Just like most recommendations while pregnant, there is no a black and white answer. The ‘official’ medical answer from the ACOG is “In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women.” However, many of us know how hard it is to exercise every day even when you are not pregnant!
With the extra weight, swelling and tiredness, many pregnant women do not feel like exercising, yet it can really make you feel better. Even a short walk can boost energy and increase circulation.
Even with the general ACOG guidelines, there are no specific recommendations on what constitutes the 30 minutes of exercise. It could be 30 min of cardio, 30 min of strength training or 30 min of yoga. While you are pregnant, even more than ever, I think you should listen to your body. If you wake up feeling good and energetic then take advantage and exercise that day. If there are other days you are feeling nauseous, extremely fatigued, then take it easy and maybe try for a short walk or a day off.
I was blessed to feel good throughout the majority of my pregnancy so I was able to exercise most days of the week. For most of my pregnancy, I taught 2 spin classes a week, lifted 2-3 times a week, used the elliptical, walked my dog almost daily and did yoga about once a week. This is not a recommendation for everyone but simply wanted to share what a typical week was like for me. I am also fortunate to work in the fitness industry so teaching classes allowed me to get in my exercise a few days a week. I was able to teach up until I was 7 months pregnant and at that point I was getting a little too uncomfortable on the spin bike. Yoga was also becoming too uncomfortable. For the last few months of pregnancy, I relied heavily on the elliptical, lifting weights and walking.
When advising my pregnant clients, I encourage them to lift 2-3 times a week. I highly recommend lifting for my pregnant clients for a number of reasons. First of all, it is often an easier form of exercise to do vs. certain cardio exercises. It is not incredibly hard or jarring on your body (obviously depending on the load you are lifting.) I stopped running at 28 weeks. It felt weird, kind of hurt and was just awkward. However, I lifted up until the day I was due. Besides having to make a few modifications for my changing body, I was always able to lift. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I could not use the rowing machine, I was scared of falling off of the stair mill, I could not ride a stationary bike, I felt I could not do 95% of the yoga poses in yoga class and even swimming, my first true exercise love did not feel good. But lifting was always there. I could do it for 20 or 30 min and feel great.
Lifting also can help prepare your body for all the stages of pregnancy, the actual birth and the recovery. A strong core and low back for birth and strong upper body for holding that baby are just a few of the benefits. I cannot emphasize enough of the importance of lifting weights while pregnant.
Here is a quickie workout you can do at the gym or at home with minimal equipment. A medium and heavier sets of dumbbells is ideal.
Complete each round 3 times attempting minimal rest between each exercise to keep the heart rate slightly elevated. However, rest as much as you need between the circuits to feel comfortable. Ideally the last few reps of each exercise should feel challenging.
**This workout is suitable for those trying to get pregnant, all trimesters and post pregnancy (with clearance from your doctor). However, adjust rest periods as needed if completing while pregnant.
10 reps of each of the following and repeat each circuit 3 times before moving on to the next circuit.
Walking lunges with curl
Walking lunges with curl and press
Squat Row Extension
Incline Chest Press (this can be done on a bench or physio ball)
This workout should only take only 15-20 min but gives you an all body workout. I often do this workout in my basement even now when I am short on time. Let me know what you think!