If you’re expecting, then you probably already know pregnancy isn’t exactly like the glossy photos you see in magazines or the picture-perfect scenes on TV. Sure, it can be amazing and joyful. But there are also times you’re stuck in bed, feel sick to your stomach, or are just plain uncomfortable. During those moments, the last thing on your mind is exercise.
But hear us out. Studies show moderate exercise during pregnancy can improve sleep; maintain your physical fitness; and reduce your risk of diabetes, excessive weight gain, depression, and an unplanned C-section. Regular exercise also helps prepare your body for labor and can even make it shorter.
If that’s not enough, it’s good for your babe too. Children of women who exercise during pregnancy have healthier birth weights, are less likely to be obese later on in life, and are smarter to boot.
As long as you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. That’s 5 days of 30-minute workouts, or two to three 10-minute workouts spread throughout each day. Of course, always consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Doctors say it’s okay to do most of the same activities you did before pregnancy, but listen to your body. “I couldn’t even get off the couch!” says Joselynne Boschen, a Nike master trainer who struggled to stay active during her first trimester. “Everyone is different. You might be able to do one of these workouts one day, but the next day, you need to sleep. And that’s OK.”
We worked with Boschen to create three different workouts that will help you stay active no matter how you’re feeling.
For Days You Feel Like Sh*t
Try not to be hard on yourself. “Stretching to help circulation and relieve unwanted stress is a step in the right direction,” says Boschen. “Know these feelings are temporary.”
How to use this list: Perform each exercise for 1 minute in order. Complete 3 sets for a full 15-minute workout. You can pair this with a 15-minute walk or use these moves as a warm-up for other workouts when you’re feeling energetic and strong. All you need is a yoga mat and a wall.
1. Standing Leg Swing
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Shift weight onto left leg to free up right leg. Swing right leg forward as high as possible (try to get it about parallel to the ground) and then swing it backward behind you. You can use a nearby wall or chair for support if you need. Continue for 1 minute then switch to opposite leg for 1 minute. This move will open up your hips, and having flexible hips during delivery is obviously a good thing!
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
Start by kneeling then take a big step forward with left foot so that left knee is directly over left ankle and you feel a stretch in right hip. Raise right arm and squeeze right glute to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on opposite side. This will help take the pressure off your lower back, especially if you typically sit for long periods (like at work or in the car).
3. Child’s Pose
Start by kneeling on all fours. Touch toes together and open knees just wider than hips (enough room to fit your belly). Exhale then sit back, sending butt to heels and stretching arms out in front of you, palms down. Rest forehead to mat and release shoulders to floor. Stay here for 30 seconds to 1 minute to feel a release in lower back. To come up, inhale and slowly return to all fours for a few seconds before standing up.
4. Legs up the Wall
*Only perform this move during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. After 16 weeks, experts suggest staying off your back due to the weight of your uterus. If it isn’t comfortable during the first trimester, don’t do it. Lie on back facing a wall. Lift legs up onto wall and scoot forward until butt is as close to the wall as is comfortable. Keep arms at side or spread out, whatever feels right. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and lightness in your legs.Hang out here for anywhere from 1 minute to 10 minutes. By reversing the effects of gravity, you’ll relieve tired feet and legs, reduce swelling, and regulate circulation.
5. Hip Stretch
*Only perform this move on your back during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. After 16 weeks, you can do it standing, using a wall or chair for balance. If neither option feels comfortable, simply use a foam roller to relieve hips, glutes, and legs. Start by lying faceup with knees bent and feet flat on mat. Cross left ankle over right thigh just above bent knee, keeping left foot flexed. Thread left arm through space created by legs and interlace fingers behind right thigh. Using arms, gently pull right leg closer to chest while keeping hips square. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute then repeat on opposite leg.
For Days You Lack Energy
If you feel like you’re dragging, there’s a good reason: Your body is working overtime. But a little bit of movement can reenergize you. “Listen to your body and focus on doing things that make you feel good,” Boschen says.
How to use this list: Do a short warm-up. Perform each exercise for 1 minute in order. If it is a single-sided movement, do 1 minute on each side. Rest for 1 minute between each set. Complete 3 sets for a 25-minute workout. All you need is an exercise mat. Be sure to cool down afterward and remember that your blood pressure drops during pregnancy, so be careful getting up and down while working out.
Start by standing with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping back straight, send hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat while simultaneously bringing arms up in front of chest for balance. Make sure shoulders and chest stay upright. Lift back to standing and repeat for 1 minute. For more details on how to properly squat, check out this article.
2. Dip With Leg Reach
Sit with knees bent, feet on floor. Lean back, place hands behind butt, and lift hips off ground. Wrists should be over shoulders, knees over ankles, fingertips facing butt. Using just arms, bend elbows to dip hips down to mat. As you press back up to starting position, extend right leg straight up while reaching left fingers to right toes. Return to starting position then repeat with other leg. Continue for 1 minute.
3. Windshield Wipers
Start in a forearm plank with feet hip-width apart. Engage core then step right foot to just outside of right side of mat. Step left foot to meet it. Then step left foot to just outside left side of mat. Step right foot to meet it. Continue alternating for 1 minute.
4. Hip Bridge With Stretch
Lie faceup with knees bent, feet on mat, arms at sides. Cross right ankle over left knee. Exhale as you press heels into floor to lift hips up. Lift just high enough that you don’t arch your low back. Inhale as you lower back down to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute then switch to other leg.
5. Side Push-Up
Performing a push-up on your side (rather than in plank position) is more comfortable for your back and belly. Start by lying on right side, left leg bent in a 90-degree angle, right leg resting on top. Place right hand on left side to keep that arm out of the way. Place left hand on mat in front of you between right shoulder and elbow. Engage core and press left hand into mat to lift shoulders and torso off mat. Slowly lower back down to starting position. Continue for 1 minute then repeat on opposite side.
For Days You Feel Unstoppable
Look out, world. Badass mom coming through. Take advantage of a good day by getting in a strong sweat session that maintains your core strength. “This time is about making yourself comfortable and staying sane,” Boschen says. “Move daily and try to be as stress free as possible. What you are doing is amazing. Hold your head up high and be proud of your body.”
How to use this list: Do a quick warm-up (see above for an option). Perform each exercise for 1 minute in order. For one-sided moves, perform 1 minute on each side. Complete 3 sets, resting for 30 seconds between each set for a 25-minute workout. For this one, all you need is an exercise mat and a set of sliders or a small towel. Boschen uses furniture glides you can get at any home improvement store. Feeling really good? Perform one set each of all three of the workouts you see here.
1. Cross Back Lunge
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place a slider under right foot then slide right foot behind left on a diagonal as you bend left knee to lower into a lunge position. Let arms swing naturally. Press into left heel to lift back up to starting position. Continue for 1 minute then repeat on opposite side.
2. Lateral Lunge
Stand with slider under right foot. Send hips back as you slide right leg out to right and bend left leg to lower into a lateral lunge position. You’ll feel this in your inner thigh and glute. Press into left heel to rise back up to starting position. Continue for 1 minute then repeat on opposite side.
Start in a plank position with sliders under both feet. You can fold up your mat for extra cushioning under your hands if you need. Engage core and shoot hips up as you draw feet in toward hands. Slide feet back out to starting position as you slowly lower hips down. Repeat for 1 minute.
4. Forearm Plank With Kick
Start in a forearm plank position. Engage core and swing right leg out to right as far as possible. Try to keep hips low and stable. Return to starting position then repeat on opposite side. Continue for 1 minute.
5. Plank Walk-Out With Reach
Stand with feet just wider than hip width. Reach hands straight up then fold over and drop hands to mat. Engage core and walk hands to top of mat to plank position. Lift right arm straight out, then left arm straight out, then walk hands back to feet to return to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute.
Special thanks to Joselynne Boschen, Nike master trainer and Lifesum brand ambassador, who curated and modeled these moves for us at 19 weeks pregnant. Boschen wears her own Nike gear. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.