If you have access to prenatal exercise classes, sign up. Not only are the workouts modified for pregnancy, but you also get to bond with your fellow moms-to-be over charming symptoms such as heartburn, swollen feet and hemorrhoids. You might even get labor tips.
If your favorite classes don’t come in the prenatal variety, it’s fine to keep going, as long as you pay attention to how your body feels, limit your intensity and stay within the normal range of motion. Just make sure the instructor knows you’re pregnant and is knowledgeable about modifications you can make, Jeffreys advises. If your instructor hasn’t worked with pregnant women, find one who has. Keep in mind that highly choreographed classes like Step aren’t the best choices for expectant women since they require quick direction changes and a heightened sense of balance. Hereare the most common classes you’ll find at the gym and what you need to know about benefitting from them whilepregnant.
Pilates – Pilates helps maintain your abdominal muscle tone, which will support your growing belly, minimize back pain and give you more oomph for pushing during labor. But mat classes can be problematic after the first trimester because so much work is done lying on your back. Either opt out of these exercises or use an angled foam spine support (found in most Pilates studios but not many gyms); this will keep your head higher than your belly. You can still do the side-lying leg work, upper-body exercises and stretches.
Yoga – Yoga not only strengthens your core and improves flexibility, but with its gentle movements and emphasis on breathing and meditation, it also fosters a sense of calm. In the second half of your pregnancy, avoid exaggerated twists and movements that tug on your belly, moves that require you to lie on your back or belly for prolonged periods, and inversions like headstands and shoulder stands.
Water aerobics – Ah … relief. You can’t trip and fall; you won’t overheat; and for once you won’t feel like a big clod. No wonder water aerobics is a third-trimester favorite. Your joints will thank you! Wear aqua shoes so you don’t slip on the bottom of the pool.
Safe, Effective Cardio
When it comes to cardio exercise, Fit to Deliver co-authors Karen Nordahl, M.D., an OB-GYN in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Renee Jeffreys have a rule of thumb: “If you were really active before pregnancy, stay really active. If you weren’t, now is a good time to become active.” For beginners, Nordahl recommends 30 minutes of walking three days a week.
During pregnancy you’ll need to scale back on the intensity. Gauge your intensity using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale from 0 to 10: Aim for an intensity between 3 and 5 (you should be able to talk but not belt out show tunes). Ignore heart-rate readouts on the cardio machines; since your blood volume increases during pregnancy, and your resting heart rate is considerably higher than normal, heart rate isn’t an accurate gauge of intensity.
Which cardio machine is best during pregnancy? Try them all. That way, if one becomes uncomfortable, your body will already be accustomed to the alternatives.
Treadmill Walking – on the treadmill is ideal since you can control the terrain. Add moderate hills when you’re up to it; go flat when you’re not or if hills trigger calf cramps. If you’re a runner, let your body tell you when it’s time to switch to walking; nearly everyone does.
Elliptical – The elliptical trainer places little stress on your joints. However, the motion may feel uncomfortable if you’re experiencing symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), apain in the front of your crotch.
Stationary bike – The recumbent and upright bikes are both good options. Many women like the back support the recumbent offers, though in the third trimester your belly might get in the way of your knees.