If you feel like your energy is too low to work out now that you're pregnant, this may perk you up: Exercising regularly during pregnancy has been shown to lead to shorter and easier labors. Ready to get started? We talked to Lindsay Brin, author of "How to Exercise When You're Expecting," about how to work out safely and what exercises you'll benefit from the most.
General guidelines "Before you start exercising, always get your OB's permission," Brin says. Once you're good to go, she says the key is not doing more than you did before you were pregnant. "On a scale of 1 to 10, which is the Rate of Perceived Exertion, stay between a 4 and a 7. Anything higher than that is too intense and will fatigue your muscles," she warns. "Also, women should not lie on their back after the first trimester because it will cause the uterus to push on a major vein that returns blood to the heart."
Barre According to The Bump, prenatal ballet classes are a huge trend for 2014. The combination of low-intensity and low-impact make barre classes a great way to exercise during pregnancy. It's both a toning and cardiovascular exercise, so it really works your body, from head to pointed toe. "You get your heartrate up while at the same time you're toning your muscles," Brin says. While you may think you should avoid any exercises involving your abs, working your core and pelvic muscles in yoga or barre classes may make delivery easier. It will also help you develop a new sense of balance within your changing body.
Swimming "In working with Saint Louis University on prenatal exercise research, swimming and walking are some of the best forms of exercise since anybody can do it," says Brin. This aerobic exercise will get your heart rate up and increase blood flow without putting too much pressure on your knees or lower body.
Prenatal circuit training Once your baby starts pressing on your bladder, the 30-minute jogs you used to enjoy can become pretty uncomfortable. If you're more into cardio-based exercise, Barin recommends joining a prenatal class that focuses on circuit training. "It's still endurance-based — which, if you like running, you probably enjoy — but the exercises only last for 30 to 40 seconds, and then you get to rest for 20 or 30 seconds," she says. If that sounds like a lot of rest time, don't be deceived; you'll still be wiped out by the end of class.
Stroller groups If you're pregnant and already have a baby or toddler, stroller classes are a way to exercise without having to hire a babysitter or wait until your partner gets home. Some stroller groups go on neighborhood walks or jogs together. Others incorporate lunges, solitary stretches and exercise moves that can be done against park benches. "The instructor will know how to modify the classes for pregnant women because they are aimed at moms," Brin says.
Three moves you can do at home
1. Core twist: Lie back on your forearms with your knees up and feet planted on the floor. Use your core to gently twist to the left, lifting your legs. Come back to start position and gently twist to the right. Do as many sets as you're comfortable with.
2. Counterbalance squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms stretched out in front of you. Lower to a squat and hold for two counts. Do as many sets as you're comfortable with.
3. Push-up: Use the second step on a staircase and rest your knees on the ground — this puts less pressure on your body than a traditional push-up. Do as many sets as you're comfortable with.