Women often start exercising after they’ve had a baby to help lose the “baby fat.” But exercising during pregnancy can benefit moms-to-be just as much.
“Exercising during pregnancy provides so many benefits for women,” says Hilary Storey, a pre- and post-natal fitness instructor who teaches EvergreenHealth’s Fit4Baby classes.
To begin with, Storey says exercising during pregnancy better prepares a woman for childbirth, making for an easier labor and delivery.
It can also speed up the body’s recovery after childbirth.
And during pregnancy itself, exercise can increase energy and help women deal with aches and pains that often occur while pregnant.
In the Fit4Baby class at EvergreenHealth, Storey helps women get their muscles ready for labor. “We do squats and lunges to strengthen leg muscles, as well as abdominal exercises to build core strength—all this helps prepare for delivery,” says Storey.
She also helps pregnant women improve arm strength – good preparation for months of carrying baby in an infant car seat – and posture, which can be affected as the body overcompensates for the weight of the baby being carried in the front.
Storey says exercising strengthens pregnant women in another important way: “Being active gives you a mental boost as well—to your mood, energy and stress level,” she says. “It can also help you sleep better, too, which can affect how you feel.”
Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it.
In addition to the core and strengthening exercises taught in Fit4Baby, other safe activities include:
These activities are good for pregnant women because they pose little risk of injury and work every part of a woman’s body.
They generally can be continued throughout the entire pregnancy as well.
There are some exercises – such as crunches or other abdominal work – that Storey says women may want to avoid during the third and final trimester.
“As women progress in their pregnancy, certain exercises may become uncomfortable. We often make modifications in class. If pushups become difficult, for example, a woman can do chest press exercises with resistance bands instead,” she says.
Unless instructed not to by a doctor or exercise instructor, women really can do almost any exercise while pregnant, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
However, there are specific conditions that require pregnant women to be cautious. These include:
In these cases, it’s always best to consult your obstetrician or primary care doctor first before exercising.
Storey says pregnant women can begin at any time. “There’s no wrong time to start—any time is beneficial!”
Length: Classes run in six-week sessions
Cost: $90 per session
A doctor's written permission is required to participate in class.
Visit our Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy page for information on what you should - and shouldn't - eat during pregnancy.