routine. Consult your physician for any restrictions or concerns.
Warm-Up and Stretch
Regardless of what kind of exercise you do, always begin with a three- to five-minute warm-up and some stretching. Warming up and stretching reduce your risk of injury. Ideas for a warm-up include walking, bicycling, gently bouncing on an exercise ball and dancing. Pilates and yoga stretches are gentle enough for you to use in pregnancy. Stretch the primary muscle groups for that day’s exercise routine. For example, stretch your legs and glutes for walking and stretch all major muscle groups for swimming.
Working out in water can feel great when you are pregnant. The water helps offset the weight gain and balance shift. Water exercise has little impact on your joints. If you exercise in water two days a week during pregnancy, you may need less pain medication, according to a study published in the November 2008 edition of “Reproductive Health.” Water offers resistance, which provides strengthening and conditioning components in addition to the aerobic benefits. You can take a water aerobics class, swim or walk in the water.
ACOG recommends walking as a safe and effective exercise option in pregnancy. Walking provides a cardio workout, and you can add a strengthening component by using hand weights or walking in water. Walk two or more days a week. Briskly walking 30 minutes can equal two miles or more. If you can’t allot 30 minutes for exercise, break it up into 10-minute intervals and walk three times a day. If you walk outdoors, take water with you to stay well hydrated, especially during the summer months. If you want to walk indoors, use a treadmill, walk in the mall, walk in place on a home rebounder or find an indoor track.
Many fitness centers have classes that are safe for pregnant women, and many offer prenatal fitness classes. Yoga, Pilates, belly dancing and exercise ball classes all adapt well to pregnancy modifications. The social connection in class may improve your mood and build a support system you can use after the baby comes. The class atmosphere keeps you motivated to show up and participate. Attend class one or two days a week. Explain any limitations you have to the fitness instructor.
- Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Years, 4th Edition; Elizabeth Noble
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise During Pregnancy
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise and Fitness
- Reproductive Health: Water Aerobics in Pregnancy: Cardiovascular Response, Labor and Neonatal Outcomes
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.