You’ve learned you have a bun in the oven. Congratulations! Your body is an amazing machine capable of extraordinary things; case in point – making another human. This is a critical time when you want to make sure you are taking the very best care of your body, and prenatal fitness is high on the list of things to consider. Whether you are an avid fitness guru or you’ve never lifted weights before, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your fitness habits and routines - and maybe start some new ones - to benefit both you and your baby.
Pregnant bodies have different needs
Your body is continuously evolving during your pregnancy, something nobody knows better than you. Each trimester of your pregnancy is going to invoke different needs from your body, both physically and nutritionally. Additionally the changing shape of your body and extra weight will create a new center of gravity for you, and inhibit mobility at times. The added weight you begin to carry around on a daily basis can make you more tired.
On a physiological level, the nature of pregnancy is that your resting heart rate will increase. This is a major reason why it is highly recommended that pregnant women do not over exert themselves, your heart rate is already naturally higher! Additionally, a decrease in blood pressure associated with being pregnant may make you feel light headed during physical activity. This can impact what exercises you choose to do. Some key factors to keep in mind when choosing types of exercise to do while pregnant:
- Be sure to include a warm-up and cool down in your workouts
- Focus on low impact workouts
- Focus on exercises that do not rely on excessive balance
- Avoid heavy lifting, as this can both rapidly increase your heart rate and cause injury if you are light headed
- Choose activities that have a low rate of injury, falling or joint pressure
- Take a class! Having an educated instructor on hand is always helpful
If you were very active before your pregnancy, you will likely be able to continue at close to your same level of activity. If you are new to exercise, never fear! That does not mean that you can’t start a healthy activity routine to improve your health and that of your baby. In either case, however, it is essential to first consult with your physician to determine what is best for you in your individual and unique case, and to make sure exercise will be safe for you during your pregnancy.
Benefits of exercising during pregnancy
Truth is, there is a lot a momma-to-be can get out of exercise during pregnancy!
- Improve muscle tone – strength training and maintaining good muscle tone helps to prevent injury and also helps your body adapt to its new sense of balance and extra weight to carry.
- Decrease stress – exercise is great for stress relief! It increases oxygen and blood flow in the body, releases endorphins and can also provide focus and presence of mind in the here and now that can relieve anxiety and worry.
- Improve posture – maintaining good posture and alignment will help to combat back pain, and give your body the proper tool to redistribute your weight and balance.
- Better sleep – regular exercise can help improve sleep during pregnancy.
- Improve stamina for labor and delivery – regular exercise is essential for making sure your body will be ready for the long hours and challenging physical needs of labor and delivery.
- Routine – Even when not pregnant, its good to set aside time for yourself every day, and a schedule can provide structure and clarity in an otherwise chaotic time.
- Faster recovery – fit women tend to recover faster and can have an easier time returning to a healthy weight after pregnancy
Staying fit and exercising is all a part of keeping yourself healthy during your pregnancy, in both body and mind!
What exercises are best during pregnancy?
That is really up to you and your body. After all, you know what is best for you, especially during this time, and almost all exercises can be modified for expectant mothers. Group fitness classes are a great way to get your workout in while having someone keep an eye out for you and give you those modifications when needed! The workouts below are some of the most popular during pregnancy.
Swimming is great for mommas-to-be! A gentle lap swim or a water aerobics class is a great cardiovascular workout. It works almost every muscle in the body without joint stress or of overheating. The weightless environment of the water is risk-free in terms of falling or losing balance and can provide relief from general back pain or swollen feet. Also, the gentle resistance of water means limited risk of muscle strain.
Prenatal Pilates is an excellent low impact workout that helps build strength and flexibility. Pilates is a system of exercise that targets the deep muscles of the abdominals and spine to strengthen your body from the inside out. It strengthens the core while working with correct alignment and biomechanics. Prenatal Pilates also focuses on strengthening the important areas of the pregnant body (ie. Pelvic floor muscles, inner thighs, glutes, postural muscles) in a safe and gentle manner.
There’s no better time to find zen then when you are with child. Yoga is a versatile pregnancy exercise program that can be done from the comfort of your own home! Of course, not all moves are applicable. Jenny Silverstone of the blog Mom Loves Best has put together an excellent online guide on how to approach and implement yoga during all stages of your pregnancy. Check out her full post, complete with excellent videos an a plethora of resources! Also, hatha or gentle yoga classes at your gym or studio are a great way to get some hands on instruction, just be sure to tell your teacher you are pregnant and they can give you the proper modifications for any poses as needed.
Pre/Post-Natal Strength Classes
The verdict is in! Studies show that weight training while pregnant improve strength and flexibility, making heavier body weight more tolerable and a more stable center of gravity. But not sure what weight to left? Taking a Prenatal Strength class is a great start! These classes focus on moves and training specifically for the pregnant woman, and you have an instructor to help you out and spot your form every step of the way. At Chicago Athletic Clubs, all of our Pre and Post-Natal fitness classes are all access for the entirety of your pregnancy.
Tried and true, walking is the cardiovascular exercise that benefits just about everyone! It is low impact, you can set your pace to provide exactly the amount of effort you need, plus you get the benefit of fresh air and sunshine on your face. Bad weather outside? No worries! A traipse on the treadmill will do just the trick.
No matter what you choose to do to stay fit during your pregnancy, keeping active is the best decision you can make!