14 Best Pregnancy Exercises-Safe for All Trimesters | VIDEO
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Ever wonder if it’s ok to exercise when you are pregnant? What’s going on inside your body? Is the baby safe? Won’t the baby get hurt? You probably have a lot of questions like these and are wondering what to do.
These are all great questions that a lot of pregnant woman have. So the big answer is YES!!! It’s perfectly safe to exercise when you are expecting. It’s recommended actually. So go for it.
This post is to help you decide what type of exercise might be best for you when you are pregnant. Included is a list of 14 physical therapy approved exercises that are safe to perform during pregnancy plus a VIDEO is included (at the bottom of the post) to help you understand how to perform the exercises properly.
Related: Positive Pregnancy Test-Now What?
You may never have exercised a day in your life and you want to start now. That’s great! I applaud you for taking the initiative now. Your are making a great decision–to help keep your body healthy and to help your baby to stay healthy as well.
Consult Your Doctor & Get Approval Before Beginning A Workout Routine While Pregnant
I want to say this upfront, it is always safest to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. If you have never exercised before or if you are just starting to exercise for the first time while pregnant, go ahead and call your doctor’s office and just get the green light. It’s always good to double check.
So now you have the green light, you’re motivated and ready to start doing something. Here we go…..
Top 5 Prenatal Exercise Types
+ Bonus Exercise ALL Pregnant Women Should Be Doing
1. Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga is yoga for pregnant women! It’s a wonderful time to connect with other women in the same stage of life as you, and it’s geared towards your changing body.
It’s safe and effective. When doing a prenatal yoga class, you can guarantee that your certified instructor will not put you or your baby at risk during the exercise routine.
I recommend joining a live class before attempting a video by yourself that way someone can actually check your form and minimize the chance of injury.
Once you have learned the basic yoga positions, you are likely ready to try some yoga videos online or “On Demand” in your own home.
Yoga focuses on breath control, so if you are stressed and need a way to unwind and relax, this type of exercise is for you.
3. Water Aerobics/Swimming
I’ll be honest, I never did water aerobics or any type of swimming program while I was pregnant, but if I had easy access to a pool, I totally would have.
Swimming has a lot of added benefits that other exercise routines cannot offer.
The most beneficial part to swimming is the fact that the water creates a buoyancy effect on your body and thus relieves any added weight, strain, pressure on your body.
You are obviously going to start gaining a good bit of weight in a short time frame, or maybe you already gained some weight.
The added weight can strain your body and joints in various areas. The water buoyancy will help relieve pain caused by weight gain.
Water aerobics and swimming is also a great way to improve your cardiovascular endurance as well as strengthen your muscles in your legs, arms and core.
Again, this is a great low impact activity to participate in while pregnant.
4. Core Stabilization (for support of your growing belly)
This is Live Core Strong after all, so I can’t forget to include my favorite exercise – CORE EXERCISES!
It is perfectly safe to continue strengthening your core while pregnant, but you just have to do it the right way. My favorite core exercises to perform when pregnant include:
A. Abdominal Bracing in Quadruped
While on your hands and knees, draw your belly button in (like you are lifting it to the ceiling), tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 5-10 seconds, continue to breathe and count out loud. Then relax. Repeat 5-10 times.
B. Alternating Arm and Leg in Quadruped (with Abdominal Bracing)
While on your hands and knees, draw your belly button in (like you are lifting it to the ceiling), tighten your abdominal muscles and alternate lifting Right arm and Left leg so they are parallel with the floor. Hold for 2-5 seconds, and then alternate to lift Left arm and Right leg. Continue to breathe and count out loud while repeating this exercise. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
Be careful and make sure you have the correct form when performing a semi-plank.
If you are not familiar with planks, I suggest you avoid this exercise. This exercise is for women who have experience with planks prior to pregnancy and who entered into pregnancy with a strong core.
To perform a plank safely, maintain a flat back and suck in your belly as much as you can to stabilize your core while holding the semi-plank position on your elbows and knees. Perform for a duration that is comfortable for you and gradually increase the amount of repetitions as tolerable. Avoid straining and remember to breath.
I recommend starting with a semi-plank and if your feel this is too easy for you, you can progress to a standard plank (on your toes instead of your knees)
It’s important that you listen to your body. If your body is telling you to stop and you feel like you are straining, then STOP!
Jena’s Tips: Don’t forgot, when performing core exercises, it is not safe to twist or lie on your stomach.
D. Pelvic Tilt (Abdominal Bracing lying on back)
Lie on your back with knees bent, tuck in your belly as if you are trying to pull your belly button down towards the ground and flatten your back. Hold for 10 seconds, rest and repeat. Perform 10 reps.
5. Lower Body Strengthening (in preparation for labor)
Strengthening your lower body is beneficial for two reasons.
(1) Your legs need to stay strong in order to carry the added weight of the growing baby inside you.
(2) You need strong legs and pelvic muscles to help push the baby out during labor. Trust me, after having 4 babies naturally, I know.
Click HERE for my ultimate lower body workout to prepare you for labor and delivery day.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly and gradually lift your bottom off the ground to a comfortable position and hold for 2 seconds. Then slowly lower back down to the starting position. Make sure you breathe throughout the exercise.
B. Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back with both knees bent for the starting position. Bring your left leg up slowly and grab behind the leg (hands placed on your hamstring, as shown in the picture above). Gradually extend/straighten your knee until you feel a stretch behind your leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then relax by bending at the knee joint. Repeat 3 times on each side.
This hamstring stretcher is really another great way to get the best stretch in those tight thigh muscles.
C. Straight Leg Raise
Lie on your back. Bend your Right knee and keep your Left leg straight. Slowly lift the Left leg to the height of your Right thigh. Try to maintain a flat back (do not arch your back). Slowly lower your leg down to the starting position. Maintain your knee in a straight positon throughout the movement. Repeat 10 times on each side. Perform 2 sets.
D. Child’s Pose
Begin by positioning yourself on your hands and knees. Spread your legs apart and rest your bottom on your heels. Bow forward, placing your trunk between your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor. As your belly grows, you may need to spread your knees farther apart to create space. Hold for 10-20 seconds or up to a minute depending on your comfort level. Remember to take slow and relaxed breaths while resting in the child’s pose position. When done, return to the starting position on your hands and knees. You may perform 5 repetitions or more if tolerable.
To perform squats safely, legs are positioned about shoulder width apart. Slowly and gradually squat down while maintaining a flat back. When you squat, if your knees go way over top of/in front of your toes, you’re not performing the squat correctly and you need to position your buttocks further backwards. The knees should only maximally go right over your feet/toes and not past them. Only go as far down as your body is comfortable doing. Do not strain and do not hold your breath. You can go straight back up to the starting position or you can attempt to hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Slowly and smoothly return to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 reps. Perform 3-6 days a week.
E. Wall Push-Up
(this is not a Lower Body exercise, obviously, but I wanted to throw in my favorite Upper Body Exercise during Pregnancy)
Find a stable surface like a wall or a counter top in the kitchen or bathroom. Place your hands on the surface and walk your feet backwards away from the wall so that your body is at an angle. Perform a push-up in this modified position by lowering your chest closer to the surface and bending your elbows. Then push-up and return to the starting position. Perform as many repetitions as tolerable x 2-3 sets.
If you don’t know what KEGELS are, that’s ok. I’ll explain.
Kegels are exercises for your pelvic floor muscles. What’s my pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is comprised of muscles inside your pelvis that stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone in front.
These are the muscles that push the baby out during delivery. So these are very important!!!!
Of all the exercises to do, these are key during pregnancy.
The great thing about doing kegels is that you can do them anywhere at any time (and no one will ever know).
How To Perform A Kegel Properly:
Squeeze the muscles around the vagina as if you are stopping the flow of urine or imagine that you are squeezing a tampon really tightly.
Hold for 5-10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release. Do 20 reps.
You can do this exercise as often as you want throughout the day up to 5 times a day.
This can be done every day of the week.
First try doing the contraction in a slow and controlled way.
Then occasionally perform the contractions in a rapid on/off type of way.
When first trying this exercise, do it in a semi-reclined position and then you can progress to sitting and standing.
You literally can do this exercise anywhere and any time. The more variety of positions or activities you perform Kegels in, the better!
Are These Exercises Safe For the 1st, 2nd or 3rd Trimester?
If you were wondering when is the right time to do these exercises during pregnancy, the answer is right now! These exercises are all appropriate and safe for the first, second and third trimester.
If you like to get out of the house, then joining a prenatal yoga or water aerobics class is a great option for you.
If you are comfortable in your own home, then doing a few of my favorite core and leg exercises are a fine option. You can check out my VIDEO on how to perform these prenatal exercises on YouTube.
I go into detail on how to perform these exercises properly and safely. It is important to me, as a Physical Therapist, that my readers fully understand how to perform each exercise safely and properly, so please take a moment to watch this short video.
Hopefully you now have a clearer idea on what to do for exercise while pregnant. Feel free to comment below with further questions about your exercise routine that you are currently doing or a routine you want to begin.
There are a lot of good exercises that are perfectly safe for pregnant women, but there are also some exercises that are dangerous for you as well.
I don’t want my readers to only know half the story so check out this other post. In it I explain in detail which exercises should be avoided during pregnancy. It’s important for you to be safe and for your baby to remain safe during your prenatal workouts.
Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
*It is important to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program and get medical clearance. Perform exercises at your own risk.