7 best pregnancy exercises to stay fit and healthy

Pregnancy fitness

by Bryony Firth-Bernard |

Whether you were a workout fanatic pre-pregnancy or are looking to get started, there’s plenty of pregnancy exercises you can do to keep you and your bump in tip-top condition.

Exercising throughout your pregnancy is important for both you and your growing baby and it can even help make labour more manageable. However, while it is safe to exercise during your pregnancy and won’t harm your baby, It’s important you listen to your body and not overdo it. The NHS says: “As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously.”

If you’re someone who worked out regularly before, remember you won’t be able to exercise to the same level as you did previously, especially as your pregnancy progresses. If you’re only just starting to get active, don’t jump in at the deep end, take things easy and start with more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week. Also, if you take up any exercise classes make sure you tell the instructor you’re pregnant first.

Here's seven pregnancy exercises you can do safely while pregnant, that will not only help keep your heart healthy and body toned, but your mind feeling great too.

Best pregnancy exercises

1. Swimming

pregnant woman swimming

Your baby is enjoying life in a watery world right now, and you should be too. When you’re pregnant, a trip to your local swimming pool cools you down, supports your joints and rests your bump. Best of all, being in water helps you feel weightless: immersing your body up to your waist decreases your weight by 50 per cent and, if you wander towards the deep end and submerge up to your chest, 75 per cent. And when your bump is getting big, that’s just heavenly.

2. Walking

pregnant woman walking

It's the ideal exercise to start with if you're used to limited physical activity - it's easy to make walking part of your everyday routine and it's free too! Being low impact, it's something you can do right up until labour if everything feels comfortable and why not do it with friends and have a catch up at the same time? Just make sure you're wearing comfy shoes and you stay on level ground.

3. Running

pregnant woman running

If running or jogging was part of your life before pregnancy, it's perfectly safe to continue this providing you feel fine. Your baby won't be impacted by running and it's a brilliant way to keep your heart and lungs healthy. As your bump gets bigger and you enter your third trimester, you may feel more tired so be sure to listen to your body and make resting a priority when needed.

If you didn't run before you were pregnant, it's best to stick to walking briskly as your joints won't be used to the exercise.

4. Pilates

Similar to Yoga, Pilates is a low-impact exercise that aims to strengthen your body evenly, with an emphasis on your core muscles. Pilates is really helpful in giving your body a helping hand with carrying the extra weight that is your baby. It also focuses on strengthening your pelvic floor.

5. Yoga

pregnant woman doing yoga

Pregnancy yoga is a lovely way to spend time with your unborn baby and there are lots of benefits to enjoy too as a result. Staying active helps to keep your body strong and flexible and research has found that it can also improve sleep and reduce anxiety and stress as well.

A lot of the skills you learn in yoga may actually prove useful when it’s time to prepare to meet your upcoming arrival, enabling you to be more in-tune with your body. Being able to stay focused and calm through deep and mindful breathing as is encouraged in yoga, can help you to relax your body and feel more confident and in control when giving birth.

6. Dancing

‘Dancing is brilliant for your wellbeing at any time of your life,’ says pregnancy dance instructor Elisa Reinerio. ‘This is especially true during pregnancy as it helps you experience what feels good as your body changes, learn how to adjust your movements as your bump grows and really listen to what your body is telling you. It’s also a form of mental release. Dancing can help you tap into what you’re feeling and enable you to sort through your emotions and let go of any tension or pent-up feelings. It does this by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving you more relaxed. Amazingly your baby will reap the benefits too. From as early on as around 14 weeks into your pregnancy, he’ll be able to hear the music and feel your patterns of movement, which creates a bond between the two of you..’

7. Weight training

pregnant woman doing weight training

If you did weight training before pregnancy then there’s no reason why you can’t continue, as it’s great for strengthening your body for labour. However, there are some adjustments you need to make. If you’re someone who would regularly use a barbell as part of your training, swap to dumbbells instead and opt for a light weight and increase the number of repetitions. Avoid lifting weights while lying on your back after 12 weeks or above your head in the last three months of your pregnancy. The best areas to focus on strengthening during your pregnancy include your glutes, ankles, upper back, hamstrings, pelvic floorand quadriceps. Always speak to a member of gym staff if you’re ever unsure.

Pregnancy workouts on YouTube

While long workouts at the gym might be out of the question during your pregnancy, there are lots of workouts you can do in your own home. You might also feel less self-conscious and more comfortable working out in your living room than at the gym.

Pregnancy fitness workouts on YouTube are a great way to keep fit in the comfort of your own home. And now we’ve all got smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, it is easier than ever to stream YouTube videos to watch straight away. We've rounded up the best pregnancy fitness videos on Youtube, from stretches to yoga and even those dreaded cardio workouts!

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1) Pregnancy Yoga, Katy Appleton

Yoga is well known for its beneficial properties whether you are pregnant, trying for a baby, a new mum, or just a regular Joe needing to keep in shape. Not only will yoga strengthen and tone your body during pregnancy, but it will help you stay calm and centred too.

Katy Appleton is the instructor for this series on TONIC, a women's lifestyle channel. Katy runs Apple Yoga, which offers yoga classes and workshops as well as online courses. With more than 2million views on YouTube, this one is a pregnancy yoga favourite.

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