You wouldn’t show up at the start line of a bike race if you haven’t ridden a bike in years. You wouldn’t go to a job interview or major client meeting without doing some research to prepare yourself for the conversation. So why would you show up to give birth, without doing pregnancy exercises that prepare your mentally, physically and emotionally for the work that lies ahead?
Regardless of how fit you are before you become pregnant, your body changes during pregnancy. Workouts that served you well before there was a baby on board might not feel as comfortable or accessible as they once did. Additionally, pregnancy exercise doesn’t have the same “objective” as the workouts you do when you’re not pregnant. Instead of focusing on how many calories you burn, how much weight you can lift, or how many reps you can perform, working out during pregnancy is about feeling healthy, energized, and confident, and knowing that your hard work is giving your baby the healthiest possible environment in which to thrive.
Here are three safe and effective pregnancy exercises that can benefit all pregnant moms, whether you’re a bonafide gym rat, or someone who hasn’t laced up a pair of a sneakers in a few years.
Hit the pool. Swimming laps is a gentle and soothing way to get your recommended 30 minutes of cardio work in each day, but it can be a bit monotonous and boring. Pool running is a fantastic pregnancy exercise that gets your heart pumping, while minimizing the strain and impact to your joints. Keep things interesting by alternating from swimming laps to running—and back to swimming—every eight to ten minutes. If your pool has water dumbells, you can also incorporate a basic strength routine (think bicep curls, hammer curls, and tricep push backs) using the water for resistance.
Yin and yang on mat. Prenatal yoga can help you ease pregnancy-related discomfort and gently open your hips to facilitate a more seamless labor. But, to build the strength and stamina you’ll need for labor, you can get more “bang” for your yoga workout buck by sprinkling mini strength sequences that do just that into your practice. For example, modified push ups and planks (both done with knees down) are great upper body and core strengtheners. Try to accomplish 8 to 10 push ups in each set; try to hold the plank for 15 to 20 seconds.
Barre workouts. Like yoga, barre classes can be beneficial pregnant exercises because they focus on strength-building exercises that enhance balance, maintain a healthy posture and improve your core stability (which can ease low back pain, and make for a speedier postnatal recovery). Though they’re challenging in their own, right barre workouts won’t leave you gasping for air or dripping in sweat (which you generally want to avoid when performing pregnancy exercise). The best part? You can do from the comfort of your own home, and possibly, for free. (Tracey Mallett offers several free barre classes on YouTube that will keep you challenged and motivated).