Women who exercise regularly during pregnancy have shorter, easier labors, exercising moms and their babies recover more quickly from childbirth, and babies whose moms exercised during pregnancy have more developed brains. That’s just some of the results of the numerous studies that have found benefits to exercise during pregnancy. And in even better news, it looks like moderate exercise, just 20-30 minutes a day, is as good, and in some ways better, than a vigorous workout. One study even showed results after a mere hour of exercise a week. But the bad news: during pregnancy it can be harder than ever to find the motivation to lace up those shoes and get going—you’re likely to have less energy, more weight, and you may be nauseous or have heartburn besides.
Four Steps to Start:
- Especially if you have never exercised, it’s important to ask your care provider if you have any health concerns to prevent you from exercising. But ifyou don’t need to ask permission to take a walk. When you start, it’s important to start slowly—consistency is far more important than every workout being a dazzling performance. If even short walks are difficult for you, start with very short walks multiple times a day, such as 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.
- Keep your pace easy: try to keep your heart rate up for 30-60 minutes a day, at least four days a week, but don’t push it so hard that you’re unable to talk.
- Avoid stretching your muscles beyond their usual range of motion, because pregnancy softens your ligaments, making you more prone to injury.
- If you find yourself getting in a rut, try something new. Lots of activities can be made pregnancy safe, you only need to avoid the sports that put you at risk for falls or abdominal injury (such as skiing, horseback riding or kickboxing). And why not spice up the mix with swimming, a water aerobics class, prenatal yoga, tai chi, hiking local trails, or a walk in a different neighborhood?
Starting a new routine can be tough, and of course there will be days when you just don’t feel up to it. But most of the time, once you get going you’ll find it’s not so bad, and you’ll almost always feel better afterwards.
Don’t eat the hour before exercising, and drink plenty of water before and during.
Consider weights or against-the-wall pushups for your arms and upper body. You’ll be picking up your baby and child hundreds of times over the coming few years, so building strength and flexibility and practicing good form will be a big help.
Kegel. Training your internal muscles can help with delivery and recovery afterwards.
Consider swimming. It helps with flexibility and endurance, and the pool will offer much-needed relief from the pressure your lower back is under in late pregnancy.
Try squatting. Just a few reps of 15-20 deep squats a day can help limber up your hips, and let you practice balance and build strength in your thighs.