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What’s the best exercise to do during pregnancy?
By Jennifer Johnson, perinatal exercise specialist and founder of Fit for Expecting

This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I hear. I know that when pregnant women ask this question, they’re hoping for a quick one-size-fits-all answer. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

The answer is, it depends. Let me explain…

Every woman is different. Her likes, dislikes, physical limitations, time constraints, medical status, fitness history, etc., are unique to her and set her apart from other women. Because of our uniqueness, the type of exercise that’s “best” for one is not “best” for another. The best exercise for you is one that is tailored for you, taking into account all that makes you YOU.

So, how do you go about figuring out what the best prenatal exercise program is for you?

  1. Ask your doctor/midwife if you have any obstetric or medical conditions that contraindicate exercise during pregnancy. When you get the all clear, proceed to the next step.
  2. Create a balanced exercise program. In order for both you and your baby to get the most benefit from exercising during pregnancy, your program needs to include: cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, stretching and relaxation/breathing.
  3. Below are some ideas of types of exercise for each category

    Cardiovascular Exercise – be sure to include weight bearing exercise (wb)

    • Walking (wb)
    • Jogging (wb)
    • Dancing/Zumba (wb)
    • Indoor cycling (recumbent bikes are often most comfortable for pregnant women)
    • Swimming

    Strengthening

    • Resistance exercises using dumbbells, resistance bands and/or your own body weight

    Stretching/Relaxation/Breathing

    • Stretches done at home or the gym focusing on the chest, lower back and hips
    • Prenatal Yoga
  4. Figure out what you enjoy and will be most likely to stick with. If you’re not familiar with certain types of exercise, try them out and see how you feel. Exercise should make you feel better, not worse, so definitely listen to your body and do what makes you feel good. If you were a runner before pregnancy but now running hurts or feels uncomfortable, switch to another type of exercise.
  5. Get your calendar out and schedule time to exercise. Each week, be sure to include something from each category. As far as how often to exercise, the current ACOG recommendation is for pregnant women to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most, if not all, days of the week. If there are days where you’re not feeling 100% or don’t have much energy, do what you can, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Consistency is very important during pregnancy.
  6. Find ways to keep yourself motivated to stick with a regular exercise program throughout your entire pregnancy: get an exercise buddy, join group classes, maintain an exercise journal or start a blog and share your exercise journey. 

About the author:
Jennifer Johnson is a perinatal exercise specialist and founder of Fit for Expecting. Jennifer's specialty and exclusive focus is on the perinatal health. She is a certified perinatal exercise specialist, perinatal health and wellness specialist, and health coach. Jennifer is the founder of Fit for Expecting, a unique resource for safe and effective exercise programs for moms. Connect with Jennifer and Fit for Expecting at www.fitforexpecting.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fitforexpecting, or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FitforExpecting.

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