What are Safe Exercises During Pregnancy?
Sharing your body with your baby is a beautiful, special experience––but it can also result in nine months of backaches, swollen ankles, trouble sleeping, and other less-than-pleasant symptoms. Luckily, getting regular exercise during your pregnancy can help ease some discomfort so you can focus on the more joyous parts of a healthy pregnancy.
The good news? There are plenty of pre and post-natal exercises that are safe for you and your baby. We’ve put together a list of Pregnancy Safe Exercises for Expectant Mothers. But before getting started, it’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning any fitness routine.
Whether you’re a cardio-loving queen or a strength-training supermom, we’ve got exercise ideas for just about everyone. But first, let’s focus on safely getting your heart rate up with these five cardio pregnancy workouts.
Cardio Workouts for Pregnant Women
Continuing or starting a cardio routine during pregnancy can help promote better circulation, tone muscles, and increase endurance. Again, just be sure to get permission from your doctor before practicing any of these exercises.
When it comes to finding safe exercises during pregnancy, brisk walking is a perfect place to start. It’s one of the easiest exercises to squeeze into your routine—and, most of the time, it’s safe to do until your delivery date. Plus, it can be a relaxing way to look after your mental health while going through the whirlwind of emotions that come along with pregnancy.
Try adding a quick morning, lunch, or evening stroll into your daily routine. Just make sure you have good walking shoes that can support your every step.
The good news for avid runners? You can continue logging miles during pregnancy too. Of course, you should be careful to avoid rough terrains—consider trying a treadmill instead of that new trail in town. Also, a good pair of running shoes is always important, pregnant or not. It could be the difference between a good workout and a nasty knee injury.
Running can be quite the workout, however, so you’ll need to be careful not to overdo it— especially if you’re new to the sport.
#3 Cardio Machines
Whether you’re working out at home or at the gym, cardio machines get a green light during pregnancy. This includes:
- Rowing machines
- Stationary cycling bikes
These are all ideal options, especially if you already own the machinery or have a gym membership.
Whenever you step on a cardio machine, you should pay extra attention to speed, incline, and resistance. As your pregnancy progresses, you may notice that what was easy before might pose a bit more of a challenge now. Listen to your body and be careful not to push it too hard.
#4 Group Fitness Classes
Fitness classes can be a motivating way to get in some moderate exercise while also socializing and getting out of the house. Bonus points if you find a group fitness class specifically for pregnant women.
Dance and aerobic classes are safe to take part in as long as they’re low-impact and don’t rely too much on careful balance. If you’ve never done a class like this, water aerobics can be a welcoming place to start, especially during pregnancy.
#5 Outdoor Sports
If you’re an experienced athlete who partakes in any of the activities listed below, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before continuing these sports.
- Biking – Biking can be done safely with some modifications: avoid bumpy roads or trails and winding roads. You’ll also need to ask your doctor if you should stop at some point since your growing belly can affect your balance.
- Hiking – Hiking is safe as long as you avoid uneven terrain, high altitudes, and slippery conditions. Now’s not the time to try out a challenging new trail, but feel free to hike with caution on easier trails.
- Cross-country skiing – Spending a day on the cross-country ski slopes should be fine as long as you’re experienced and balanced. Downhill skiing and snowboarding, on the other hand, should be completely avoided given the risk of serious falls.
Non-Cardio Workouts for Pregnant Women
When you’re pregnant, you’re carrying a bit of extra weight. Sometimes, that added weight can affect your joints (hello, swollen ankles). Strength training can increase joint and muscle flexibility, which will help you easily adjust to the weight of your growing baby.
Not only will strength training help ease aches and pains, but it’ll also strengthen your body for labor. Once you’re in shape, you’ll be better prepared for all the lifting and carrying you’ll be doing once you’ve welcomed your baby into the world.
#6 Lifting Weights
A weight lifting exercise program can help strengthen your muscles and increase muscle tone. Some popular weight-lifting activities include:
- Chest presses
- Seated cable rows
Just be sure to not overdo it. Instead of aiming for higher weights, you can aim for more reps with lower weights for a prenatal workout.
Yoga is a relaxing exercise that anyone can benefit from, but it’s especially good for pregnant mothers. Some studios may even offer classes specifically designed for pregnant women. If you can’t find a prenatal yoga class, just make sure you let your instructor know that you’re expecting so that they can modify the poses for you as needed. This might mean skipping certain postures like:
The mental component of yoga is also helpful as it can help you relax through careful concentration and deep breathing. When you’re expecting, sometimes you just need a moment (or a 45-minute yoga session) to decompress.
#8 Pregnancy Ball Exercises
Also known as a birth ball, pregnancy ball exercises can be useful in a few ways. Using a birth ball can help you get your hips moving with targeted exercises. You can also just use a pregnancy ball to sit on in place of a couch or your chair––you may find it more comfortable as your body changes.
When you’re expecting, another way to stay active is to look for a pilates class tailored to pregnant women. This way, you can focus on strengthening your pelvic floor, your core and lengthening your muscles.
Some common pilates exercises include:
- Leg lifts
- Toe taps
- Scissor kicks
- Bird dogs
- Leg circles
- Side leg lifts
Regular pilates practice may be able to help expectant mothers with backaches, posture, and flexibility. Pilates has a strong focus on pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscle exercises.
Mothers-to-be can also benefit from barre classes since they help strengthen your lower body and core without excessive jumping. With the safety of the barre itself, the equilibrium-focused exercises can help you develop balance as your bump grows larger. Like yoga and pilates, let your instructor know you’re pregnant or look for a class tailored to pregnant women.
Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant
Maybe exercising is the last thing you feel like doing right now––we get it. But exercising regularly during your pregnancy offers tons of benefits.
From a medical standpoint, exercising while pregnant can help lower the chances of:1
- Preterm birth
- Cesarean birth
- Excessive weight gain
- Improve your postpartum recovery
Exercising during pregnancy may also help some of your day-to-day symptoms by:
- Lowering your stress levels
- Managing feelings of depression and anxiety
- Reducing lower back pain
By maintaining physical activity while you’re pregnant, you’ll help your body through the physical changes you’re going through, making for a happy, healthy pregancy.
General Safety Tips For Exercising While Pregnant
If you’ve found an exercise on this list that gets you excited about moving your body, be sure to take extra caution by following these tips.
Listen To Your Body
If you weren’t exercising regularly before pregnancy, be sure not to go too hard when trying out a new workout routine. Try starting with 20-30 minutes at a time.
Maybe you were already into fitness before becoming pregnant. Like beginners, though, be sure not to push yourself too hard.
The bottom line is that you should listen to your body. Work towards building your stamina, but never exercise to the point of exhaustion. A good rule of thumb is to only work out as hard as you can while still being able to talk while moving.2 Pay attention to any pain or strain and stop if things hurt, and focus on recovery sleep is an integral part of recovery, so be sure you know how to sleep when pregnant.
Fuel Up and Refuel
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts. You should also be sure to munch on a light snack around 30 minutes before your workout, though 60 minutes prior is helpful if you’re experiencing nausea or morning sickness.3
You’ll want to keep your pre-exercise snacks around 200 calories for every 30 minutes of cardio.
Some exercise-friendly snacks include:
- A medium piece of fruit
- A fruit smoothie
- A yogurt parfait
- Cheese and crackers
- Apples with peanut butter
Refueling after your workout with the best foods to eat when pregnant during your first trimester is also important. Aim for 1-2 servings of carbs with some protein and a little bit of fat. This formula helps replenish carbs used during the workout and the protein will help repair microscopic muscle tears.
Try out a few of these tasty post-workout snacks:
- Grilled chicken wrap with veggies
- Veggie omelet with toast
- A yogurt parfait
- Raw veggies and hummus
- String cheese and fruit
Move into Motherhood with Monica + Andy
Working out while expecting can help you to relieve pregnancy symptoms, prepare for labor, relax your mind, and more. Try implementing one or some of these exercises into your routine until you can find a groove that works for you.
Monica + Andy can help you make the right moves towards motherhood, too. Here you’ll find everything from development toys and GOTS certified, organic cotton baby rompers to on-the-go baby nursery essentials.
Plus, you can join a community of go-getting parents just like you. Sign up for one of our virtual classes today so that you can prepare for this new chapter alongside some of the nation’s top baby experts.
- Lindberg, Sara. "The Best Pregnancy-Safe Exercises at Home and the Gym." Healthline. 30 April, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/pregnancy-workouts#second-trimester
- De Bellefonds, Coleen. "The Best Pregnancy Workouts and Exercises You Can Do While Expecting." What to Expect. 29 JUly, 2021. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/exercises-for-pregnant-women#amount
- Garcia, Corrine. "Fitness Dos & Don'ts for Getting Pregnant." Parents. 14 July, 2015. https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/the-best-pre-and-post-workout-snacks/