Your back is throbbing, stomach is bloated, ankles are swollen and sleepless nights have left you exhausted – you could definitely be forgiven for putting your feet up and taking it easy throughout pregnancy. But, while it may feel like the last thing you want to do, during pregnancy, exercise can be of huge benefit for both you and your baby.
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Firstly, is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
In most cases exercise is safe during pregnancy – in fact, it’s recommended by healthcare providers. The general rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you were pregnant, it’s fine to stay active during it. However, if you weren’t particularly active prior, suddenly taking up high intensity exercise is not advised. We recommend asking your midwife for gentle exercise recommendations if unsure. Definitely avoid heavy weight lifting and HIIT classes with sudden and rapid changes in movement.
The benefits of exercising while pregnant
- Boosts energy
- Relieves muscle tension, aches and pains
- Improves mood
- Better sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Eases pelvic/abdominal pain
- Alleviates constipation and bloating
- Reduced risk of pregnancy complications
Note: Now is not the time to exercise for weight loss! However, regular exercise during pregnancy will help with weight loss post baby if that’s a concern.
How much exercise do I need?
The Ministry of Health New Zealand recommends being active for 30 minutes each day. But, don’t make pregnancy any harder than it needs to be – it’s important to choose activities you actually enjoy and are comfortable.
The best pregnancy exercises
Whether you were a marathon runner or sofa slacker before falling pregnant, there’s a safe and beneficial way to break a sweat for every woman.
Just keep moving
Experts agree, when you’re expecting, it’s important to stay active. Staying fit doesn’t need to be too physically demanding though or require a gym membership. Just going for a brisk walk can do you a world of good. Any movement is good! There are also a host of fitness apps with easy to follow home workouts tailored to all fitness levels.
Best pregnancy fitness apps
Prenatal Workout: Free
Prenatal yoga instructors take you through no equipment needed, safe and fun daily 20-minute workouts. You can also customise the workouts according to your pregnancy stage.
This is a comprehensive one-stop shop for prenatal and postnatal fitness and wellbeing. You can browse tips, workouts, recipes, and mindfulness exercises tailored to your pregnancy stage, goals, and personal preferences.
If time is a constraint, try Aaptiv for easy workouts as short as seven minutes. The app features thousands of tailored workouts across multiple categories.
For the same reason swimming is recommended to those recovering from injury, swimming is the safest and most gentle exercise for pregnant women. Swimming can be a welcome reprieve from pregnancy aches and swelling because the buoyancy of the water counteracts the extra weight you’re carrying. It’s super low impact and gentle on your rapidly expanding body. If you want to increase intensity, try aqua jogging – the name says it all, just jog through the water for a great all-over workout.
Blast some tunes, listen to a podcast or do it with a friend, walking is definitely the easiest exercise to incorporate into your lifestyle. Walking is even advised right up until your due date because it helps to speed up D-day.
Want to go a little harder? If you were already running before pregnancy, you should be able to keep it up. It’s best to avoid hills and run on a level terrain (i.e. not sand or gravel), and never overdo it. With so much strain on your body already you don’t want any further pressure on your joints.
Group dance classes
For something more fun and social why not try a dance class like Zumba? Aerobics and dance workouts are a great way to increase your heart rate and get the endorphins pumping. It’s always a good idea to give your instructor a heads up that you’re expecting so they can keep an eye out for you and offer alternative movements if needed.
If you’ve been a spinner since way back you’ll be fine to continue with spinning during pregnancy. Indoor cycling is a great exercise for mums-to-be as it lets you pedal at your own pace and resistance. Make sure to take it easy – if you feel overheated or exhausted take a breather. You may also need to stay seated during standing tracks. Be sure to adjust the handlebars so you’re more upright and not leaning forward to avoid adding pressure on your lower back. You’ll find as your belly expands it will become increasingly difficult and uncomfortable to sit on a bike so you might only be able to do it for the first and second trimester.
There are lots of pilates, barre and yoga classes available, which are specifically catered to pregnancy. An appropriate routine should focus mainly on strengthening your core, improving posture and boosting flexibility, all which come in handy during labour!
Other exercise tips for during pregnancy
- Stretch before and after working out
- Stay cool – keep your temperature regulated and saunas/steam rooms are a no-no.
- Listen to your body – some days might be harder than others and that’s ok
- Wear a supportive bra! This is a non-negotiable.
- Stay hydrated