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8 Prenatal Workouts For Pregnant Women

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Exercise is hard work, and so is growing a human being inside your body. The good news is that if you can commit to the former with prenatal workouts, it should help you with the latter.

“Not only is it absolutely safe to exercise during pregnancy, physical activity has been shown to benefit most women,” says Dr. Jaclyn Bonder, Medical Director of Women’s Health Rehabilitation at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. “Just be sure to have your prenatal exercise routine medically cleared by your obstetrician.”

You know the general talking points on the benefits (maintaining a healthy weight, increasing endurance, experiencing endorphins, yada, yada), but maybe you weren’t aware of the diaper-load of research suggesting it’s particularly good for expectant mamas. Whether you’re already an avid fitness junkie or a couch potato just starting out, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women get at least 20 – 30 minutes of exercise each day in the absence of medical or obstetric complications. Notable perks include keeping the baby’s weight in check as well, and reduced risks of pregnancy-related diabetes and preeclampsia (super high blood pressure), reports new findings from the Medical Journal of Australia. Additionally, science says exercise during pregnancy can soothe aches and pains, boost your mood and energy levels, improve sleep quality, and even debloat your swollen ankles.

So what are you waiting for? Slip those puffy puppies into a pair of sneakers (or grippy socks or water shoes!). Here are seven prenatal workouts for pregnant ladies ready to sweat like a mother.

Prenatal Pilates

Courtesy of East River Pilates

Regular pilates is a solid low-impact exercise option, but there are still some moves “that simply aren’t prenatal safe,” says Kimmy Kellum, founder of East River Pilates in NYC and developer of its Prenatal Pilates class. (Kellum specifically calls out the “hundreds” move.) “The beauty of prenatal-specific Pilates classes is that they are intimate, taught by prenatal-trained Pilates instructors, have a strong educational emphasis, and help prepare women for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum recovery by strengthening and stabilizing their changing bodies,” she says. Kellum herself remembers teaching and taking ERP’s prenatal class while pregnant, and recalls one client who delivered her baby after only 25 minutes of pushing. “She attributed her success to Pilates!” (On the other hand, Kellum’s delivery took four hours…)

What to Expect:

Be prepared to focus on posture, pelvic floor, abdominals, breathing, and especially the booty, Kellum says. “Mamas-to-be will likely walk out with a very sore butt after a Prenatal class,” she warns. “We always joke in class that our mamas have the strongest butts of any population type!”

Swimming/Water Aerobics

Brazil Photos

You’ll never be more grateful for that feeling of weightlessness in the water than when you’re toting around another person on your frontside. The liquid all around you provides a natural form of resistance so your muscles are challenged, but you’re simultaneously supported. And, check this: “woman who participate in aquatic exercise during pregnancy reported significantly less physical discomfort, improved mobility, and improved body image compared to those that did not work out in the water,” according to one study.

What to Expect:

The buoyancy sensation should improve your mobility, the same above-mentioned report found, so you’ll be able to work more muscle groups than you would on land. And the best part? You can’t fall over in water!

Barre

Shay Carreon; Courtesy of Pure Barre

While we’re not recommending any mid-air pirouettes, a normal barre class with its ballet-based movements is another safe, but effective exercise choice. Pure Barre, with over 500 locations across the country, trains its instructors to deliver modifications for pregnant and postpartum clients, says Pure Barre’s Barre Kinesiologist, Rachelle Reed. “Some general benefits may include lower feelings of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and lower back pain.”

What to Expect:

You’ll be working on strength, flexibility, joint range of motion, and endurance, says Reed. And don’t underestimate the power of those endorphins on your positive mental attitude. “Taking Pure Barre three to four times each week can help to keep your mood elevated throughout pregnancy,” she says.

Prenatal Yoga

Stocksy

A baby-focused yoga practice basically doubles as a Lamaze class, as its “multifaceted approach to exercise encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing,” according to an article from Mayo Clinic. In fact, Kula Yoga Project of NYC even includes a promise you’ll “learn practical tools for labor and delivery” in its prenatal class description and studies show “prenatal yoga breathing techniques might help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy, and work through contractions during labor,” says the above-mentioned report from Mayo Clinic.

What to Expect:

Many of these modified yoga poses will target strengthening your abdomen and pelvic floor. Lots of prenatal classes also incorporate props such as blankets, cushions, or belts to keep you supported and as comfy as possible.

Flexibility/Stretching Classes

Courtesy of Stretch*d

If the above listings all feel a little too cardio-based for you, you might want to try a stretching or flexibility class (or schedule an appointment with a PT if you can’t find one in your area). At NYC’s Stretch*d, movements are never held for longer than three seconds at a time and performed in a way “that allows the targeted muscle of each stretch to be relaxed,” says Program Director Jeff Brannigan, “which won’t happen if you stretch incorrectly.”

What to Expect:

A one-on-one assisted stretch session with full range of motion that “helps to promote circulation and lubricate the joints,” says Brannigan. “Furthermore, isolating muscle groups individually is especially helpful for pregnant women, as their joints are constantly shifting throughout pregnancy and they may need to address one joint in a more comprehensive manner.”

See more: How to Incorporate a Newborn Baby Into Your Wedding

Jogging (or Your Usual)

Getty Images

Are you a marathon runner who can’t imagine her life without two-hour jogs every weekend? Don’t sweat it, or rather, keep sweating it. You are totally fine to continue your normal exercise routine at least until the third trimester, as long as you are taking in adequate calories and staying hydrated, says Dr. Bonder. “Though, pregnancy is not the time to start training for a marathon if you’ve never done one before,” she notes. As mentioned, keep your medical practitioner aware of your activity, and be sure to check in during the third trimester, as your body becomes the most limited during that time and you may have to change up your current program.

If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, use common sense when it comes to choosing your mode of physical activity. You’ll want to avoid falling down or being hit, says Dr. Bolden, so contact sports are probably a no-go — as is skiing, snowboarding, surfing, scuba diving, or horseback riding. You’ve probably also heard that pregnant women are supposed to avoid hot tubs as developing babies can’t stand the heat, so swap out your hot yoga for a cooler vinyasa alternative.

What to Expect:

Your regular workout is likely to be tougher than it was before you starting carrying the weight of a baby inside of you. Pregnancy takes a toll on the body, and you shouldn’t be alarmed if you have to scale back on weight, reps, or peaking heart rate. “You should be able to hold a conversation or say a few sentences while exercising,” Dr. Bonder says. “Then talk to your doctor, who can advise you about the other warning signs of when an exercise should be stopped — including dizziness, swelling, vaginal bleeding, chest pain, and painful contractions.”

At-Home Streaming

KidStock

We’re guessing you’ve read a mommy blog or two in your day, and many of them could also be called mommy-to-be blogs, full of pregnancy-specific health hacks and workouts available for streaming. Not to mention, you can buff up by buffering YouTube videos or place an order for a specialty prenatal program like Knocked Up Fitness.

What to Expect:

You control your own destiny here. Yoga? Strength-training? Total body? The offerings are endless, but we can’t stress enough to be sure to thoroughly vet any regimen with your doctor before subscribing.

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