By Emma Stessman
By now, we’re all pretty familiar with the major benefits of a regular workout routine (goodbye stress and hello immunity!). But you might still be a little confused about whether or not you should keep hitting the gym when you’ve got a baby on board.
Good news: research shows that exercising while pregnant results in additional amazing benefits for both mom and baby. Active moms-to-be tend to have shorter labors, reduced back pain, and fewer pregnancy-related complications.
So, what’s the safest way to keep squatting and cycling with a baby bump? It’s actually pretty simple.
“Listen to your body,” says Astrid Swan, a personal trainer and soon-to-be momma. While her body has allowed her to maintain a rotation of HIIT workouts and weight lifting well into her second trimester, yours might prefer a regular gentle yoga practice.
Keep reading for all you need to know for keeping up an active lifestyle during your pregnancy. Just remember: Always get the approval of your doctor before starting or making changes to your pregnancy workout routine.
5 Pregnancy Workout Tips
Do: Stay active
One of the biggest misconceptions, according to Swan? That you shouldn’t work out at all. A positive pregnancy test does not mean you should skip nine months of SoulCycle classes. Studies show that moderate aerobic activities—like stationary cycling or dancing mixed with strength training exercises—can reduce your risk of issues like gestational diabetes and high birth weight, lower your chances of having a cesarean section, and improve your quality of life during pregnancy overall.
And you actually can start up a regular fitness routine during pregnancy, even if you’ve never had one before. The key here: ease yourself into it. If you’ve never been a runner, this might not be the time to start logging some serious miles. Instead, try going on regular walks or attending low-intensity aerobic workout classes.
Don’t: Focus on weight loss
Gaining weight is a natural and super healthy part of pregnancy, and while studies show that working out while pregnant can help keep off some of the excess weight, it shouldn’t be the focus of your workout routine. “Don’t get self conscious about your body changing,” Swan says. “We have no control over how the baby weight will come on, so just do your best to be healthy and active for you and the baby.”
Do: Make sure you’re comfortable
While working out with a baby on board, you don’t want to do anything that will push you past your limits. Skip outdoor workouts on days when it’s particularly hot or humid and always drink plenty of water. (And save the hot yoga classes for post-pregnancy.)
In order to be sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests using the classic “talk test”. Meaning, if you can hold a conversation while working out, you’re probably not in danger of overexerting yourself.
Don’t: Forget about your abdominal exercises
Just because you may not be able to actually see your abs, doesn’t mean you should forget about them in your workout routine. “Keeping your core, pelvic floor, and back strong are not only important for carrying your baby in utero, but [they also help with] preventing sciatica and, in general, the lower back pain that comes from pregnancy,” says Swan. “A strong core and back also help during the delivery.” AKA, when it comes time to push, those abdominal and back muscles are definitely going to help you out.
Swan suggests incorporating exercises like planks, bird dogs, side planks and renegade rows to keep these muscles strong.
Do: Adjust the intensity of your workouts
“Adjust your workouts daily, no matter where you are in your pregnancy.” says Swan. She recommends a standard of around 30 minutes of exercise per day but if it’s a high energy day, maybe add ten or twenty extra minutes to your workout. Or, on the other hand, if you’ve been hit by a particularly bad bout of morning sickness, it’s totally okay to take some time off from your routine. It’s all about figuring out what’s right for you, Swan says.
As you get closer to your due date, Swan advises to stay active, but beware of activities that require balance (the whole not-being-able-to-see-you-toes thing might throw off your stability).
Ultimately, it’s all about doing what’s best for your body and, of course, the tiny human that’s growing inside it.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)