For years, pregnancy was thought to be a delicate matter where expectant women were to stay off of their feet, avoid lifting things, and in general, be sedentary for the duration in an effort to protect her and the baby from harm.
Thankfully we are out of the dark ages with enlightenment and years of scientific research at our very fingertips. Not only are expectant women allowed to exercise, but they are encouraged to do so because it has been proven to be beneficial both for unborn baby and mom. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, regular exercise during pregnancy can improve circulation, in turn preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, leg cramps, and swelling of the ankles. It can also give you more energy, help you sleep, improve your mood, and be better prepared for childbirth.
And while women are encouraged to check with the doctor to make sure they are healthy enough for certain types of exercise, and there are some exercises you should stay away from, there are plenty of exercises you can safely do while pregnant. Here are five of the best:
As simple as it may sound, walking is a great exercise to do while pregnant. Not only is it a great cardiovascular exercise that will strengthen your heart and promote blood flow to the baby, it is something that nearly every expectant mother can do no matter her fitness level. Walking also carries with it a lower risk of injury including those to muscles and joints as well as falling.
2. Water sports
Now before you think you can strap on those water skis or grind some waves on a wakeboard, think again. Those are water sports that carry with them a high risk of falling while going at a rather high speed and should be avoided.
That being said, other water activities like swimming and water aerobics are safe and enjoyable sports that will strengthen your heart and muscles in a low impact activity that is easy on the joints. What could be better than the feeling of weightlessness when you’re carrying an extra 20-30 pounds?
Biking is another low impact exercise that many women have found to keep them in shape during pregnancy. The smooth turning of the pedals on a well paved parkway can be absolutely delightful.
However, if you are feeling a little off balance, you may want to stick to the stationary bike to avoid falling. And again, keeping safety in mind, avoid rocky roads and mountains until your baby is safely here..
4. Weight training
Lifting heavy objects was once taboo, but is now welcomed with open arms – that have been chiseled to perfection.
Several studies to date have found that exercises including weight lifting can be beneficial to pregnant women. Some of the benefits include strength and flexibility as well as balance and even improved cardiovascular health.
Keep in mind, however, that you should avoid laying on your back while doing lifts like bench press or even body weight exercises like crunches. Laying on your back can restrict blood flow to the baby as well as return blood flow to your heart. Laying in the supine position has even been found to increase the risk of stillbirth.
Last but certainly not least is running. For many women, this is a difficult one to accept because of all that jarring that can occur, not to mention the tendency to roll ankles due to the relaxin hormone.
Even so, running is perfectly safe especially, and maybe exclusively if you had established a running habit prior to getting pregnant. It is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise as well as something that can strengthen muscles and improve balance.
As always, listen to your body and back off if you need to. If that run must turn into a walk, that’s perfectly acceptable, and as mentioned above, walking is a great way to ensure a healthy baby and mom.