Prenatal Exercise Classes for a Fit Pregnancy

Types, benefits, concerns, and tips

Staying healthy during pregnancy involves eating right, getting enough rest, and moving your body. Exercise is good for your overall health, but during pregnancy it’s benefits are even greater. Regular exercise can help keep your energy levels up, improve some of the discomforts of pregnancy, tone your muscles to better prepare you for labor and delivery, and help you recover from childbirth faster.

You may be surprised to find that you can participate in many physical activities during pregnancy. You may even be able to continue doing the exercises you did before becoming pregnant. But it’s important to talk to your doctor first. Your doctor will evaluate your activity level, your health, and the health of your pregnancy. Together with your doctor, you can make an informed decision about the types and amount of exercise that is best for you.

Benefits

Exercise improves your overall health and well-being. When you're pregnant, there are even more reasons to be physically active. Exercise during pregnancy is good for your: 

  • Circulation: It gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing.
  • Muscles: It loosens tight muscles and relieves tension to keep you fit and limber.
  • Weight: It helps you maintain a healthy weight and stay within the recommended guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Endurance: It prepares your body to have the energy and strength to get through labor and delivery.
  • Mood: It increases endorphins in the brain to make you feel good.

Exercise relieves some of the common pregnancy complaints such as: 

Studies show it also lowers the risk of: 

Exercise Classes

Sticking to an exercise routine isn’t always easy. Joining a class is a great way to stay motivated and on track. An exercise class is like an appointment and a time specifically set aside for your workout.

Prenatal exercise classes are designed to give you the best and safest workout during pregnancy. They also offer the chance to socialize with other pregnant women and share your experiences. Some wonderful exercise classes to consider are:

  1. Water exercise: Exercising in the water is comfortable and enjoyable. Swimming and aqua-aerobics are low impact total-body workouts that are easy on the joints. The water also keeps you from overheating. You just want to be sure the water temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.
  2. Pregnancy yoga: Yoga is good for the mind, body, and spirit. It improves posture and builds strength and endurance. With a focus on breathing, it also promotes relaxation and helps to calm the mind. However, there are some traditional yoga poses that you shouldn’t do during pregnancy, so it’s helpful to take a prenatal yoga class. Prenatal yoga includes poses that are safe and will prepare your body for labor and delivery.
  3. Pregnancy Pilates: Pilates increases flexibility and core strength. It can help prepare your muscles for labor and delivery and help your body recover more quickly after the birth of your baby. If you cannot find a prenatal pilates class, a qualified instructor can modify a regular Pilates workout for you. You want to be careful not to overstretch and avoid positions that require you to lie flat on your back or stomach.
  1. Prenatal aerobics: An aerobics class gets your heart beating and strengthens your cardiovascular system. It usually involves body movements that stretch and tone the muscles. Low to moderate-impact aerobics classes such as step aerobics without a step or dance classes such as modified Zumba are great pregnancy workouts. You just want to stay away from high-impact aerobics, jumping, leaping, and bouncing while you’re pregnant.
  2. Spinning: Experts do not recommend outdoor bicycle riding while you're expecting, but riding an indoor stationary bike is an excellent way to get in some cardio. The temperature in an indoor class is controlled to prevent overheating. Plus, the bicycle does not move, so you're less likely to fall off and injure yourself. 
  3. Walking club: Join a neighborhood walking club. Brisk walking is a great exercise. Plus, getting outside for some fresh air and social time with friends or neighbors can make you feel great. If there isn’t a walking club in your area, consider starting one.
  1. Childbirth classes: Childbirth classes are about listening to information and learning, but they often include exercise. You can learn how to get into and move through different labor positions, along with exercises to help you breathe and prepare your muscles for pushing and the birth of your baby. 

If You're Already in a Class

If you already participate in an exercise class, you may still be able to continue. Talk to your instructor and let her know that you’re expecting. Your trainer can explain how to modify your movements and lower the intensity of the workout during the class. And don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else, take your time and go at the pace you feel most comfortable.

Exercising On Your Own

If you don’t want to join a class or there isn’t one that fits your schedule, you can work out on your own or with a friend. Some great exercises to choose are:  

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Pregnancy Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Indoor stationary bicycling
  • Breathing Exercises
Walking for Exercise in Pregnancy

Lifting Weights

Weight training with light weights or your body weight as resistance may be okay, especially if weightlifting was part of your exercise routine before your pregnancy. But, you want to avoid lifting heavy weights. During pregnancy, the joints and ligaments in your body loosen up, and heavy lifting is more likely to cause injury. Talk to your doctor about your situation and what’s best for you. 

Running

If you are an experienced runner, you may be able to keep running. It depends on your activity level and health. You should continue to discuss your exercise habits with your doctor at each prenatal visit. As your pregnancy progresses, you may have to modify your routine. However, long-distance runs, running in hot weather, and sprinting are not recommended for anyone, even experienced runners. 

Tips for Success

Doctors encourage healthy women to stay active during pregnancy. Here are some tips and general guidelines to keep you motivated and safe while you exercise:

  1. Pick an exercise that you enjoy: When working out is fun, you’re more likely to stick with it, and it won’t feel like a chore. 
  2. Exercise with others: You can sign up for a class, work with a personal trainer, or ask a friend to join you. You are more likely to stay motivated and less likely to skip it if you have support and companionship.
  3. Choose the right clothing and shoes: Your workout wear should be loose, and comfortable. You should choose a supportive bra and proper footwear for the activity. 
  4. Start slowly and work your way up: You may feel great and want to jump right into a new exercise routine, but unless you’ve been active all along, it’s best to start slowly. Start with five or ten minutes a day and add five minutes every few days until you reach 20 to 30 minutes a day (or every other day depending on your goals).  
  5. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down your muscles: Five minutes of gentle stretching before and after a workout can help prevent injury and muscle soreness. 
  6. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after working out.  
  1. Have a snack: If you work out on an empty stomach, you may get dizzy and tire out more easily. If you work out after a meal, you risk heartburn and other discomforts. So, try a light snack about 30 minutes to an hour before you begin to exercise.  
  2. Keep it cool: It's important to pay attention to your body and the weather. If it’s hot and humid, exercise indoors where you can monitor the temperature. Dress appropriately and don’t let your body overheat. 
  3. Eat enough and get enough calories each day: You want to stay healthy and fit, but you do not want to lose weight while you’re pregnant. 
  4. Watch your heart rate: It’s great to get your blood pumping, but you don’t want to raise your heart rate too high for too long. In the past, the recommendation was to stay below 140 beats per minute. Now, it’s not the exact number of beats per minute that matters. Instead, it's how you are tolerating the workout. The current rule of thumb is the “talk test.” You’re moving at a good pace if you can still carry on a conversation, but it’s time to take a break if you can’t talk and catch your breath. 

    Know When to Stop

    Be careful not to overdo it. Listen to your body and don’t try to push yourself too far. Stop your workout if you:

    • Become tired
    • Cannot catch your breath 
    • Feel dizzy
    • Have pain
    • Get a headache
    • Feel contractions
    • Start bleeding or feel fluid leaking from your vagina

    What Not to Do

    You can participate in many exercises while you’re pregnant. But some activities are more dangerous than others. You should opt out of the ones that are more likely to cause an injury such as: 

    • Sports that involve physical contact or the chance of getting hit in the belly (or head) by a ball, another person, or any object
    • High-temperature workouts like Hot Yoga that can raise your body temperature too high and cause dehydration
    • Activities that can cause an injury or fall such as gymnastics, skiing, and jumping on a trampoline
    • High-impact and intense training

    If you’re not sure if an exercise, sport, or activity is safe, you can always call your doctor’s office. It’s better to check and get your doctor’s OK than to put yourself and your baby in danger.

    How Often to Exercise

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 2½ hours (150 minutes) of exercise each week.

    Healthy women without any complications can aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you haven’t been active and would like to start, you can work your way up. Start slow and take frequent breaks. Try doing one 10-minute session of low-impact exercise at a time. As the days go on you can increase the time you spend at each workout or add more short sessions throughout the day. 

    You can even mix it up throughout the week. Take a 30-minute class one day, and break it up into a few short workouts another day. Do what works for you and makes you feel the most comfortable. If you spend some time working around the house doing a little gardening or cleaning, you can add that in to help you reach your daily and weekly goals. 

    Risks

    If you have a high-risk pregnancy or specific health issues, you may have to limit certain types of physical activity or stop altogether.

    Health Conditions

    Your doctor may tell you not to exercise if you have: 

    Miscarriage

    Research shows that light to moderate exercise does not put you at risk for pregnancy complications, miscarriage, premature birth, or having a baby with a low birth weight. If you are healthy, you do not have any issues with your pregnancy, and your doctor says it’s OK to exercise, then engaging in physical activity is a great way to stay active and contribute to your health while you’re carrying your child. 

    Does Exercise Cause Miscarriage?

    A Word From Verywell

    Exercise helps you stay fit and active during pregnancy. It can relieve stress, fight off fatigue, give you energy, and make you feel good. It can also help you recover and get back into shape after you have your baby, too. 

    It’s never too early or late to start, so talk to your doctor if you want to begin an exercise program or take a class. But, don’t forget to start slow and work your up. Choose something you like to do and join a class if you can. Adding the social element of participating in a group or working out with a friend keeps it fun and makes it easier to stick with it.  

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