It can be difficult to find exercises that are safe but that also challenge you when you're pregnant. Here are some simple yet effective exercises you can do at home throughout your pregnancy. Be sure to get your doctor's clearance to exercise, and avoid any exercises that feel uncomfortable or cause sharp pain. Your body will tell you everything, so listen. Every pregnant body is different.
You can do this exercise while standing up or sitting on a ball, stool or bench that allows you to reach your arms out to the sides and behind you. Hold a 2-pound weight—or a full 1-liter water bottle—in each hand. Keep your chest lifted, your shoulders down and your abs engaged.
- Reach your arms out to the sides, keeping them slightly bent and held slightly in front of the body. Circle your arms backward 20 times and forward 20 times. Keeping your arms outstretched to the sides, pulse them up and down with small movements 40 times.
- Hold your arms parallel in front of your body and bent at a 90-degree angle, with the elbows lifted to shoulder level and the palms facing the face while holding the weights. Pulse the arms up and down 30 times in this position.
- Lean forward, reach above your waist behind you with your palms facing the ceiling. Keep your shoulders down and your chest reaching forward. Bend your knees slightly if you're standing. Pulse your arms up and down 30 times in this position.
- Sit on a mat with your legs bent in front of you slightly wider than hip distance apart, with your feet on the ground. Place a small ball or a triple-folded towel behind your back. Lean back on the ball or towel so that your pelvis is slightly tilted under. Keep your shoulders open and your chest lifted.
- Hold weights in each hand, and start leaning forward with both arms reaching forward (slightly above shoulder level) in front of your body. While keeping the left arm reaching forward, pull your right elbow back toward the side of your right hip while leaning your upper body slightly back on the ball. Repeat 15 times and then switch sides.
- Lean back slightly on the ball or towel while reaching both arms straight forward and pulling the navel into the spine. Pulse back on the ball 20 times while crossing your arms in front of your body. With each pulse back, switch the arm crosses.
- Stand about 6 inches from a wall, facing away from it, and lean your body back against it. Try to keep your upper body lifted with your shoulders open, and allow your lower spine to naturally curve away from the wall.
- Inhale slowly and relax your muscles. Then exhale slowly while flattening your lower spine against the wall and pulling your navel into your spine. Release your spine and relax your abdominal muscles as you inhale again, then repeat 10 times.
- Try doing a Kegel exercise every time you exhale and pull your navel into your spine. (Kegels incorporate the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Be sure to keep your glutes relaxed.)
- Try holding your spine flat against the wall while you do 25 kegels before releasing from the wall and relaxing your muscles. Keep your breath flowing freely throughout.
Thighs and Glutes
Because your center of gravity changes as you get more and more pregnant, it's helpful to stand in front of a table or ledge to rest your hands. Stand with your legs open slightly wider than the hips and with your toes turned out approximately 45 degrees. Try to keep your shoulders open and relaxed and your chest lifted, and do not lean forward through your pelvis. If the exercise feels too difficult, straighten your legs for a few seconds before continuing.
- Bend your knees to a low plié, keeping your knees out and directly over your toes. Try to bend down to 90 degrees without leaning forward. Pulse up and down in this position with small movements 25 times.
- While engaging your abs and inner thighs, straighten both legs and pull your right heel in next to your left heel. Extend the right leg and toes out to the side, and return to the low open plié position. Pull your legs straight in again and repeat to a low plié 10 times. Repeat on the other side.
- Return to the standing position with both heels together. Lift your right leg straight behind you about 45 degrees, and pulse your leg up and down 20 times. Then return to a low open plié position and pulse up and down 10 times. Stand up straight and repeat for two complete sets. Then repeat on the other side.
Mahri Relin is founder and creator of New York City's Body Conceptions, a full-body lengthening and sculpting method that combines the principles of dynamic movement and muscle exhaustion. Relin is a former trainer for the Tracy Anderson Method. She was creative director for FlyBarre, is a NASM certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist, and is an AFPA pre/postnatal exercise specialist.