We all know that exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle and even more crucial during pregnancy.  Countless studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that an active lifestyle leads to a healthier pregnancy, easier labor and delivery, healthier baby, and an easier recovery. But what is safe when you are expecting?  No mother would want to jeopardize her babies health especially when she was trying to do something healthy!

As a rule pregnant women should avoid participating in activities that put them at risk for falling.  Which for me, a klutz seems like everything.  There are a few things that should be avoided particularly as a pregnancy advances, but for the most part a woman’s body will tell her what she can and cannot do.

1. Chasing other kids.  If this is not a first pregnancy, a woman can usually get plenty of exercise playing with her other children.  Personally, I feel like I get a better work out going to the park with my four little ones than I do trudging along on an elliptical machine.

2. Walk.  This is kind of related to the first one- but no kids are necessary.  My kids walk to and from school.  I join them a quick way to add in three miles to my day and spend some time with my kids.  If this is a first pregnancy, go for a walk! Find a forest preserve in the area and explore.  Shop for the new baby’s needs (yes, walking around a mall counts too!).

3. Swim.  I have not personally gone swimming when pregnant but countless women cannot be wrong about how amazing the buoyancy of water is especially as a pregnancy advances.

4. Yoga. The gentle stretching and toning of prenatal yoga is amazing.  Additionally, the focus on breathing and relaxation can prove very useful when it comes time for labor.  My doula recommends swimming as a way to find some back pain relief.

5. Bicycling.  Some practitioners recommend that a woman stick to stationary bikes throughout pregnancy- as the center of balance shifts and there is an increased risk of falling.  Either way it is a great non-impact exercise for women to engage in.

6. Dance. No special equipment needed! Turn on some music and get moving! There are also classes designed for pregnant women at some gyms and many mothers have participated in ballet up until delivery day without any problems.  Because of the change in balance, doing a lot of spinning is probably not the best idea.

7. Water-aerobics.  No longer just for retirees.  Water aerobics is a great way to get the pleasurable benefits of swimming; buoyancy and no joint stress, and the activity of aerobics.

8. Weight-training.  Aren’t pregnant women supposed to not lift heavy weights? While an expectant mom probably should not be dead lifting 200lbs, there is no reason she cannot take part in lighter weight lifting, focusing on slow controlled movements, and great form.

9. Pilates.  Pilates is a great stretching, lengthening, and toning activity.  Ideally, this should be done with an instructor trained in prenatal Pilates before being done at home with a DVD or video as the focus on form is important.

10. Aerobics.  In a perfect world a pregnant mom would take aerobics classes that were designed for pregnant women.  Unfortunately, these can be hard to find. Most instructors will work with participants to modify exercises to make them appropriate though.
The benefits to remaining active throughout a pregnancy are countless.  They include, less risk of serious complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.  Benefits also include reducing lower back pain, heartburn, excessive weight gain, depression, anxiety, easier recovery, and easier delivery.  Almost every pregnant woman can find an activity that meets her needs. Of course, the prenatal health care provider should be consulted before beginning any exercise program.  Pregnant women should also be encouraged to listen to their bodies, if an exercise hurts or is uncomfortable stop, her body usually is pretty good at telling her what is okay and what is not okay.

About the Author:

Melissa Cameron, mother of 2 and wife, is a freelance writer from Austin, Texas.  She is working with of a chiropractor in Appleton to research and write a series of articles discussing the importance of an ergonomic work station with regards to back pain.