Best ways to exercise safely when pregnant: Familiar movement, hydration and patience key

Also beware of overstretching, as the hormone Relaxin loosens the muscles and joints during pregnancy

In group classes, remember each pregnancy is different, so know your body's limit and don't compare you ability to others. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Exercise as a daily routine can help diminish stress, improve moods, keep the body strong, prevent injury and illness, maintain a healthy weight, assist in adequate sleep … the list can go on.

All these factors are even more important during pregnancy, and numerous studies have shown that exercising at this time is enormously beneficial to the mother’s comfort and energy levels.

Low-impact strength training is one of the safest disciplines for pregnant women. Pilates, swimming, yoga and barre are all gentle on the joints and limit opportunity for injury. In a class environment, moves can and should be modified to adapt to the various stages of pregnancy and postnatal status.

There are also certain dos and don’ts expectant mums should keep in mind.

Know your limits and don’t compare

It is important to always consult with your doctor regarding an exercise routine while pregnant, and make sure it is the smart choice for you. In addition, it is vital not to compare yourself to anyone else, because everyone has their own journey.

We all have different pregnancies and deliveries, so figure out what feels right for you and try not to measure your progress to anyone else’s but your own.

Choose familiar movement

Practise a technique or class you are familiar with, so you know what to expect, how to pace yourself, and how to modify if needed. If you do choose a new class, find something specified as “pre-natal”.

If you’re already pregnant, it is best not to try something new as injuries are more likely to occur when someone is getting to grips with a new discipline. However, it is important to keep moving during pregnancy. So, even if you have never exercised before, and have clearance to start while pregnant, opt for a dedicated prenatal class or simply take up walking on a regular basis.

Listen to your body and be patient with it

Listen to your body because if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Take breaks when you need to, and know that movements may take more time, and you must go slowly and gently.

Also be patient. You and your body are changing each day. Things might feel different than they used to; for example, you might not enjoy the same routines you used to before. Take it day by day and appreciate what your body is going through.

Hydration and nourishment are more essential than ever

It is important to stay hydrated before, during and after your workout. Eating healthily will also assist you to feel strong and comfortable while working out and make sure you have the proper fuel to exercise properly and effectively. Do not skip meals, even if it’s something small and light before working out.

Move mindfully and with control

Start with a slower tempo, then gradually build up the speed, if necessary, to make sure you maintain proper technique. There is a higher chance of becoming dizzy when you are pregnant, so take care especially when transitioning to up or down movements from ground level.

Balance and stability can be off while pregnant, so move with control to prevent falling or tripping. Hormone changes can cause blood pressure to drop, which can make you feel dizzy. You are also more likely to overheat when pregnant, so again, listening to your body, taking breaks, and being hydrated are key.

Warm up and cool down

Take the time for a proper warm-up and recovery post workout. This will prevent the possibility of injury if you make sure your muscles are well prepared and have properly cooled down and relaxed after exercise.

Beware of overstretching

Relaxin is a hormone that loosens and relaxes your muscles, joints and ligaments during pregnancy to help your body stretch. Relaxin also helps your body prepare for delivery by loosening the muscles and ligaments in your pelvis. It is important to be mindful while stretching as you might feel a bit more open or flexible, but it might cause you to stretch too far or deeply with a chance of injury.

Choose specialist prenatal instructors

Participating in a session with an instructor who has prenatal exercise experience is important. Take the time to speak with your instructor or trainer ahead of the session and they will advise you how to properly modify movements, especially if it is not a pre-natal-specified class. There are many modifications in place to allow you to be more comfortable and yet get more out of your session. Abdominal work, in particular, will be heavily modified allowing your abdominal muscles to expand, but still stay strong during pregnancy.

Concentrate on careful breathing

Moving with your breath is key while exercising, and even more important while pregnant when your body requires more oxygen to function at its best. Drawing conscious, slow, controlled breath allows you to properly expand and strengthen your abdominals during pregnancy, which will be beneficial for recovery after delivery. It also promotes relaxation and reduces stress.

Founder of Dubai’s Barre Effect studio, Nora Hameidani is an REPS and NASM-certified personal trainer, an avid yogi and a mother of three

Updated: January 10, 2024, 12:04 PM