Take Me to the Water

Stay cool and strong with these energizing, toning pool moves.


Even if you’ve cherished every stage of your pregnancy, there may have been a few moments when you felt a little … awkward. And chances are, one or two of those moments were during exercise. It’s no wonder. As your belly expands, your center of gravity shifts, and even a simple activity like walking can become a new challenge.

That’s one reason to take your workout to the water. “Water’s buoyancy is like magic,” says Jane Katz, Ed.D., author of Water Fitness During Your Pregnancy (Human Kinetics, 2000), from which the following workout is adapted. “It’s soothing and relaxing. It makes you feel weightless and even graceful.” Exercising in the water also allows you to do nearly the same kinds of workouts you do on land, but with virtually no strain on your joints or bones.

Working out in the water, Katz adds, may also help reduce the swelling that plagues many women. But pregnant women tell Katz that what they love most about exercising in water is that it just feels good, which is motivation in itself. “If you’re fatigued and uncomfortable, you’re not going to exercise,” Katz says.

These exercises can be done three to four times a week during all three trimesters to keep your body strong and toned.

1. Deep-water running Wearing a deep-water flotation belt (secure the strap under your belly as you start to show), move to the deep end of the pool so your legs hang directly down, in line with your hips. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, tuck them in close to your waist and “jog,” pumping your arms in opposition to your legs, just as you would on land. Make sure you maintain an upright position in the water. Start with 5–10 minutes of jogging and work up to 30 minutes as your fitness and energy levels allow. If you don’t feel comfortable in deep water or don’t want to use a flotation belt, you can walk or jog in chest-deep water instead. Helps improve cardiovascular conditioning; tones arms and legs.

2. Leg lifts Stand in waist-deep water with your back against the pool wall. Lean against the wall with your arms and hands resting on the edge for support. Contract your abdominal muscles, imagining that you’re pulling your navel back toward your spine. Keep your back as close to the pool wall as possible while you inhale, lifting your right leg up in front of you as high as you comfortably can while keeping your hips against the wall and your leg straight (there should be a small curve in your lower back). Exhale and lower your leg. Do 10–20 repetitions; switch legs and repeat. Start with 1 set and work up to 2. Strengthens abdominals, legs, hips and buttocks muscles.

3. Back extension Stand in armpit-deep water facing the pool wall and hold onto the edge with your hands shoulder-width apart and elbows relaxed. Bend both knees and place feet flat against the wall at about waist height, slightly farther apart than your arms. Holding onto the edge, inhale as you let your legs extend behind you. Use your abdominal muscles to tilt your pelvis and control your legs until you’re in a prone float position and your feet are at the water’s surface, separated slightly. Bend elbows as needed. Exhale and curl your back like a cat as you bend your knees in toward your chest; then bring your feet to the wall to the starting position. Do 4–6 repetitions. Stretches the spine and relaxes the lower back; strengthens abs, back and upper-thigh muscles; helps develop body control.