Exercising during pregnancy can boost your energy, improve your mood and even alleviate some of the aches and pains of pregnancy, including backaches, constipation and swelling. Most types of exercise are safe during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including low-impact aerobic programs and water aerobics, but consult with your primary care provider before beginning a pregnancy exercise program to ensure it is safe and appropriate for you.
Water aerobics provide the same workout for your heart and body as traditional classes without the risks of falls and other injuries. The buoyancy of the water requires you to support only 50 percent of your weight, which alleviates stress on your joints and muscles. In an article on the Parenthood website, Chicago aerobics instructor Julie Jones credits water aerobics with preventing swollen knees and ankles during her pregnancy, in addition to keeping her stomach muscles strong and preventing spider veins on her legs. Working out in the water keeps you cool during your exercise session, which minimizes your risk of overheating and potentially harming your unborn baby.
Even non-swimmers can safely participate in most prenatal water aerobics program since you perform most moves in waist- or chest-high water. If you cannot find an organized class, the Pregnancy Weekly website emphasizes that you can still reap the benefits of aqua fitness. Walking, jogging or running in water are a gentle, low-impact way to strengthen your core muscles and hips.
Although you can safely do most water aerobics moves, you should avoid a few moves during pregnancy. Dr. Jane Katz, a City University of New York physical education professor and author of “Water Fitness During Your Pregnancy,” explains on the Parenthood website that pregnant women should avoid stomach crunches as well as bouncing and jumping outside of the water, since these moves can cause back problems and muscle strain. When unsure about the safety of a particular move, Katz recommends asking your classroom instructor for guidance.
Pregnant women can overdo it as easily in the water as they can on land. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends using the “talk test” to keep your exercise intensity in check. As long as you can carry on a conversation while exercising, the group says your heart rate is at an acceptable level. Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion or doing exercises that cause you pain. If you experience dizziness, contractions, increased shortness of breath or vaginal bleeding, stop exercising and call your health care provider.
Following a moderate water aerobics exercise plan during pregnancy can potentially make your delivery faster and less complicated by decreasing your need for epidural pain relief, according to a 2008 study published in "Reproductive Health." Lead researcher Erica Baciuk of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Campinas , Sao Paulo, Brazil, evaluated the effects of prenatal water aerobics on a group of 71 expectant mothers recruited prior to their 20th week of pregnancy. Thirty-four women took part in a regular prenatal water aerobics program of 50 minutes, three days a week. The remaining 37 women formed a control group that did not exercise. The study found that two out of three women in the control group asked for an epidural during labor while only 27 percent of the exercisers asked for pain relief.