Exercising during pregnancy is an important part of staying healthy while you’re pregnant. It helps you to prepare for labor and simplifies your ability to get back into shape post-pregnancy. The key to a simple but effective at-home workout is finding the best pregnancy exercises for your rapidly changing body and energy level. It’s also best to check in with your personal care physician before starting any new exercise routine – especially while pregnant.
Before my first pregnancy, I spent most of my workout time in a gym. But with my energy sapped, my gym days became minimal and I struggled to find new ways to exercise. After my daughter was born, I realized I needed to approach working out differently and find ways to incorporate it into my hectic day-to-day. Upon my second pregnancy, I tackled exercising with this new philosophy in mind.
Here are a few exercises that are easy to do at home.
Morning sickness hit me hard for both of my pregnancies, leaving me nauseous and exhausted for the entire first trimester. Most days I hardly wanted to move from the couch, so the idea of exercising was furthest from my mind. I noticed, however, that in bouts of extreme sickness, practicing yoga-breathing helped ease my symptoms, so I decided to try pregnancy yoga. There are so many benefits to yoga during pregnancy: Beyond helping you deal with nausea, it can also tone and strengthen your muscles while improving flexibility and circulation—all of which can help you stay fit and prepare you for labor.
There are tons of prenatal yoga DVDs you can purchase. I recommend checking them out at your library first to try them out before you buy. The best source for prenatal yoga videos, however, is the Internet. My favorites are the short ten- or twenty-minute at-home workouts that are easy to squeeze in whenever I have some downtime. It’s even a great way to spend some quality time with my daughter, who likes to do these exercises along with me.
It may sound too simple, but walking is one of the best cardiovascular pregnancy exercises you can try at any fitness level. Cardio exercise during pregnancy helps with blood circulation, strengthens your muscles, and can help you sleep better (which can get more difficult as your pregnancy progresses). Walking also helps set you up for an easy exercise routine you can continue post-pregnancy. Pets and kids are great motivators to get up and get moving. My dog was still a puppy during my first pregnancy, so he required a lot of daily exercise, giving me the perfect excuse to get outside and take a lengthy walk. The second time around, having a child already keeps me on my toes. Whether it’s exploring the neighborhood for bugs and flowers or just walking around a museum, I’ve found ways to fit in walking every day.
Whatever your motivation, incorporate some walking time into your daily routine. Start slow if you haven’t done much exercise before, and build up to a brisk twenty-minute trot. Be sure to wear supportive shoes and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The best part of walking is that it’s low-impact, allowing many women to do it throughout pregnancy. In the first trimester, you may feel too sluggish and exhausted for long walks, but by the time your energy picks up in the second trimester, you’ll find it easier to keep moving. Just keep an eye on your balance and avoid uneven or steep terrain as your belly expands.
One of the biggest things for which I was unprepared as a new parent was how much arm strength it required. Pre-pregnancy I mainly focused on aerobic exercise and never did much strength training. But after several weeks of constantly holding, bouncing, and rocking my daughter, I realized it would have been beneficial to do some arm-strengthening exercises before she was born. This time around, I’ve been using small weights to do simple arm exercises. Reaching the third trimester means energy levels tend to drop, so at the end of a long day all you’ll want to do is sit. Luckily, arm exercises are easy to do sitting down. Just be sure your weights match lifting recommendations from your doctor.
Seated in a supportive chair or on an exercise ball, use very light weights to perform simple isometric arm exercises, like a bicep curl. It isn’t about bulking up, but rather toning your muscles and building the strength and stamina you’ll need when holding your baby at 3 a.m.
No matter what your personal fitness level is before pregnancy, it’s important to always check with your doctor before beginning your pregnancy workout.
What’s your favorite exercise for pregnancy? Share your experiences in the comments!
Image source: Sher Warkentin
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