There’s a reason prenatal yoga is one of the most popular prenatal workouts for expectant mamas: It not only helps you to gain strength and flexibility, but it can also help you find calm during moments of stress, says Amy Griffith of Exercising Balance.
“Prenatal yoga teaches the powerful connection of breath and movement, encouraging the woman to let go of tension trigger points in her body,” Griffith explains. Plus, she says, many of the techniques practiced in yoga come in handy during labor, delivery, and well beyond your due date, like poses to ease labor pains, as well as breathing and meditation techniques.
Look for a prenatal-specific or gentle flow (or hatha) class that encourages moms-to-be to transition slowly in between poses and support themselves with props like blocks, blankets and pillows. Physical activity to avoid includes deep forward and back bends, twists that put pressure on the abdomen and anything that requires lying on the belly or back. Unless you regularly practiced inversions prepregnancy, these poses can also be dangerous, so be sure to ask the instructor to provide modifications.
Remember that during the second and third trimester, your center of gravity will change, so avoid any poses that are uncomfortable or make you feel dizzy.
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Beard highly recommends swimming as a safe pregnancy exercise in each trimester. It’s low-impact, works all the major muscle groups, and can take pressure off your joints from the added bodyweight. It can even help reduce pregnancy symptoms like swelling. “It’s great for women of all fitness levels because it’s meditative and soothing,” she says.
Don’t feel like exerting energy to swim laps? Beard recommends just getting in the water and doing some light stretching or yoga moves. You can even try aqua jogging, relishing the fact your bump won’t weigh you down.
Alternatively, a pool-based aerobics class can offer a more energetic workout to get your heart rate up that is not high impact. Your local YMCA likely offers both aqua aerobics and prenatal-specific options; click here to find a class near you.
If you love ballet or dance-style prenatal workouts, barre might be a good option to stay fit and toned during pregnancy. Classes at studios around the country aim to improve posture, decrease lower back pain, increase pelvic stability and improve circulation for moms-to-be.
Experienced instructors will be able to provide modifications to some of the deep abdominal work. For example, they may advise expectant ladies to practice some of the reps standing up at the ballet barre instead of lying on their backs.
Want to try it? Pure Barre studios around the country offer “Baby On Board” packages, and Physique 57 studios are located in New York City and Los Angeles. Your city may also have additional barre offerings.
With proper modifications, pregnant women can practice Pilates. Although workouts that target your core might seem counterintuitive, it’s beneficial to exercise the pelvic floor muscles and the transversus abdominis (supporting ab muscles) for a healthy pregnancy, says health and fitness professional Brooke Taylor, prenatal specialist and owner of Taylored Fitness NY, LTD. Doing so can help the deep stabilizers of the core and spine that hug baby in and support her growing organs.
Taylor warns that moms-to-be should avoid exercises that put excess strain on the abdomen, including planks and full body pushups. Prenatal pilates mat workouts should be done on a wedge or another device that elevates you at an incline. She also recommends side exercises to strengthen muscles around the joints and hips.
To work your entire body, look for pregnancy-specific Pilates reformer machine classes to provide some safe exercise moves. “The spring tension lengthens the muscles around the joints, and the mother gets the burn that she longs for without added pressure on the knees and joints,” Taylor says.
For moms-to-be who want to stay very active, the combination of strength and cardio moves found in interval-style exercise program can keep your energy soaring and help build up stamina for delivery.
That’s the idea behind the Fit4Baby interval program, says creator and founder Lisa Druxman, who also runs Stroller Strides and Fit4Mom postpartum workout groups around the country.
Fit4Baby prenatal workouts incorporate cardio moves, strength training, flexibility and balance training. “Pregnancy is not a state of sickness,” Druxman says. “These workouts will give women the strength they need for labor, delivery and motherhood.”