Written by Benjamin Smith | Last Updated October 31st, 2019Benjamin Smith is a Content Management Specialist for Best Company. With a background in Public Relations and Spanish Language Studies, Benjamin enjoys creating engaging content for all audiences. When away from the office, most commonly you will find Benjamin enjoying the great outdoors, singing, or experimenting on a new recipe in the kitchen.
Have you ever been scared of excess weight gain during your 40 weeks of pregnancy? To start, it is important to remember that you have to put on weight in order to help your baby develop properly. In order to keep your energy up, stay healthy, and avoid some pregnancy complications, a routine including regular exercise is something to consider.
Disclaimer: We understand that exercising while pregnant is not always possibile in every situation, as pregnancy complications are very real. Stay in close contact with your health care providers and follow the directions they give you during the entirety of your pregnancy to keep yourself at the lowest risk possible.
How does regular exercise improve your pregnancy?
“Exercise actually makes your pregnancy easier by strengthening your muscles,'' says Lucy Harris of Hello Baby Bump. Harris mentions that your back and arms greatly benefit from exercise so you can avoid backaches while carrying your baby to term. Continual arm workouts will help you have the strength to carry your baby after birth as you will be doing so practically constantly. Consistent exercise and strength training exercises will also help you to improve your center of gravity.
It may seem like exercise is a lost cause as you are commonly tired when pregnant. However, the benefits of exercising when pregnant are too good to pass up. First and foremost, you provide your body with increased blood flow which helps your baby get the nutrients it needs. The better your blood flow and physical fitness, the less likely you are to develop high blood pressure.
If you happen to develop high blood pressure during your pregnancy, studies suggest that it is possible that your diet or physical activity are lacking. Women's health experts at americanpregnancy.org feel that staying physically active, even if it just means walking regularly, can help you avoid developing preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnancy that is typically characterized by high blood pressure, especially in women who have not had high blood pressure before. At times, it can also be related to fluid retention and proteinuria.
If you are looking to keep some of the “extra” weight off and maintain an active lifestyle during pregnancy, the following expert-recommended exercises might just be for you.
Types of exercise
Muscle weakness can be detrimental to pregnant women as childbirth approaches. Participating is some types of basic strength training can help you avoid this.
There are a number of ways that you can remain active during your pregnancy. Caleb Backe, a Personal Trainer and Health Expert from Maple Holistics suggests trying these three different types of exercise:
- Swimming — This is a low-impact workout that improves your cardiovascular health and muscle mass. Not only do you weigh less in the water due to your weight being partially buoyed up by the water, but the water also provides resistance to make your workout worth-while.
- Yoga — Yoga is a great exercise during pregnancy for a number of reasons. When preparing to give birth to your child, it is important to increase your flexibility, develop breathing techniques, and learn how to appropriately relax your body. Low-impact yoga workouts can help you to achieve all of these things. Make sure as you near your due date that you are cautious with the moves that you are doing to make sure that you and your baby stay safe.
- Weights — Many people are nervous to lift weights during pregnancy. In reality, it is important to keep your muscles toned and healthy, helping you maintain healthy sleep patterns and eventually help with recovery after giving birth. Free weights and machines are the best options for weight training while pregnant to make sure that you can limit your range of motion and avoid injury.
Participating in these types of exercise will help you to maintain a healthy blood pressure, avoid muscle weakness, and improve your overall health.
5 expert-recommended exercises
Deciding that you want to participate in physical activity during your pregnancy is the easy part. Once you have decided, it can be hard to know what specific exercises that you can do while pregnant. If you are going to a local gym, this can be especially difficult as you want to fit in and don't want people staring at you while you exercise.
To help combat this challenge, Rishi Mirpuri, a Personal Trainer at ultimateperformance.com shares five exercises that he includes when creating fitness programs for pregnant women to help strengthen joints, maintain muscle tone, and improve overall health:
- Goblet/Kettlebell sumo squats — To do this exercise, you will begin by placing your feet slightly wider than hip width. Let the kettlebell hang straight down holding with both hands as you squat down. As you come back up, tighten your core and with straight arms, lift the kettlebell up above your head. Bring the kettlebell back down and repeat the process.
- Seated cable row — Using a low-pulley cable station, sit down and get comfortable so that your arms are fully extended forward before putting tension on the cable. Keeping your back straight and core tight, pull with your arms bringing the cable handles to your sternum. Once there, slowly extend your arms again leaning forward slightly and repeat.
- Lat pulldowns — Sit at the machine and make sure that your legs are anchored by adjusting pads to be on top of your quads. Reach up and grab the bar above you. You will pull the bar down until it touches your chest, slowly let it back up maintaining control, and then repeat. Make sure that you do not lean backwards during this process as you could put strain on your lower back.
- Wide stance leg press — Start sitting down on a leg press machine. Place your legs about shoulder width apart in front of you. Using your hamstrings and quads, push agains the platform until your legs are extended (but not locked). Hold for a count and then go back to your starting position. Repeat. Make sure the back support is angled at least 45-degrees or greater finding the most comfortable angle.
- Cable palloff iso holds and press — Attach a resistance band to a fixed anchor at chest height. Stand perpendicular to the band and step away from the anchor to create tension on the band. Interlocking your fingers as you clasp your hands together, bring your hands (that are now forming a fist) to your sternum. Perform the exercise by bringing arms straight forward and then retracting back to your sternum. Repeat as many times as you would like.
Exercises to avoid
During the many weeks of pregnancy, women's ability to perform certain exercises will fluctuate. If you have developed a strict routine of exercises that you are doing, you may need to adjust. Backe suggests certain types of exercises to avoid when pregnant to prevent injury, chest pain, unnecessary pregnancy complications, or other discomforts.
Pregnant women should not participate in these workouts:
- Advanced workouts — As you advance in your pregnancy, you should take care to avoid advanced exercises that put too much strain on your body. This could include abdominal exercises like full sit ups or any double leg lifts such as dips. Any of these types of exercises should either be cut out of your workout or modified to ensure your safety.
- Sudden Movements — Exercises involving sudden, jerky movements should be avoided when pregnant. Participating in aerobic exercise should be okay, but you should be cautious with workout that involve too much sudden movement. Some examples of this include jumping jacks, box jumps, high knees, etc.
As you continue to workout, Mirpuri reminds that you shouldn't be trying exercises that you have never done before unless under the supervision of a fitness professional. Doing so puts you at much greater risk of injury. Trying new things can be fun, but pregnancy is not the right time to be experimenting in the gym.
As you work to stay active during pregnancy, remember the importance of keeping your body well-hydrated. If you don't, you will regret it! Representatives of babygaga.com suggest the following eight benefits of drinking plenty of water during pregnancy:
- Decreased risk of gestational diabetes
- Reduced swelling in legs
- Helps you sleep better
- Can avoid getting swollen knees
- Reduce back pain
- Help control pregnancy body
- Reduced morning sickness
- Low impact
Is exercising while pregnant impossible? No! It does take a bit of extra effort, but the benefits for those that are able to do so are so worth it. If you are interested in your options, talk to your doctor and see what recommendations they provide. Best of luck and congratulations!