Hitting the gym may not be your first priority during pregnancy—especially if your hormones leave you craving a cheeseburger and a nap on the couch. But your doctor might actually encourage you to workout since exercising can have several mental and physical benefits for moms-to-be and their babies.
"Exercise helps with weight management before, during, and after pregnancy, and improves endurance and stamina during labor," says Dr. Alyssa Dweck M.D., OB/GYN in New York and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. Physical activity even helps with mental health and stress reduction during this major life change. However, Dweck advises, "Pregnant women should not initiate or continue any exercise program without their own health care provider's input and support."
If you are an exercise newbie, Farel B. Hruska, a pre and postnatal fitness expert with FIT4MOM says there are a few classes to skip. She recommends you avoid CrossFit, hot yoga, and trampoline classes because they increase risk of overheating and falling and may be unsafe for mom and baby. Here are a few safe classes that require little to no modifications while you're expecting.
Prenatal yoga is an obvious choice, but if the prenatal class doesn't work for your schedule, try a regular yoga class. Just make sure your instructor is aware of your pregnancy--you may need to modify some moves since laying on your belly is ill-advised as soon as you're showing. Dweck also recommends avoiding laying flat on your back after 16 weeks to avoid a drop in blood pressure. Yoga can be a great low-impact option but Hruska says to be sure not to stretch beyond your pre-pregnancy flexibility because the hormone relaxin, which increases during pregnancy, can make you feel more flexible and increase the risk of over-stretching.
Cycling is a safe way to get in some cardio without spending too much time on your feet. Even if you're a regular in spin classs, show up early to get a quick bike fit evaluation from your instructor. You may now be more comfortable with a higher seat and handlebars that you were in months past.
In most classes, you'll spend a lot of time standing, so you'll spend less time worrying about modifying mat exercises, and you'll have a chance to balance with the barre for support. Most classes are low-impact and include plenty of squats or pliés, which are a great preparation for labor, delivery, and picking up your baby.
Hruska says pregnant women should be careful of tripping and use a step with no risers at all, especially during the 3rd trimester. Since you're taking plenty of steps but not actually moving forward, some women experience less aches and pains in step class than they do on a simple walk. If you're new to step, stick with basic moves when fancier choreography is introduced.
Pregnant or not, circuit training is a multitasker's dream because it's a great way to squeeze both cardio and strength training into one hour. You'll experience the body strengthening benefits of a strength training class, the heart-health benefits of a cardio class and the weight and stress-management benefits of both. "I would consider using weight machines rather than free weights later in pregnancy due to joint laxity and balance issues," Dweck adds.
You can usually dance your way through Zumba without any modifications but Hruska does warn that you should be mindful of balance and make sure ankle, knee, and hip joints are stable during quick directional changes.