Lower Body Exercises During Pregnancy
During childbirth, your pelvic muscles, nerves, and joints get a serious workout. As your pregnancy progresses, you may experience some pelvic bone pain as your hormones prompt the loosening of joints to prepare for delivery. Exercising this muscle group, plus your lower-body muscles, might help reduce pain and prepare your body for labor. In addition to the abdominal exercises listed above, you can also try the following lower-body and pelvic floor exercises to alleviate pain in pregnancy:
Any Amount Of Time Is Fine
We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but you dont have to do it all at once. Not only is it best to spread your physical activity out during the week, but you can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. As long as your aerobic physical activity is a moderate or vigorous effort, any amount of time counts toward meeting the aerobic guideline.
Toning Muscles To Prepare For Labor
At the same time as relieving discomforts and boosting energy, exercise helps your body prepare for labor, especially within those muscle groups around your hips and abdomen. You might also experience Braxton Hicks contractions as early as your third trimester. Known as practice contractions or âfalse labor,â these contractions simulate labor and are also working your muscles to prepare for delivery! Practice is important because labor can be hard work. Having toned muscles, a healthy heart, and strong lungs can help make the process more comfortable. Additionally, exercise during pregnancy can assist you with breathing, which will come in handy during labor and delivery.
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Spin Classes Or Cycling With A Stationary Bike
Off-road cycling, such as mountain biking, is not a good option for pregnant people due to the risk of falling and injury.
Stationary bikes, spin classes, and safe, flat cycling paths are all alternatives with significantly fewer risks.
People who are new to the stationary bike could try cycling for 1015 minutes at a time. They could then extend their sessions to 3060 minutes, if comfortable.
If a person is used to spinning or using a stationary bike, they can often maintain their regular routine during the first trimester.
Pregnant people should aim to do low impact, moderate intensity exercises that lead to light sweating and slight increases in heart rate.
Some tips for exercising safely during the first trimester include the following:
- Stay hydrated.
- Stay cool, and wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Wear well-fitting, supportive, non-slip shoes.
- Recognize when to exercise less often or reduce the intensity.
- Set realistic goals and try to stick to them.
- Remember to breathe and be aware of heart rate during workouts.
Whenever a person feels tired or weak, it is important for them to stop and rest.
To prevent complications, pregnant people should avoid:
Low Intensity Weight Training
generally safe to do some moderate weightlifting.
Using free weights and weight machines can help a person manage their weight and improve their overall strength. Having a stronger core can also help improve stability and reduce the risk of falling.
People should be sure to keep the fetus safe by keeping weights in a safe position. They should also consult a doctor, if possible, to find out if there are any specific movements that they should avoid.
People who are new to weightlifting should start gradually and use light free weights.
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What Are Some Safe Pregnancy Exercises
As I mentioned earlier, walking is always a great go-to exercise that helps to work all facets of the body. However, its not the only option at your disposal. Here are some other ones you should try:
- Swimming. Swimming is another great activity that is low-impact and works all of your key muscle groups.
- Spinning. Riding a stationary bike can also be beneficial and a lot safer than riding a regular bike . Speak to your OB about your plans to spin, just in case they have any specific recommendations for intensity or time on a machine.
- Yoga. Theres always prenatal yoga, which can help reduce stress and is a great way to work on strengthening your core and Lamaze breathing two important factors that will come into play during childbirth.
- Pilates. Thats prenatal pilates, to be clear. This workout can help lower back pain, strengthen your pelvic floor, and improve your balance, among other benefits.
- Walking. Had to add this back on the list thats how beneficial it is to overall health for a pregnant person. Need to calm down? Take a stroll!
What Are The Benefits Of Exercising During Pregnancy
From reducing back pain to promoting healthy weight gain during pregnancy, the benefits of prenatal exercise are vast. “Studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and a quicker recovery post delivery,” saysDr. Suman Tewari, OBGYN, Clinical Advisory Board Member at P.volve.
Regular exercise during pregnancy can strengthen your heart and blood vessels and ease constipation . Exercise is also important in the postpartum period, as it can help improve mood and decrease the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
Not only is movement great for you, but it’s incredible for your baby as well. “Women who exercised during pregnancy showed a lower incidence of complications such as excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, preterm birth, lower birth weight, cesarean birth and operative vaginal delivery,” Dr. Tewari shares.
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Squat + Alternating Curl + Overhead Press
Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, arms, biceps, shoulders and core.
Squats are a great exercise during pregnancy to maintain strength and range of motion in the hips, glutes, core, and pelvic floor muscles.
How to do a Squat + Alternating Bicep Curl + Overhead Press:
Modification: Follow Rachel on the left and omit the knee drive.
What Kinds Of Activities Are Safe During Pregnancy
If youre healthy and you exercised before you got pregnant, its usually safe to continue your activities during pregnancy. Check with your provider to be sure. For example, if youre a runner or a tennis player or you do other kinds of intense exercise, you may be able to keep doing your workouts when youre pregnant. As your belly gets bigger later in pregnancy, you may need to change some activities or ease up on your workouts.
If your provider says its OK for you to exercise, choose activities you enjoy. If you didnt exercise before you were pregnant, now is a great time to start. Talk to your provider about safe activities. Start slowly and build up your fitness little by little. For example, start with 5 minutes of activity each day, and work your way up to 30 minutes each day.
These activities usually are safe during pregnancy:
You dont need to belong to a gym or own special equipment to be active. You can walk in a safe area or do exercise videos at home. Or find ways to be active in your everyday life, like doing yard work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
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Exercises To Do In The Third Trimester Of Pregnancy
Youll definitely notice a slowdown if not an abrupt halt at times during the third trimester, as your body begins to prepare for labor and childbirth. This is a great time to focus on cardiovascular activities and keep up your mobility and abdominal strength with:
- bodyweight moves
These help to keep your upper and lower body muscles strong.
For safety purposes, Jeffcoat says to avoid any exercise that places you at a risk for falls. Because your center of gravity is changing daily, its smart to avoid exercises that would lead to a loss of balance, resulting in a fall and possible abdominal impact that could harm your baby, she says.
Its also not uncommon to experience pubic symphysis pain, which is pain in the front pubic bone. Because of this, Jeffcoat recommends avoiding exercises where your legs are too far apart, which will further aggravate this pain.
How Much Exercise Is Recommended During Pregnancy
“The current recommendation for pregnant and postpartum women is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week,” Dr. Tewari explains. You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute bouts of exercise five days a week or smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day. But don’t feel discouraged if you can’t hit the full 150 minutes per week any activity and movement is better than none, especially during pregnancy.
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First Trimester Core Workout
In the first trimester, it is okay to do exercises where you are lying on your back.
Here are some examples:
|3||20 steps on each side|
Obviously, you can mix and match different ab exercises in any of these pregnancy workouts. The most important thing is that you have clearance from your doctor before doing any type of workout program in pregnancy and that you can do these movements safely.
How To Get Started Working Out While Pregnant
You dont need fancy equipment or a gym membership to adopt a more physically active lifestyle. Walking is the easiest thing to start with. Recruit a friend or co-worker to go with you and make it a social activity. Also, after the delivery, you can put your baby in a stroller and continue your walking routine.
Experiment with different activities to see what you like. Download a yoga video or try a spin class. Find something you enjoy, because if you dont like it, you wont continue it. Whatever you end up doing, remember these tips:
- Talk with your physician about your exercise plan.
- Stay cool and well-hydrated.
Activities to avoid during pregnancy:
- Contact sports
- Activities with a high risk of falling
- Scuba diving
- Sky diving
- Hot yoga or hot Pilates
We dont want to deal in absolutes. For example, not all outdoor cycling is unsafe. If you are going out for a leisurely ride on a bike path and your growing belly hasnt caused your center of gravity to shift too much yet it should be fine. Its when youre going off-road or trying to be a daredevil when it becomes dangerous to you and your baby.
If you experience any of these symptoms during physical activity, stop what youre doing and talk with your physician:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Chest pain
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What Exercises Should You Do
So now that you know a little about the why, lets talk about the what. Try activities like walking, swimming, yoga, use of cardio machines, weight training, classes or videos. This 150 minutes of exercise could be anything, as long as you are feeling good and your prenatal care provider is not restricting you due to any complications. If before your pregnancy you were exercising regularly there is no reason to suddenly stop. Keep it up, if say, you are used to running, or doing other types of workouts or classes.
If you were not a regular exerciser before becoming pregnant initiate it slowly. You dont have to jump into 150 minutes/week in right away. Start with 10 minutes a day and increase a few minutes per session every week. Some great exercise for beginners are walking, water based exercise, beginning yoga, and resistance or weight training.
NOTE: If during exercise you experience cramping, vaginal bleeding or leaking, or other concerning symptoms, stop exercise and get in touch with your prenatal care provider.
Exercise In Pregnancy: How Much Is Too Much
Moderate exercise is good, but you can’t forget you have a baby on board.
In the fall of 2013, pictures of 35-year-old Lea-Ann Ellison lifting a huge barbell, her 8-months-pregnant belly protruding below her sports bra, surfaced on Facebook and quickly spread across the Internet. Ellison, a former bodybuilder, gave birth to a healthy baby boy not long after the pictures were taken. But the image of a woman so close to their delivery date doing an intense workout stirred up a lot of criticism — including from Raul Artal, MD.
“Each time she did that spot lifting, blood would be diverted from all the internal organs to the muscles. It would be synonymous to stepping on the umbilical cord every few minutes for as long as she was holding those weights up,” says Artal, professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology & Womenâs Health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
The question is: How much exercise is too much? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers some guidelines. It recommends that pregnant women avoid contact sports and activities that pose a risk of falling or injuring the abdomen. Beyond that, itâs really up to a woman and their doctor to decide.
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Cardio For All Three Trimesters
Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming, jogging, and stationary cycling are top picks during all three trimesters.
Unless your doctor has told you to modify physical activity, follow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
If youre used to doing vigorous-intensity exercises such as running or your fitness level is high, the ACOG says you can continue these activities during pregnancy with your doctors clearance, of course.
First Trimester Fitness Plan:
In addition to running and spinning, I also did Pilates at local body studio BTone which uses a megaformer with the Lagree Method.
I also was doing yoga pretty regularly and would take Barrys Bootcamp on occasion since I was teaching.
The good old days of not having any children!
With my second, Im spinning for 30 minutes using Peloton, taking BTone still and doing my own HIIT workouts that youll find below.
Again, the spinning feels way more difficult than it did before I got pregnant so Im not turning up the resistance as high and taking breaks when I need them.
Im also more concerned with diastasis recti the second time around and trying to really engage my core no matter what exercise I am doing.
During my 6th week, I did develop morning sickness. I like to sign up for my classes in advance so that meant skipping a few early spin classes or taking Pilates feeling like I was going to hurl because I didnt want to get charged with a late cancel. Honestly, I felt better after taking class when I was nauseas.
Not everyone is like this! For many people, they are so sick they cannot workout during their first trimester. If this is you, do my 3rd Trimester program during your 2nd Trimester for a few weeks to make sure that you have enough strength to complete a workout comfortably.
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When To Stop Exercising
Take a break if you have any of the following:
Shortness of breath. A growing baby can push against your lungs and make it harder to take a full breath, especially in your last few months. Even earlier in pregnancy, the hormonal changes that affect your lungs can make you feel short of breath. But if you have increased shortness of breath or any other breathing changes that are unusual, call your doctor or midwife right away.
Overheating. If you feel yourself getting hot, slow down. Getting overheated can cause some serious problems for your growing baby, including birth defects. Make sure you drink plenty of water while exercising. Stay safe and take it easy when you’re exercising on hot days.
Dizziness. You’re more likely to feel dizzy when youâre pregnant — especially early in your second trimester. Dizziness during exercise, though, could cause you to fall. Don’t risk it — if you feel dizzy, take a break and lie down on your side. Call your doctor or midwife if the symptoms persist.
Pain in your back or hips. This is another sign your body’s had enough for the time being. Stop what you’re doing and take it easy.
Creating An Exercise Plan
Whether you rarely exercised before pregnancy or you are a top-tier athlete, you should consult your physician to create a customized exercise plan that accounts for your history, health considerations, and any risks or complications for your pregnancy.
James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University who has conducted extensive research on exercise and pregnancy, recommends that the goal of any first-trimester exercise plan be moderation. Aim for exercise that does not exceed 90% of your hearts maximum beats per minute, stay well hydrated, and try to exercise somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes each day.
On board but unsure exactly what exercises to do? These seven types of workouts are perfect for your first trimester and will help you maintain overall health while keeping you and your baby safe.
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