How to Exercise Safely During Pregnancy

Three Methods:Determining Appropriate Exercise LevelsFinding a Cardiovascular Exercise RoutineAdding Safe Strength Training Exercises

Staying active during pregnancy is good for both your health and the health of your baby. It is important to consult your doctor to make sure that your exercise routine is safe for you in your particular situation. But once your doctor gives you the ok, there are many enjoyable activities that will keep you fit.[1]

Method 1
Determining Appropriate Exercise Levels

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    Discuss your plans with your doctor. If you and your baby are healthy and the pregnancy is not expected to be complicated, your doctor will probably encourage you to engage in a moderate amount of exercise. Your doctor may advise you not to exercise if you have:[2]
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Problems with your cervix
    • High blood pressure due to the pregnancy
    • Heart or lung problems
    • A risk of having a preterm birth
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    Build up slowly. You may find that you get tired more easily than you did before you were pregnant. Start with 5 or 10 minutes of exercise per day and work up to about 30 minutes of moderate activity.[3][4][5]
    • It doesn't have to be a long period of exercise or extremely intense. Just enough to get your heart rate up and your blood circulating.
    • If you are out of breath and unable to speak you are pushing yourself too hard.
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    Observe your limits. You will get tired more easily as the pregnancy progresses. Be sure to drink extra water. During pregnancy you are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. Stop exercising immediately if you feel any of the following:[6]
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Back pain
    • Nausea
    • Swelling or numbness
    • An abnormally accelerated or uneven heartbeat

Method 2
Finding a Cardiovascular Exercise Routine

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    Choose beneficial exercises. If you previously did cardiovascular exercises and your doctor says it is ok to continue, you may find it easiest to just adjust the intensity of your activities. Possible activities include:[7][8]
    • Walking. Walking is an excellent way to get your heart rate up and maintain your leg muscles. Take care to wear shoes that support your feet and your ankles. Invest in a good sports bra which will continue to support you as your breasts enlarge. Walking will get you outside in the sunshine and can be done with your partner or friends.
    • Swimming. Swimming is excellent during pregnancy because it takes the weight off your joints while you move. Purchase a good pair of goggles so that you can swim with you face in the water. This will reduce the stress on your back. Avoid the butterfly stroke because of the extreme spinal movements it requires. If you have any pelvic pain while doing the breast stroke, switch to a different stroke. Even if you don’t swim well, many community pools have water aerobics courses for pregnant women.
    • Biking. If you biked a lot before your pregnancy, you may want to switch to using a stationary bike. This has the advantage that it is stable and you won't fall.
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    Avoid risky sports. This means that you should avoid activities in which you have a risk of falling or being hit, bumped, or jostled. Activities to avoid include:[9][10]
    • Running after 20 weeks.
    • Yoga poses that require you to lie flat on your back after 20 weeks. This can reduce the blood supply to you and the baby.
    • Contact sports like football, soccer, boxing, rugby, and basketball.
    • Sports like tennis or volleyball which require you to make sudden changes of direction.
    • Activities in which you are in danger of falling such as climbing, horseback riding, skiing, or skating.
    • Activities that involve exposure to heat like exercising during hot weather, steam rooms, saunas, and hot tubs.
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    Enjoy the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Engaging in a safe, moderate amount of exercise will benefit both you and the baby by:[11]
    • Relieving backaches, leg cramps, constipation, bloating, and swelling
    • Lowering your risk of having gestational diabetes
    • Improving your mood and giving you more energy
    • Making you sleep better
    • Getting you in shape for having an easier birth and faster recovery

Method 3
Adding Safe Strength Training Exercises

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    Maintain your upper body strength. There are several activities that you can do to get your arms and back in shape for lifting and holding your baby after the birth:
    • Wall pushups. This exercise strengthens your pectoral muscles and your triceps. Stand facing a wall with your legs shoulder width apart. Put your palms on the wall at shoulder height. Bend your elbows and lean into the wall until your nose touches the wall. Push yourself upright with your arms. Start small and work up to doing 15.[12]
    • Rowing with a resistance band. Sit on a chair with the band under your feet in front of you and hold the ends. Sit with your back straight. Pull the band back with your elbows as if you were rowing. Aim to build up to 15 repetitions. You can purchase a resistance band at your local athletics store.[13]
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    Work your core muscles with v-sits. There are several variations on these exercises. These exercises are best done only during the first three months of the pregnancy.[14] The following exercises are recommended for pregnant women by the Mayo Clinic:
    • Supported v-sits. Lean back so that your back is approximately 45 degrees from the floor. You can support yourself by putting a firm pillow in the small of your back. Sit with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg until your lower leg is parallel to the floor. Maintain that position for about 5 seconds and then put your leg down. Do this 10 times and then switch legs.[15]
    • V-sits. Sit on a stack of books so you are about a foot off the ground. Your legs should be bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back until you feel your stomach muscles working. Hold the position for approximately 5 second and then sit up straight again. Do this 10 times.[16] Once you get good at the v-sit you can do them while lifting first one leg, then the other.[17]
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    Tone your legs. These exercises will help you maintain your leg muscles, your flexibility, and your balance. Some of the positions like the squat, can even be done during labor to help the baby drop down into the birth canal.
    • Squats. Stand with your back against the wall and your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then push yourself back to a standing position. If you can’t go all the way down, that is ok. You can work up to it. Aim to be able to do 10 squats.[18]
    • Leg lifts. Get on your hands and knees. Then lift one leg so that it is out straight behind you and parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds, and then lower your leg. Repeat this 10 times and then do the other side.[19]
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    Try yoga or pilates. Many women enjoy doing yoga and pilates to both stay in shape and to get in touch with their bodies. These activities focus on stretching and toning your muscles.
    • If you take a course at your local gym or community center, look for one that is specifically for pregnant women. Tell the instructor how far along you are in the pregnancy.
    • If you do yoga or pilates at home, discuss it with your doctor first to make sure the exercises are safe for you.
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    Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. Getting your pelvic floor muscles in shape can help you have an easier delivery and recover faster. It also helps women avoid having urinary incontinence after giving birth. Practice these exercises 3 times per day.[20]
    • Short squeezes. These exercises increase your strength. Lie on your back or sit with your feet about shoulder width apart. Contract the muscles around your anus as if you are preventing yourself from passing gas. Then, at the same time, contract the muscles around your vagina and bladder like you do if you are stopping the flow of urine midstream. Do this without squeezing your buttocks together. Your buttocks should be relaxed throughout. Hold this squeeze for 1 to 2 seconds. Repeat it until you get tired.
    • Long squeezes. These exercises increase the endurance of your muscles. They are done the same way as the short squeezes except that you hold them longer. For some women holding it for 4 seconds will be enough to give the muscles a workout. Other women may be able to hold it for 10 seconds or longer. Overtime you will be able to squeeze for longer and do more repetitions.

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