3 Best Exercises for Pregnant Women

Staying active throughout your pregnancy can not only improve maternal and fetal health, but also make labor and delivery smoother and ease some of the more uncomfortable side effects of being pregnant.  Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like a light walk) most days of the week can make a difference. 
 
Every pregnancy is different, so you should talk to your obstetrician or midwife before making a workout plan. For the most part, however, you can maintain your regular routine, although plan to decrease your intensity by about 20%. Modifications may need to be made for some activities (like push ups). Here’s a look at 3 exercises that are safe and beneficial for most expectant mothers. 

Kegel Exercises

Not your standard workout routine, admittedly, but kegel exercises are great for pregnant women. Kegels are intended to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. While this won't tighten your abs or trim your body's fat percentage, it does help prevent urinary incontinence -- a common issue women encounter both during and after pregnancy -- and can ensure strong muscles when you go into labor. 
 
Kegel exercises can be done discreetly just about any time you feel like it. The motion is performed within the body rather than through evident movements. To find your pelvic floor muscles, stop your urine in midstream next time you go to the bathroom. The muscles you use are the muscles you squeeze when you’re working on your kegels. To work your pelvic muscles, squeeze them as tightly as possible for about five seconds. Release and repeat this action ten times. 

Cardio

Cardio activities are often labeled harmful to a developing baby. Although, if you were an avid runner before pregnancy, you can continue to do so for several months without a hitch. The risk is when a normally inactive woman spontaneously begins rigorous cardio activity during pregnancy. For this reason, if you didn’t engage in rigorous physical exercise before you became pregnant, stick to lighter activities until the baby is born. 
 
As an alternative, go for a brisk walk, gradually increasing your pace over the coming months -- until you have to slow down again. Even a light walk can be quite beneficial; it allows you to become accustomed to lighter physical activity, and minimize shortness of breath (common amongst pregnant women) as you work your way up to a faster pace. Other cardiovascular alternatives might include swimming, light to moderate dancing, low impact aerobics, stair climbing, and recumbent bicycling. 

Prenatal Yoga

No matter how much yoga you’ve done before, now that you’re pregnant, you can't practice gravity defying poses. Prenatal yoga is geared towards aligning the body for optimal carriage and delivery of the baby. Yoga can also help reduce lower back pain and stress or anxiety, while improving flexibility and strength. Common prenatal poses include:
  • Cow Stretch
  • Bridge
  • Warrior 
  • Child’s Pose
  • Chest Expansion
  • Pelvic Tilt 
If you’ve never tried yoga before, or aren’t very familiar with it, taking a few classes before going on your own is usually a good idea. This can prevent unnecessary strains and inappropriate poses, while also improving your alignment.