Inside Scoop: Here are some of the best workouts for pregnant women and what to do postpartum.
This post was submitted by Sierra Skelly, a creative writer and marketer from San Diego.
We’re big supporters of staying active while pregnant. Whether it be a quick pre-work jog or a late-night gym sesh, getting your blood pumping has undeniable benefits for you during pregnancy, both physically and mentally.
There’s no catch-all secret for the best type of workouts to do while pregnant-the best workout you can do is the one that works for you. With that being said, we have a few suggestions from Jaime McFaden, a mom and trainer with audio fitness app Aaptiv, who gave us her top tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying in shape during and after your pregnancy.
Consistent exercise during pregnancy helps improve your overall health, reduce your risk of weight gain, and can even help you have a smoother delivery process. However, it’s also important to listen to your body: every pregnancy is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all in terms of what you should or shouldn’t be doing at each stage of your pregnancy!
IMPORTANT: It’s essential to get clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise routine and to check in regularly, especially between each trimester.
Workouts for Pregnant Women
Whether you’re pregnant or not, Kegel exercises are great for all women to do. Performing Kegel exercises is one of the best exercises for pregnant women as it helps you learn how to contract and release your pelvic floor muscles, and can even help control incontinence for some women. Another benefit of Kegels is that they can be done anywhere!
To perform Kegel exercises, simply exhale and contract your pelvic floor muscles, and when you inhale, release those muscles. It’s recommended to perform Kegel exercises for about 2-3 minutes per day.
The ab exercises you do should depend on what stage of your pregnancy you are in. However, it’s most important to listen to your body. Jaime advises against exercises where you are laying on your back (like crunches) or anything with twisting motion in the midsection. Better workouts for pregnant women include the the bird dog, knee side planks, or reverse plank to help alleviate back pain and increase your core control during labor.
Lower body strength can be a great help during labor and delivery, and can also be beneficial for all the carrying and lifting you will be doing as a new mother. Jaime suggests Pilé squats (a variation of the traditional squat with your feet turned out) and lunges to help keep your lower body muscles strong during your pregnancy.
Most women experience some degree of back pain during their pregnancy, especially due to the extra weight being carried on the front end. Building up your back muscles can be vital to helping you keep good posture and support. Low-intensity exercises like single-arm rows, deadlifts, and good mornings are all Jaime-approved back workouts for pregnant moms.
Jaime also suggests yoga as a way for expectant moms to stay in shape and get their blood pumping. Along with the physical benefits, yoga can help relax your mind and release feel-good endorphins to help you feel at ease during pregnancy. Jaime suggests the cat-cow, downward dog, and pigeon as yoga exercises that are fantastic for expectant mothers.
Workouts by Trimester
It’s essential to get clearance from your doctor before beginning exercise and to check in regularly, especially between each trimester. As each trimester brings its own unique challenges, your workout routine should adapt based on the stage of pregnancy you are in.
The first trimester is when women can most commonly experience crappy symptoms like nausea, so it’s essential to take it day by day. During the first trimester, you can stick to regular strength and cardio exercise, but Jaime warns not to overdo it, especially if you didn’t work out regularly before pregnancy. Building up your workout regimen gradually is important to keep both you and your baby happy and healthy. If you’re a gym regular, Jaime suggests talking with your doctor to determine ways for you to stay active with lower impact workouts like yoga or light strength training.
Although you are likely feeling great throughout your second trimester, Jaime recommends maintaining a 60-70% intensity of working out. You don’t want to push yourself too hard, and it’s important to focus on maintaining a sustainable workout routine. Full-body workouts like yoga are great during this trimester, rather than working on specific target areas.
During your third trimester, you’re in the home stretch! This is when your body is being stretched and pushed the most, and many expectant moms say they feel they need a break. However, if you’re still looking to get your heart pumping, low-intensity activities like walking or swimming are great options.
First of all, congratulations for welcoming a new baby into your life! Doctors advise against exercise until at least 6-8 weeks after giving birth. During this time, you should focus on getting rest and bonding with your new baby. After this, it’s important to gradually ease back into exercise. You can start with something as simple as making an effort to move a little every day until you feel comfortable enough to begin exercise again.
Just like during pregnancy, it’s important to do Kegel exercises after giving birth. Your muscles are weakened during the birthing process and should be regularly exercised afterward. However, make sure to give yourself at least 6-8 weeks to begin Kegel exercises again. They may feel more difficult at first, but don’t be discouraged–this is totally normal and everything will go back to normal with time.
When you’re just starting out with exercise again, it’s best to ease into it with low-impact activities like walking, swimming, yoga, or even water aerobics. Just remember that the best low-impact workout is the one that works for you.
Working on your core strength postpartum can help keep you safe and centered, says Mahri Reline, founder of exercise platform Body Conceptions. Regaining stability and healing your core muscles is a process that takes time and patience.
However, it’s vital to get the thumbs-up from your doctor before beginning core exercises. As always, it’s suggested to avoid workouts with twisting or where you are on your back. Some great options include the yoga boat, raised leg extension, and leg and arm extensions.
About two-thirds of women experience diastasis recti postpartum, which is a separation of the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles). Your body has gone through a lot of changes throughout the previous nine months, so don’t be surprised if your core feels very different than before–that’s totally OK. When healing from diastasis recti, you should avoid high-strain exercises that cause the belly to cone or dome such as crunches or planks. Instead, opt for low-intensity exercises like transverse abdominis side bracing, toe taps, or heel slides.
It’s also common for new mothers to experience postpartum back pain from carrying your baby around all day. Stretching and low-intensity exercises like pelvic tilts, knee to chest stretch, and supine lower back releases can all help alleviate back pain.
To learn more about exercises for pregnant and postpartum women, be sure to take a look at Haven Life’s article that covers your pregnancy fitness journey from a to z. While you’re there, take a look at their pregnancy and postpartum exercise trackers available for download too!
Sierra Skelly is a creative writer and marketer from San Diego. When she isn't writing on the latest health and wellness trends, you can find her reading at the beach or hiking.