The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Between childbirth classes, doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby gear and—oh yeah—a job and other regular life stuff, what mom-to-be has time to exercise? Actually, you do. “Thirty minutes is all you need for an effective workout,” says Susan Hoffman, a trainer and prenatal fitness specialist at Boca Raton Life Time Athletic Club in Boca Raton, Fla.
Need motivation? Pregnant women who work out regularly have a lower risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and excess weight gain, plus fewer aches, more energy and, after delivery, a faster return to their prepregnancy shape. What’s more, research shows that the children of exercising moms have lower rates of obesity and diabetes years later.
Ready to get moving? Start off with this 30-minute total-body workout, alternating it or a strength circuit with days on which you do cardiovascular exercise.
Thirty minutes a day is ample time to get the cardiovascular exercise, strength training and stretching you need. Here are tips for organizing your workouts:
3 to 5 Days a Week: Do cardio workouts, such as walking, swimming, the elliptical trainer or stationary bike. If you need to, break up your workouts into 10- or 15-minute chunks; you’ll still get the cardio benefits.
2 to 4 Times a Week: Do the 30-minute strength workout. Or, do 10-minute, total-body strength circuits, repeating them for a total of 30 minutes if you feel up to it, advises New York City fitness consultant Liz Neporent, M.A. She recommends doing each exercise for 60 seconds using bands, dumbbells or simply your body weight (e.g., squats and push-ups).
After Every Workout: Both cardio and strength, spend a few minutes stretching, focusing on your chest, lower back, and front and rear thigh muscles.
If You're Working: Make the office your gym. Neporent recommends doing squats (lower yourself only a few inches in your third trimester), wall push-ups and standing pelvic tilts (stand with your palms on your thighs, gently squeeze your butt and tilt your pelvis forward, holding for 2 counts). Do 15 repetitions of each.
If You're a Homebody: Work out with a prenatal Pilates or yoga DVD.
Common pregnancy symptoms can affect your motivation to get the exercise you need; here's how to combat them:
Exhaustion: Exercise early in the day, before you feel even more wiped out, and divide your workout into short sessions. “Throw in a prenatal DVD and stop it after 10 minutes,” says Sabrena Merrill, a trainer in Lawrence, Kan., and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. If you feel up to it later in the day, tackle the rest of the DVD.
Nausea: Notice what time of day your nausea hits hardest and avoid exercising then. Also, don’t exercise on an empty stomach, advises Merrill. Thirty to 60 minutes before your workout, eat bland crackers or half a bagel.
Swollen Feet and Ankles: Exercise early in the day, before the swelling is full-blown. Buy athletic shoes a size larger, and if possible, try swimming or the recumbent bike instead of walking.
Back Discomfort: Stretch your lower back with the Cat Cow move: Get down on your hands and knees, wrists directly under your shoulders. Slowly round your back, holding for one breath. Then, arch your back, tilting your pelvis toward the floor. Repeat.
Feeling Big and Heavy: “Remember that pregnant women are sexy!” says Atlanta-based trainer Susie Shina. “Treat yourself to cute maternity workout clothes. Take care of the parts that aren’t getting fat by getting a manicure or haircut.” Plus, remind yourself of all that you are doing for your health and your baby’s.