Best Pregnancy Workouts To Keep You Happy & Healthy While Expecting

Pregnant Woman doing Pregnancy Workouts

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If you’re looking for the best pregnancy workouts to relieve your pain, boost your mood and make nearing your due date more bearable, hopefully I have something for you!

No matter if you’re in the first trimester, second or third, your body and mind are undergoing serious changes that can influence how you function on a daily basis.

Swollen ankles, back pain, mood swings, feeling bloated and tired, but you still can’t sleep.

(Incidentally, these symptoms remind me of the lyrics to Nirvana’s  Pennyroyal Tea lyrics: “I’m so tired I can’t sleep”.

I’m pretty sure they aren’t about pregnant women, but they’ve managed to depict the real life situation of every new mom-to-be!

Anyway, you’ve probably thought about finding a way to relieve these symptoms, but are scared that whatever you do might harm the baby or make you feel even worse.

Worry not! 

The most effective and safest way to relieve pregnancy aches of all kinds is with the help of pregnancy workouts!

Exercising is the most beneficial, and more importantly, it’s a natural painkiller and mood booster!

Pregnancy exercises that are safe for you and your growing baby are all you need to maintain your health and boost your endorphins!

And in case you’re still not convinced, just keep reading…

Benefits Of Pregnancy Workouts

Pregnant women doing workout in a group If, like me, you aren’t really a gym addict, you probably need some motivational words of encouragement to inspire you to start exercising. 

And, trust me, there’s no better way to boost your determination to exercise than with learning how exercise can improve you both mentally and physically during pregnancy. 

Here are some of the benefits:

• Boosts your energy and mood

• Reduces back pain, bloating, swelling 

• Improves your sleep

• Helps reduce risk of or treat gestational diabetes 

• Stimulates muscle tone 

• Makes you stronger and more flexible 

• Helps prevent development of hypertensive disorders

• Keeps you fit during pregnancy

• Makes your labor and delivery easier

• Helps you get back in shape faster after pregnancy

If this is still not enough motivation for you to start exercising, then please go back and  read the list again! 

Joking aside, the fact that you’ve bothered to search for pregnancy workouts online is the first and the biggest sign of your determination to improve your well-being and alleviate the symptoms of pregnancy.

Whenever I suffer from a lack of motivation, I just imagine how I feel after exercising, which immediately lifts my spirits up and inspires me to start moving. 

You can use this method if you ever start feeling like giving up in the middle of exercising, or if you ever experience difficulties when starting.

It’s different when you have a personal trainer who “yells at you” and motivates you to keep pushing forward.

But, when you’re on your own, you have to be able to motivate yourself, so finding the right method for you means you’re half-way there.

Okay, now that we’ve covered all the necessary information, we can shift to the real point of this article and that is PREGNANCY WORKOUTS!

Best Safe Pregnancy Workouts You Can Do While Expecting

Pregnant woman stretching before workout There are tons of exercises out there, so we’ll focus on those that are the safest for both you and your growing baby because safety is our number one priority, right?

Now, to help you get the most out of your exercise regimen, I recommend mixing cardio exercises with strength exercises.

I understand that some of you might not really enjoy running or light weight lifting, but mixing the two is definitely the best pregnancy workout plan.

To help you navigate through the exercises, I’ve put them into two categories:

• Cardio exercises 

• Strength exercises

Best Cardio Exercises 

Walking

Pregnant woman walking taking a hikeIf you ask me, walking is the greatest gift in the universe.

When you’re feeling annoyed by all those dumbbells, lunges, and other home workouts that are part of your exercise routine, walking comes as a true blessing. 

The only thing you need is sneakers (okay, and a strong will). So, no excuses. 

Walking is a great cardio exercise that is perfectly safe for mommies in both the first, second trimester, and third trimester.

It’s one of the easiest exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime. 

Walking will increase your muscle strength, improve the fitness of your heart and lungs, and reduce body fat.

It would be great if you could walk for at least 30 minutes a day. The most important thing you need to pay attention to is your pace. 

You don’t want to walk “grandma style” because it’s not really effective.

For the best results, you want to walk at a moderately intense pace (not too fast, but not too slow). 

In addition, walking and running are awesome warm-ups before strength training, so keep that in mind as well.

Running

Pregnant woman running in gym I think there are two types of people in the world when it comes to exercising: Those who prefer walking and those who prefer running. 

Seldom have I heard that the same person enjoys both walking and running, although I’m sure there are probably some exceptions.

I myself am a walking person and I do the minimum amount of running necessary.

But, it’s good to know that both are (almost) equally beneficial, so there’s no need to worry about skipping the one you don’t like.

Running will elevate your heart rate, strengthen your knees, joints, and bones, help you burn extra calories – and it will make you happier!

Just like walking, running is also recommended as a first, second, or third trimester workout, so there’s no need to worry about having to stop at some point. 

Running will also improve your memory and focus, which is great when it comes to preparing everything for a newborn or thinking of baby names for your little one!

Note: If you notice any red flags during the exercise, quit doing it and / or consult with your doctor.

Stepping

Pregnancy Workouts SteppingAnother great cardio option is a stepper. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a step (if you don’t have one or aren’t intending to equip yourself with one) – you can use a wooden box or some other solid material of the right size.

This exercise will greatly strengthen your legs and glutes (which are among the most difficult muscles to maintain).

There are plenty of variations you can do with a stepper and here the most effective ones (also, my favourites):

• Step on a stepper with your right leg, then bring your left leg through and raise it to your hip height. Go to the initial position and repeat the exercise a minimum of 10 times on each leg.

• Step on a stepper with your right leg, and then join your left leg.

Do a squat and then return to the initial position (first your right and then your left leg). You can change legs after each squat or session.

Also, try to repeat a minimum of 10 times on each leg.

And some valuable tips: If you’re feeling bored or unmotivated, engage your partner, play inspiring music, and enjoy!

Note: If you notice any red flags during the exercise, quit doing it and / or consult with your doctor, your PT or a gym instructor. 

Swimming

pregnant woman swimming Without a doubt, swimming is one of the most powerful and effective pregnancy workouts.

The main reason for this is because water makes you feel lighter (as opposed to standing on your two feet on dry land).

In water, you are more flexible and you’re able to move quickly and easily, which is awesome for both you and your baby, right?

And when it comes to the benefits of swimming, they are innumerable.

Swimming will reduce your stress levels, strengthen and tone your muscles, improve your flexibility, and help you fall asleep more easily. 

And best of all, swimming is a full body exercise meaning it involves using all the muscles in your body. Awesome, right?

You don’t have to worry about whether you’ve overworked your arms or neglected your legs.

With swimming, you can be sure that you’ve included every single muscle in your body.

Also, there are tons of other exercises you can do in the water besides swimming, like water aerobics.

It’s both interesting and good to know that your body works harder while in the water in comparison to working out on land. 

So, exercising less in water equals your normal exercise routine on land because the intensity greatly differs.

Aerobics and dance workout classes

Group of pregnant women doing aerobics and dance workout classesYou’re probably familiar with the popular Zumba workout class, which is really great for both pregnant women and anyone else who wants to shake their booty a little bit and do some quality cardio.

Aerobics and dance workout classes really do wonders when it comes to boosting your mood and helping you fall asleep like a baby at the end of the day. 

They are a great alternative for HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and especially recommended for beginners because they help you gradually enter the active phase. 

Still, it’s important to listen to your body regardless of whether you’re experienced or not.

There are some things you should avoid when pregnant, including jumping or movements that require lots of strength and balance. 

You should never force yourself to “survive the entire workout session” if you’re not feeling well. You can never go wrong if you listen to your body and gradually upgrade your moves.

Kicking

pregnancy woman kicking pad in gymI personally LOVE kicking!

Whenever our trainer tells us to start kicking, I instantly turn into a little, hyperactive child and start kicking until my legs fall apart.

Needless to say, this is very effective after a long day at work or when someone is driving you crazy.

Before I dive deeper into kicking matters, it’s important to note that kicking as a pregnancy workout might not be the right choice for you if you haven’t done it before.

Why?

Because if you have done kicking before, your balance will already be good and your body will be used to the exercise, meaning there is less chance of you getting hurt. 

So, if you’re new to this kicking activity, try to stay patient for the time being and practice it after pregnancy. 

Now, let’s get to the practical part. The best way to do kicking is to kick against pads (your partner or a friend can hold the pads). 

Regarding the height, the only rule is to listen to your body and raise the bar in accordance with your level of comfort. But, the ideal safe height would be knee height.

(Don’t forget to switch legs and enjoy!)

Note: If you notice any red flags during the exercise, quit doing it and / or consult with your doctor, your PT or a gym instructor. 

Stationary cycling

Stationary cycling pregnant womanIndoor cycling / stationary cycling – or whatever you want to call it – is another great cardio exercise.

The number one reason why it’s great is because it’s stationary.

You can do it in the comfort of your home (if you have a bike at home) and at your own pace. 

You won’t be anxious about falling and you won’t risk any sudden movements screwing up your balance.

Indoor cycling is perfectly safe for every mom-to-be and that’s why it is awesome.

Keep in mind not to start at full speed. Start with a slow pace and then gradually increase the speed of cycling. As with everything else, pay attention to how you’re feeling while pedalling.

If you notice that you’re feeling exhausted or breathless, take a pause or slow down your pace. You should never force yourself no matter how determined you are.

Moderation is the key!

Best Strength Exercises

Weight lifting

pregnant woman Weight liftingWeight lifting is a great way to improve your strength and tone your biceps, triceps, and glutes.

There are many weight lifting exercises, and here are some of the best ones:

Bicep curls – Choose light weights and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise both your right arm and left arm toward your shoulders.

Return to the initial position and repeat. Also, remember to take breaks.

Shoulder lateral raises – Take a dumbbell in each hand, straighten your posture and lift both arms out to the side until they’re parallel with the floor. Return them to the initial position and repeat.

Dumbbell shoulder squat – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.

Slowly lower your body to a squat position pointing your butt backward. (Make sure both your right foot and left foot are in alignment).

Rise back up to your initial, standing position.

When doing exercise, it’s important to keep both your left knee and right knee in alignment and prevent them from going past the tips of your toes.

Also, it’s important to look straight ahead.

If you’re not really into weight lifting, try exercising with resistance bands. They are a great alternative to dumbbells and other gym equipment. 

Note: If you notice any red flags during the exercise, quit doing it and / or consult with your doctor, your PT or a gym instructor. 

Bodyweight exercises 

Bodyweight exercises If you’re not already familiar with them, bodyweight exercises are types of exercises where you use your own weight (the weight of your body).

They are great as post pregnancy workouts as well. 

So, no need for dumbbells and other equipment. Here are some bodyweight exercises for toning and strengthening your body:

Leg lifts – Lie on your left side or right side so that your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight alignment. Slowly lift your right leg or left leg as high as you can. Don’t push yourself too hard. Remember to switch legs and make sure you feel comfortable while doing the exercise.

Pelvic tilts – Pelvic tilts are a great exercise that will prepare you for your due date because they strengthen your abs and also reduce back ache. Lie with your back on the floor with your legs bent and push your pelvis up. As you tilt, remember to squeeze your glutes and hip muscles.

Squats – To activate those glutes, point your toes outwards, extend your arms in front of your face and slowly lower your body to a squat position. 

Modified push-ups – You can do modified push-ups with your hands and knees on the ground or extending your arms onto the wall.

Note: If you notice any red flags during the exercise, quit doing it and / or consult with your doctor, your PT or a gym instructor. 

Pilates

pregnant woman going to piltaesThere are many pilates classes specifically oriented toward pregnant women, so make sure to check them out. 

In case you don’t find anything, make sure you tell your instructor that you’re pregnant so that they can modify exercises in accordance to your abilities and the state you’re in.

Pilates will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, get rid of lower back pain, improve your posture, make you more flexible, and prevent diastasis recti (abdominal separation). 

Pilates is great. So, if you haven’t tried it yet, make sure to give it a try.

Yoga

pregnant women doing yogaAnother class you should definitely consider joining is a prenatal yoga class.

Yoga will relax both your body and mind, improve your flexibility and focus, and it will encourage deep breathing techniques (which will definitely come in handy during labor.)

Again, if for some reason, you are not able to join a prenatal yoga class, then switch to a regular one.

Just make sure to let your instructor know that you’re expecting so they can modify the poses that are not suitable for those who are pregnant.

Final Thoughts

Pregnancy workouts are one of the most beneficial natural pain killers and mood boosters that will keep you both happy and healthy while expecting. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to strictly follow the above exercise regimen, but feel free to create your own custom prenatal workout routine.  

Also, there are plenty of workout videos online if you’re not sure how to perform certain exercises. 

If you have any questions, make sure you consult with your practitioner, class instructor, your PT, or a gym instructor.

I wish you happy sweating (and laboring)!

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Written by Ivana Davies

Hey there mamas! I'm Ivana, a millenial mom of two wonderful kids. I was a teacher, but now I'm a stay-at-home mom running this blog with the goal of uniting all moms into a supportive community and providing insight into the everyday battle of motherhood.