Exercising During Pregnancy: the Best Options for Your Body

By Valerie Latona
Exercising During Pregnancy: the Best Options for Your Body

Sometimes, when you’re carrying around a big belly, the last thing you want to do is … move. I know. I’ve been there three times. And I can tell you that during the first two pregnancies I didn’t exercise much. My work hours were crazy, and when I wasn’t working, I was lying (half comatose sometimes from sheer exhaustion) on the couch with my legs propped up.

But this last pregnancy (my son is 5 months old) was different: I had left my 70+ hour-a-week job and was freelancing from home. I had time to take a quick nap during the day—and I had time, and energy, to work out (after the first four months of all-day morning sickness). And it made all the difference in the world.

I felt better, had more energy overall, slept more soundly, and was fitter—which made getting my body back after delivery somewhat (emphasis on somewhat!) easier. Not to mention: my delivery was super fast.

So I’d recommend exercising (at least a couple of times a week) to every pregnant mom. Aerobic exercise of any type will help boost strength and increase circulation (good for getting the oxygen circulating for you and baby). These are my top three recommendations for the things that you can do:

1) Swimming: This is my all-time favorite exercise and during pregnancy, it is absolute bliss. It’s the one thing you can do where you won’t remember you’re pregnant because you feel absolutely weightless in the pool. And it utilizes both your arms and legs at the same time, keeping both toned. (I have to tell you that, after swimming regularly, I had really great arms by the time my baby was born!)

2) Walking: You can walk around a park or just around the block. For most of your pregnancy, this is a low-impact form of exercising that you can do anywhere. It just doesn’t really work in the last stages of pregnancy when you’re so big that you’re … well, waddling is about the only way to describe it. The key is to walk on a flat surface: skip the trails, though, as your center of gravity—and balance—is off when you’re pregnant, making you more likely to fall.

3) Yoga: Yoga is great because it helps you breathe and relax—and stretch, which feels amazing. Sign up for a pregnancy yoga class (they know the poses you can, and can’t, do) or choose from one of the myriad videos available either online, in apps, or in DVD form. If you decide to do yoga on your own, keep in mind that you shouldn’t do any poses on your back after the first trimester (it can restrict blow flow to the uterus). And you have to be careful stretching in general because of the hormone relaxin; this is the hormone that allows the uterus to expand, but it also softens connective tissue—making you more flexible, but also more prone to injury if you overstretch.

And, while these are the top three forms of exercise, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. The elliptical trainer at the gym is a good way to get moving, as is cycling (if you can get comfortable on the seat), and even strength training (but be sure to work with a trainer to learn the exercises you can—and can’t—do while pregnant). The key is not to get your heart rate over 140 beats per minute. (Wear a heart rate monitor to keep track, or try the talk test: you should be able to speak in complete sentences without having to huff and puff.) But whatever exercise you do, drink plenty of water!

© Valerie Latona LLC 2012