When you’re pregnant, it can seem like every move you make is a physical challenge. Standing up from a chair can feel like exercise, let alone going to the gym or hitting the trails for a run. But the benefits of working out while pregnant are numerous, and most health experts recommend you find a way to add a little exercise into your daily routine.
However, before you do so, there are a few things to consider to ensure you’re working out safely. The right clothes, like maternity leggings and shoes, are essential for comfort and support, and finding the proper routine is critical. Read on to find out what you need to keep in mind as you plan your pregnancy workouts to keep your changing body (and what’s growing inside of it) as healthy as possible.
1. Doctor’s Orders
Generally, exercise during pregnancy is encouraged as long as it’s done right. Exercising throughout pregnancy can have numerous positive results, like better sleep, higher energy, and less swelling.
However, you must talk to your healthcare professional before you start taking on an exercise program. As we said, a healthcare professional will typically recommend exercise during pregnancy, but there are also reasons they may advise you not to, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in the clear.
Certain conditions like cervical problems, placenta problems, and preeclampsia, to name a few, would likely cause your doctor to tell you to steer clear of most exercise for safety reasons. So before you begin a program or sign up with a pregnancy workout buddy, make sure you’re in the clear first. Play it safe and get the ok from your doctor.
2. Pre-Pregnancy Fitness
Your fitness levels and routines before pregnancy are something you should take into consideration before diving into a pregnancy workout routine. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise while pregnant if you didn’t beforehand;, if that’s the case, this may be the perfect time to start a new habit.
But you’ll also want to plan and approach your workouts differently depending on what you’re used to. If you haven’t been exercising, start slow and build your movements as you get more used to the routine and the vigor of exercise. Be patient with yourself. Even a 15-minute walk each day is a great way to start if you’re brand new; the critical part is getting out and doing it. Eventually, a goal should reach 30 minutes of activity a day.
If you’re used to exercising regularly and have been doing so before pregnancy, then you shouldn’t need to alter that much about your routine, especially in the beginning. Some women continue to go for light jogs well into their pregnancy.
It’s not the time to push your limits, but you should be clear as long as you’re comfortable and you’ve discussed your routine with a healthcare professional.
3. Fueling Up
You are fueling up with food before a workout takes on a new level of importance when pregnant. Fasted workouts are a popular option among people who aren’t pregnant; they’re great when working out first thing in the morning, as you can get right up and work out without having to worry about taking the time to eat something and digest it. But when you’re pregnant, it’s not recommended. Factors like blood sugar levels become essential while pregnant, even if they’re never something you’ve thought about, and your energy levels will be different than when you’re not pregnant. You’re feeding and fueling two people, after all. Your body is now putting significant energy into creating a baby inside of you, so it needs more energy to get by, especially when you’re expending some of that energy with a workout. The bottom line? Give yourself some pre-workout fuel and a post-workout recovery snack, even if all you have time for is a protein bar.
4. The Right Workout Fit
If you’re going to work out while pregnant, it’s essential to add some maternity workout clothes to your wardrobe. Fortunately, clothing items like maternity leggings will become wardrobe staples even when you’re not exercising, but you’ll also want to have supportive bras and comfortable tops. Wearing maternity leggings for your workouts will ensure that not only are you comfortable, but you’re also supported.
The right maternity leggings should be stretchy. They’re meant to grow with you, like a teammate throughout your pregnancy, and shrink with you in those postpartum weeks. Maternity leggings are unique in that they take high-rise to a new extreme, higher than even the most high-waisted of leggings; they should be able to stretch over your bump, providing support and comfort while also allowing you to remain mobile for exercise. And perhaps the best thing about maternity leggings? They’re super flattering, so you can look good, feel good, and crush your workouts.
5. Get Your Kicks
Maternity leggings aren’t the only thing you need for a workout wardrobe; having the right shoes will play a big factor in your comfort while exercising, too. Just as maternity leggings, maternity shoes are designed to fit and support your changing body throughout pregnancy. These shoes will be breathable and are often adjustable, prepared to welcome swelling feet and ankles.
They’ll also be designed to handle the changing weight of your body, helping to distribute that weight evenly to save your back and knees, and they’re great for shock absorption, which will help avoid joint and back pain. Some maternity shoes are even designed to be slipped on, so when that baby bump gets too big to bend down, you can still get your sneakers on without a hassle. If you’re going to get active while pregnant, we recommend you get yourself some ready shoes for the journey.
6. Don’t Skip the Warm Up
Warming up is always recommended before exercise, but when you’re pregnant, it’s even more critical. Warming up before your workout will ease your body into the routine by gradually loosening your limbs, stretching, and increasing your heart rate. Pregnant or not, working out without warming up can cause injuries, but when you’re pregnant, those injuries can be more detrimental or, at the very least, more inconvenient.
And a good warm-up won’t just prepare you physically for your exercise, but mentally. It gives you a few minutes to get into the right mindset to get moving. So do yourself a favor and ensure you’re giving yourself at least 10 minutes to stretch it out and get the blood flowing before you dive into your exercise routine. And we recommend cooling down, too, to help your body recover each time.
7. Exercises to Avoid
As we mentioned, exercise is recommended for most pregnant women, but that doesn’t mean all kinds of activities are suitable for your changing body. There are a few kinds of exercises you should avoid for your and your baby’s safety. Contact sports are a fairly obvious example of a workout you should avoid. You should avoid physical activity that includes any contact with another person or a surface like the ground or water. If there’s any risk of falling or sudden body contact, avoid the activity.
This includes jumping into the water, other water sports, skating, and skiing, to name a few. Be aware of high altitudes, and keep an eye on the temperature. You don’t want to exercise in extreme cold or heat, including hot yoga. In general, gym cardio will be safe (the treadmill, the exercise bike, the elliptical), and walking and running outside. Pool workouts get the green light, too, as long as you’re not jumping or diving, and low-weight strength training is also typically safe.
The Bottom Line
As a pregnant woman, there are two people you need to listen to the most: your trusted healthcare professional and yourself. We mentioned above that you should discuss your workout routine and plans with your doctor ahead of time, but you should also listen to your body as you go. Comfort is key, so stay active but don’t push your limits. Get the right workout gear, including maternity leggings and shoes. And as a rule of thumb, some experts recommend you should be able to carry on a conversation while working out when you’re pregnant; this can ensure you’re not exercising too vigorously for your fitness level and safety. And at the end of the day, remember that safety is the most crucial factor as you plan your workouts. So get out, move, and reap the benefits of a safe and healthy pregnancy exercise routine!