Now that you’ve got a baby on board (and congrats, mama!), it’s time to start exercising for two. Wait, you thought you’d get to kick back and let your partner dote on you while you develop a tiny human in that bump? Oh, you do! But you gotta get moving too, as sweating through a pregnancy workout benefits both you and your new little person to be.
Pregnancy Workout Benefits
To help those nine months go by smoothly and comfortably, fitting in your pregnancy workout fitness is a good place to start. Expecting or not, exercise helps you sleep better, keeps your fat gains and heart health in check, and boosts your energy and brain smarts. And when it comes to baby, studies show a regular pregnancy workout practice can ease the back pain caused by carrying baby in your belly, prevent risky gestational diabetes (high blood sugar that can specifically come when preggo), provide the oomph in energy and strength needed to get through labor in less time, and can even make for a smarter and more physically fit child.
Despite so many benefits to pregnancy workouts, when some moms find out their preggo, those yoga pants seem to be repurposed as lounge wear instead of active attire. In fact, in a 2015 study conducted with 1,279 women postpartum, half of the participants reported ditching physical activity completely upon getting pregnant, and many who remained active said their exercise during pregnancy was a mere 20 percent of their pre-baby bump activity levels. And to make matters worse, their prenatal visits didn’t drive home the importance or benefits of pregnancy workouts, if it was even talked about at all.
How to Keep Your Pregnancy Workout Safe
The first and most important goal of any pregnancy workout is to do no harm. So before you head out for that run, get beneath the barbell, or jump in the pool, talk to your Ob/Gyn first. Your doc can point you in the right direction toward the pregnancy workout style best for you and anything you need to switch up with exercises as you progress through your first, second, and third trimesters.
Once you get the green light from a medical professional, here are a few extra precautions to keep your pregnancy workout–and thus the baby along for the ride inside–safe and rewarding.
- Warm up: While you should always warm up before any workout, it’s especially important before a pregnancy workout. Skipping the chance to slowly build intensity could lead to extra pain and body discomfort at a time when baby might be causing enough.
- Stretch: Again, like the warm up, stretching should already be part of your normal fitness regime. However, for your pregnancy workout, up the amount of time you’re stretching both before and after exercise. Your body will feel immediate benefits from being more flexible, and you’ll likely make labor a bit more easier on your limbs.
- Stay cool: Skip the hot yoga and midday summer workouts. When baby’s on board, it can be hard to regulate your temperature, which means it’s easy to become overheated. If your face starts to flush, take a break or call it quits.
- Find balance: Take a pass on activities where you could potentially fall and harm the growing baby. That may mean hanging up your trail bike for a season or just using a chair or wall to support yourself during yoga poses.
- Back away: Because blood flow may be restricted to the baby when lying on your back, it’s best to switch up exercises that require you to do so. It’s as simple as finding exercise variations to work the same muscles from a different position.
- Share the news: While the baby bump might let the world know your family is growing, it’s always best to tell class instructors and trainers directly so that they can tailor exercises and scale workouts according to your needs.
- Keep breathing: Avoid exercises during any pregnancy workout that involves holding your breath. Some yoga practices include breath work like this, which you should just skip. But also pay attention to how you breathe during weightlifting and cardio exercises. Work to regulate your breathing so that baby gets enough oxygen. Otherwise, slow it down or do something less intensive and potentially risky.
You don’t have to overdo it (and really shouldn’t to be safe) when it comes to your pregnancy workout. Stick to the workouts you’re comfortable with and enjoy, or select a pregnancy workout to help you achieve more specific baby-body goals during the nine month stretch. Strength training is great for building muscle to carry and deliver baby, but keep the weights low and the reps high to make it a more cardio event. Yoga, especially prenatal yoga, will help you build strength and flexibility, both of which you’ll need for delivery day. Pool pregnancy workouts, be it swimming, water aerobics, or aqua jogging, can provide great body relief while also helping to reduce swelling. And don’t underestimate the power of walking. Get in at least 30 minutes of walking each day to be the best pregnant version of yourself you can be.