Exercise during pregnancy has benefits not just for expectant mothers but also for their growing babies. Sutter Health says that antenatal exercise can relieve back pain, get women ready for labor by improving muscle strength and flexibility, and improve energy levels. Pregnant women are able to exercise throughout their pregnancy so long as they talk to their doctors about what activities are appropriate and take the proper precautions.
Foot and Ankle Exercises
As pregnancy progresses, increased fluid can put pressure on the feet and ankles, causing them to swell and be uncomfortable. Some simple exercises are enough to get the circulation flowing to relieve that discomfort and reduce the burden on the heart and veins. The Northern Health and Social Care Trust recommends two exercises that can help. Bend and flex your ankles in an up-and-down motion, and move your feet in a circular direction to work your ankles. Both exercises will help to reduce the accumulation of fluid around the ankles. Perform these 10 times per day for the best results.
Relief for Back Pain
Back pain can begin even early in pregnancy, but it can get worse as the baby grows and puts pressure on the back. Maintaining good posture can help to relieve back pain, as can performing exercises targeted at the back. One way to strengthen the back muscles is to get down on hands and knees and pull the belly in toward the spine, focusing on the belly button. Hold the position for three to four seconds and release. For a more advanced version of the exercise, women can tighten their buttocks as they draw their bellies in, while lifting the back into a hump and tucking in the tail of the spine.
For overall fitness, women can generally do the exercises that they were accustomed to doing before they got pregnant, including running and weight lifting. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that walking, yoga, Pilates and swimming can all be good choices. The AAP says that women who were not accustomed to exercise before pregnancy should start slow, with as little as five to 10 minutes of exercise per day to start. Sutter Health recommends low-impact exercise at least three times a week, as well as daily stretching.
Exercises to Avoid
The AAP says that pregnant women should avoid any exercises that include jumping or jarring movements; this includes sports such as volleyball or high-impact aerobics. Activities that require high-impact bouncing or that pose the potential for falls or abdominal injury should also be avoided -- think horseback riding, skiing, cycling and contact sports such as football. Pregnant women should also avoid exercises that require them to hold their breath. Many more precautions may be necessary for antenatal exercise, depending on a woman's personal circumstances, so it is imperative for each woman to discuss a proposed exercise plan with her doctor before beginning.