Though your middle may be growing, being pregnant doesn’t have to mean growing exponentially all over. Many exercises are safe for most women to do during pregnancy, including exercises that can help tone your legs. Check with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise during pregnancy. Exercise is not recommended with certain high-risk conditions.
Leg exercises not only help tone your legs during pregnancy, they also benefit you in other ways. Leg toning exercises improve circulation, which can help prevent varicose veins and leg cramps that are common during pregnancy, reports the American Pregnancy Association. Overall, exercise during pregnancy can help alleviate constipation, improve your mood and build your strength and endurance, which can potentially help during labor and delivery.
Walking, swimming, bicycling on a stationary bike and low-impact or water aerobics are good exercises for pregnant women, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG. These exercises burn calories and strengthen your leg muscles without overexertion, making them safe exercises to help tone your legs during pregnancy.
Leg lifts can help tone your thigh muscles during pregnancy, according to the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Lie on your left side with your shoulders, hips and knees aligned. Support your head with your left hand and place your right hand on the floor in front of you. Raise your right leg as high as you comfortably can and lower. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides. You can perform this exercise with your legs straight or bent at the knee.
Squats are a good way to tone your legs during pregnancy, according to What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the knees as though you are about to sit down in a chair, lowering to the point where your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your back straight and your heels on the ground. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds before returning to a standing position. Repeat five times.
Exercises to Avoid
Though potentially helpful to tone leg muscles, ACOG recommends avoiding contact sports such as soccer and basketball because of the risk of harm to you or your baby. Downhill skiing, gymnastics and water-skiing are not recommended due to the risk of falling. ACOG also advises avoiding any exercise where you lie flat on your back after your first trimester.
If you experience vaginal bleeding or other leaking fluid, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement, calf pain or swelling, headache or muscle weakness during exercise, stop exercising and contact your doctor, advises ACOG.
- American Pregnancy Association: Effects of Exercise on Pregnancy
- ACSM.org: Exercise During Pregnancy
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting; Heidi Murkoff, et al.