We are both big believers in exercise during pregnancy (and always). It is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy and low-risk. Exercise increases your stamina and physically prepares you for labor. It also decreases your risk of developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes. It improves sleep, which is all too challenging for some during pregnancy. And it’s great for mood and mental health. There are few things you can do to have such a significant impact on the course of your pregnancy. And it doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are a few of our favorite ways to get moving during pregnancy.
Walking is one of the best ways to exercise during pregnancy. You’re moving your whole body when you walk, but your pelvis, especially, is active and mobile, which encourages baby to settle into a good position for labor. Walking outside as the added benefit of providing fresh air and vitamin D–both of which are also important for a healthy pregnancy. We recommend our clients walk three miles every day–it sounds like a lot, but that’s an hour of your day well spent. Though walking outside is ideal, weather can present a barrier to getting your steps in, so consider walking on a treadmill as needed.
Yoga almost seems like a stereotypical activity for pregnancy because it’s so well-suited to it. Yoga obviously improves flexibility, which is an important way to manage the discomforts of pregnancy. It builds strength and stamina as well. But another benefit of yoga is that is teaches you to focus on your breathing and use the breath as a tool to calm your body and mind. This in itself is a great labor tool. Yoga can easily be done from the comfort of home–there are many videos and apps designed for a home practice. But prenatal yoga classes can also be a great way to build community in pregnancy if they are accessible to you. Be sure that any program or class you follow makes special modifications for pregnancy.
Swimming is a little more challenging in terms of needing specific facilities to get going, but it is well worth the effort of getting to the pool. Swimming is great cardiovascular exercise, which helps circulate all that extra blood volume of pregnancy. But it has the added benefit of allowing you to be weightless, if only for a little while. Swimming is a great way to relieve backache and pressure. And the repetitive nature of swimming has a meditative, calming effect as well. Though taking the kiddos to the pool is a fun activity, it’s generally difficult to get any exercise doing it, so try to find some alone time to get your swim on. A word of caution: high levels of chlorine could possibly pose a risk in pregnancy (though the jury is out as to how much or how severe this risk could be), so it’s best to moderate how often you swim in a chlorinated pool. Some communities have saltwater pools as an alternative.
THAT you move is less important than HOW you move. But exercising during pregnancy is important. There are not many things you could do to decrease risk and increase every aspect of health and well-being. Exercise is one of them.