Since exercise is often seen as a way to maintain or change body form and weight, many women do not consider physical activity to be a necessary or feasible part of pregnancy. This is not true, however. Health experts commonly emphasize the importance of women engaging in regular physical activity while pregnant, for their benefit and for the benefit of their babies. Beneficial prenatal exercises include walking, stretching, and water aerobics.
People are commonly encouraged to stretch before indulging in exercise. This is even more important for those who are pregnant. All prenatal exercise routines should begin with an appropriate period of stretching. Generally, that appropriate period is at least five minutes. For pregnant women, however, both standing stretches and mat stretches have been found to be beneficial, even when no other exercise will follow.
Walking is a great prenatal exercise that most women can engage in. Health experts generally advise, however, that pregnant women invest in quality exercise shoes, even if they normally have a habit of exercising without them. This is because when a woman is pregnant, the body requires extra support and care. This does not mean, however, that a pregnant woman is completely fragile. To experience the full benefits of this exercise, a pregnant woman should not hesitate to engage in brisk walks.
Strength training exercises do not have to end solely because a woman is pregnant. There are effective and recommended prenatal exercises to help women strengthen their muscles and maintain targets they may have set before pregnancy. In some instances, the exercises she may have done previously simply need to be modified.
Wall pushes are a good example of a modified strength-building prenatal exercise. Instead of doing push-ups, where a person uses the arms to raise and lift the body from the floor, a woman can use the wall. She does this by standing a couple feet away from the wall with her feet shoulder width apart. She leans into the wall and, as she does, her arms bend. She then pushes herself away from the wall by extending her arms.
Leg lifts are a good way for pregnant women to strengthen the lower body. Instead of a woman using a machine that incorporates weights, it is better for her to use a resistance band. This will provide sufficient resistance and also allow her to modify the exercise to strengthen various parts of the legs, including the thighs.
Pregnancy exercises that are done in water can be highly beneficial. This includes lap swimming and water aerobics. A woman who had a habit of running before pregnancy can even engage in aqua jogging. Exercises that may not be recommended for a pregnant woman under normal circumstances are commonly acceptable when done in the water because there those exercises become low impact.
Pregnant women, whether or not they engage in other prenatal exercise, are also commonly encouraged to do Kegel exercises. These activities can support the baby and help tone the vaginal muscles. A simple Kegel exercise is one that mimics a woman stopping the flow of urine. A woman contracts, holds, and releases the vaginal muscles. This may be done dozens of times per day.