Light And Safe Exercises During Pregnancy

  • 11 Mins Read
  • Movement
  • Written by: Team Good Health By Yourself
Safe Exercises For Pregnancy
  •  The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain.
  • Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
  •  Exercise won’t increase your risk of having a miscarriage, a premature baby, or a baby born with low birth weight.
  •  Activities such as prenatal yoga and Pilates can help you practice breathing, meditation, and other calming methods that may help you manage labor pain.

The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain, post-delivery. After all, pregnancy-safe exercises can help you to cope better with labor, and also get back into shape faster after birth.

Perks of exercise during pregnancy

Unlike many rumors, exercise won’t increase your risk of having a miscarriage, a premature baby, or a baby born with low birth weight.
During pregnancy, exercise can:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
  • Boost your mood and energy levels
  • Help you sleep better
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Lower the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Shortened labor
  • Reduced risk of having a C-section

How much exercise do you need during pregnancy?

  •  The benefits of exercise include keeping your mind and body healthy. Physical activity can help you feel good and give you extra energy.
  •  It helps you gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Ease some common discomforts of pregnancy, such as constipation, back pain, and swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet.
  •  Helps you manage stress and sleep better.
  •  Help reduce your risk of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
  •  Help reduce your risk of having a cesarean birth. Cesarean birth is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus.
  •  Activities such as prenatal yoga and Pilates can help you practice breathing, meditation, and other calming methods that may help you manage labor pain.

Can you exercise during pregnancy?

The answer is yes! If you’re healthy and you had been exercising regularly before you got pregnant, it’s usually safe to continue your activities during pregnancy.

Start with 5 minutes of activity each day, and work your way up to 30 minutes each day, to see how it works out for you.

Safe exercises during pregnancy

  • Walking: Taking a brisk walk is a great workout that doesn’t strain your joints and muscles. If you’re new to exercise, this is a great start.
  • Swimming and water workouts: The water supports the weight of your growing baby and moving against the water helps keep your heart rate up. It’s also easy on your joints and muscles.● Low-impact aerobics classes: During low-impact aerobics, you always have one foot on the ground or equipment. Examples of low-impact aerobics include walking, riding a stationary bike, and using an elliptical machine.
  • Riding a stationary bike: This is safer than riding a regular bicycle during pregnancy. You’re less likely to fall off a stationary bike than a regular bike, even as your belly grows.
  • Yoga and pilates classes: Tell your yoga or pilates teacher that you’re pregnant. The instructor can help you modify or avoid poses that may be unsafe for pregnant women, such as lying on your belly or flat on your back.
  •  Low-impact aerobics classes: During low-impact aerobics, you always have one foot on the ground or equipment. Examples of low-impact aerobics include walking, riding a stationary bike, and using an elliptical machine.

Low-impact aerobics don’t put as much strain on your body as high-impact aerobics do. During high-impact aerobics, both feet leave the ground at the same time. Examples include running, jumping rope, and jumping jacks.

  • Strength training: Strength training can help you build muscle and make your bones strong. It’s safe to work out with weights as long as they’re not too heavy.

Changes during pregnancy:

  • Balance: You may notice that you lose your balance more easily during pregnancy.
  • Body temperature: Your body temperature is slightly higher during pregnancy, so you start sweating sooner than you did before pregnancy.
  • Breathing: As your baby develops and your body changes, you need more oxygen. Your growing belly puts pressure on your diaphragm, a muscle that helps you breathe. You may even find yourself feeling short of breath at times.
  • Energy: Your body’s working hard to take care of your baby, so you may have less energy during pregnancy.
  • Heart rate: Your heart works harder and beats faster during pregnancy to get oxygen to your baby.
  • Joints: Your body makes more of some hormones during pregnancy. This can make the tissues that support your joints more relaxed. Try to avoid any movements that may strain or hurt your joints.

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Pregnancy and birth weaken your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are located in your pelvis and go from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They protect your bowels, womb, and bladder.

Your pelvic floor muscles support these organs when you jump, sneeze or cough, lift heavy things, and push your baby out in the second stage of labor.

When you’re pregnant you should make sure you exercise the muscles of your pelvic floor. By keeping them strong you can help decrease the risk of becoming incontinent.

Here are some of the pelvic floor exercises for pregnant women that can be performed during pregnancy:

Pelvic floor exercises for pregnant women

Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and birth, so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy.

1. Sit to stand

  • Place a chair behind you – make sure it is stable and isn’t going to move!
  • Take a small step away from your chair. Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Toes can point straight ahead or slightly out, again, depending on what is comfortable to you.
  • Keeping shoulders relaxed, put your arms out in front of you as a counterbalance.
  • Start the movement by moving your hips back, and reaching for the chair with your bottom.
  • Slowly bend your knees until your bottom touches the chair.
  • When you stand up, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • You should feel your glutes and thighs working.
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.

 

2. Static Lunge

NOTE: If you have any pelvic girdle pain, avoid this exercise.

  • Use something to help steady you, such as a countertop or wall.
  • Take a big step forward, while keeping your feet as wide apart as your hips. You don’t want a narrow stance because it will make you unbalanced.
  • Your front leg will be doing a bit more work and your back leg will act as a stabilizer.
  • Dip your back knee towards the floor, while keeping your body nice and tall.
  • Press into the lead leg’s heel as you stand back up. Stay in your stance and lower back down immediately.
  • You should feel your glutes and thighs working.
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions. Switch feet position and repeat on another side!

3. Kickbacks

  • Stand facing your counter or a wall for support.
  • Turn your tummy muscles on and tuck your tailbone under.
  • Squeeze your glute and with a straight leg, extend your leg back away from the wall.
  • This is a very small movement – too much as you will start to use your lower back. We just want to focus on using your glute muscles for this exercise!
  • Return to the start position and repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Then switch legs and repeat.

4. Side-lying leg raise

  • Place a yoga mat or towel on the floor for comfort. You can also perform on your bed, if easier!
  • Lie on your side and bend your bottom knee slightly, for stability. Roll forward just a bit so your top hip bone is slightly in front of the bottom hip bone.
  • Slowly raise your top leg, while keeping the knee straight. Squeeze your glute muscle, then slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat for 12-15 repetitions. Then flip to the other side and repeat with another leg.

5. Hip thrust

  • You can do this off the edge of your couch or bed.
  • Rest your mid-back off the edge of the couch, with your feet out in front and knees bent. You can use your forearms to support you while you set your feet up.
  • Do a pelvic tilt then press through your heels and thrust your hips up to the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower back to the start position.
  • You should feel your glutes and the backs of your legs working. If you mainly feel your thighs working, think about pushing through your heels more when raising your hips!
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.

6. Raised push-ups

  • Using a countertop, stand about 1m away. Place hands on the counter, shoulder-width apart.
  • Start by doing a pelvic tilt and keep your glute muscles turned on through the push-up movement.
  • Keeping your elbows as close to your body as is comfortable, slowly lower your chest to the countertop. Then, push back to the starting position.
  • You should feel your chest muscles working on the way up and back muscles working on the way down.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps.

7. Wall slides/Snow angels

  • With your back to a wall, stand about 30cm away from it. Now lean against the wall.
  • Keep your arms by your side and with elbows against the wall, bend your elbows 90 degrees. Your wrists and the back of your hands should be flat against the wall.
  • Keeping elbows bent and wrists touching the wall, slide your arms up the wall.
  • Raise them until your upper arm is parallel to the floor then slowly lower back to starting position.
  • Avoid arching your lower back, try to keep in it a neutral position.
  • You should feel your mid-back muscles working.
  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.

8. 4 Point arm raise

  • You can do this exercise on the floor using a towel and a yoga mat or on your bed.
  • Get onto your hands and knees and turn your tummy muscles on to help you stabilize.
  • Keeping your shoulders away from your ears, slowly raise one arm out in front of you. Keep your elbow straight and have your thumbs pointing to the ceiling.
  • You should feel like you are trying to stretch your fingers out so they can touch the nearest wall, without moving your body.
  • Slowly lower it back down.
  • You should feel your core muscles working to stabilize you and your back muscles working to raise your arm.
  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Then switch arms and repeat on another side.

9. Arm raise

  • Stand tall and keep your shoulders away from your ears during this exercise.
  • Raise both of your arms out to the side so they are parallel to the ground. Elbows need to stay straight.
  • Make small circles with your hands – forwards for 20 repetitions then backward for 20 repetitions.
  • You should feel your shoulder muscles working and mid-back muscles working to help stabilize.

10. Pelvic floor breathing exercise

  • Get in a relaxed seated position with legs uncrossed.
  • Place one hand on your chest on one hand on your stomach.
  • As you breathe in, feel your stomach and chest expand and your perineum relax.
  • As you breathe out, your rib cage and stomach will drop. Start to think about lifting your pelvic floor upwards. You will feel like you are pulling the walls of your vagina and anus inwards and upwards.
  • You can do one big squeeze first to make sure you are feeling the contraction, then only squeeze at 30% for the next 8-10 repetitions.
  • Make sure you take your time with each repetition – inhale for at least 4

seconds and exhale for at least 4 seconds.

Along with these exercises, you can also try ball exercises during pregnancy.

Pregnancy ball exercises

1. Ball march

Sit on the ball with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Exhale and draw your belly button towards your spine as you slowly lift one knee without letting the ball or your hips move.

Slowly place your foot back down and repeat on the other side. Keep alternating sides for 10 repetitions.

2. Ball bridges

Start by sitting on the floor with your upper back against the ball. Push up through both of your feet and lift your hips off the floor towards the ceiling, as high as you can comfortably go without arching your back.

Hold for three seconds and slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times.

3. Kneeling ball roll-outs

Start in a high kneeling position with your hands on the ball. Keeping your back straight, roll the ball forward until you can feel your core engaging. Hold for three seconds, then roll the ball back in.

Repeat 10 times, and make sure you continue to breathe throughout the exercise.

4. Ball circles

Sit on the ball with your feet firmly planted on the floor, slightly wider than hip-width apart. Move your hips in a circular motion to “draw” small circles on the floor with the ball.

Do 10 repetitions clockwise, then repeat counter-clockwise.

 Deep breathing during pregnancy

Along with this exercise, research has found the impacts of deep breathing exercises during pregnancy. There are various benefits for the mother and the baby when a mother performs deep breathing exercises.

Yoga experts believe that deep breathing:

  • Improves the circulation of blood
  • Boosts the flow of oxygen that is supplied to your body and your baby.
  • Helps your body to remove waste effectively.
  • Relaxes you and helps to reduce stress.

Deep breathing technique

  1. Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension (go limp all over – from head to toe) as you breathe out.
  2. Focus on the baby moving down and out, or on another positive image.
  3. Breathe slowly, letting the contraction guide you. Accelerate or lighten your breathing as necessary for comfort.
  4. After 5-6 seconds, release your breath, then breathe in and out.
  5. When the contraction ends, relax your body

Conclusion

To conclude, we can say that these safe exercises during pregnancy like regular light intensity workouts, and practice pelvic floor exercises and deep breathing exercises are beneficial during this time, and good enough motivation to move.  Most women who perform these exercises feel healthier and more energetic during their pregnancy.

These pregnancy-safe exercises will eventually keep the baby healthy and will also increase the chances of a normal and safe delivery. So, hang in there, and keep focusing on diet and healthy food during pregnancy along with a little bit of exercise every day!

  • 1. Cooper DB, et al. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–.
    2. Nascimento SL, et al Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Dec;24(6):387-94.