By Jen Garcin
We now know that pregnancy is the ultimate endurance test. A recent Duke study proved that Ironman Triathlons and Polar Trekking don’t even come close to the total long-term energy expenditure of a pregnant woman. So no judgment here if you choose to do more resting, and less pumping iron as your belly continues to grow. That being said, if the doctor okays it, 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day has great benefits for pregnant women and the little humans they’re building too.
If you are perusing these pregnancy-approved workouts and wondering about how intense your workout should be, the “talk rule” is a good thing to keep in mind. Keep your intensity at a level where you can comfortably hold a conversation while you’re working out.
Here are some great options to get you started.
There are tons of benefits of yoga before, during, and after pregnancy. Yoga is generally low intensity and doesn’t stress the body the way higher impact exercises do. You may find that you need to adapt certain poses to accommodate your growing belly and increasingly sore back.
Finding a local prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other expecting moms, and get the personalization of an in-person instructor. If fitting in a quick prenatal yoga session at home before work or between naps is more your jam, there are many free prenatal workouts on YouTube. I regularly practiced this morning prenatal yoga routine when I was pregnant. Yoga really felt like self-care for me rather than a chore, and it helped me connect me with my body and baby girl! It was wonderful to develop a practice that I could continue once my daughter was born.
Yoga can also help condition your body for childbirth with poses that both strengthen and stretch your pelvic floor. Yoga poses can be very helpful positions for labor and occasionally including your birth partner in your practice can help to prepare them for the big day as well!
Heading to a cycling class or riding a stationary bike at home like a Peloton is a perfect way to get in your sweaty, low-impact 30 minutes. If you typically love to bike outside, cycling is a great option so you don’t have to worry about hitting a bump or avoiding obstacles.
Make sure to stay seated on your bike during your class. Standing poses the risk of falling and putting too much pressure on your already stressed joints. If you’re not showing yet (and even if you are), it’s a good idea to let your instructor know that you’re expecting.
Dancing is an amazing form of exercise, especially during pregnancy. It’s important to make sure that you’re not too out of breath to sing along to the music or laugh with your partner. Dancing is fun, releases feel-good hormones, and circulates blood throughout the body. This is great for mom—it helps with stiff joints and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Better blood flow to the baby is an added bonus.
If you were not dancing before pregnancy, it is a good idea to start with gentle movements or to find a beginners Zumba class, let the instructor know you’ve got a baby on board, and go slow. Keep one foot on the floor at all times and don’t turn too fast! When you move your hips, rub your belly and give that baby a little love! They are likely enjoying the movement and if you’re past 15 weeks, they can probably hear the music and groove along to the beat.
Dancing is also an amazing activity to do during labor.
When I got in the swimming pool for the first time during my third trimester, it felt like heaven. I was so uncomfortable, couldn’t sleep from all the hip pain, and just felt so darn heavy. As soon as I sunk into the water, I was weightless and experienced instant relief. My mom had to drag me out when it started getting dark out. Swimming is probably the best possible exercise you can do while pregnant. It has the least risk of injury, is easy to get your heart rate up with zero impact, and offers an enormous amount of relief. If you can swing it, swimming multiple times per week can lead to a much happier and healthier pregnancy.
If you were not big into exercise before you were pregnant or are really not feeling well, walking is a great option. Walking is low-impact and can be very relaxing. Walking outside can provide you with fresh air, sunshine, and nature. If you are pregnant in the winter, hitting the gym for a walk on the treadmill or elliptical is a great alternative.
Going for a jog during pregnancy is really only recommended if you had previously been a runner. Out of all of these activities, jogging has the most impact and therefore risk of injury. However, if it is cleared by your doctor and you love a runner’s high, jogging is a safe and fun way to exercise during pregnancy.
Working out during pregnancy is a form of self-care. If it is stressful, or too uncomfortable, that might be your body and baby telling you to slow down a bit. It is totally okay to sometimes skip the gym for some R&R. We now know that pregnant women are high-endurance athletes after all! Maybe a 30-minute walk to the spa is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jen Garcin is a proud mom of a human baby and two kittens. She had an exciting and fulfilling career in criminal justice reform before transitioning to her favorite job ever, being a stay-at-home mom to her daughter & boss, Eloise. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Jen is passionate about all issues related to motherhood, social justice, and dabbles in freelance writing and marketing consulting. She is super active in her local community, and hosts a monthly cookbook club.