12 home exercises for pregnant women
01 April 2020
During pregnancy, it's important to do regular gentle exercise to keep you and your baby in the best of health. Here are some simple and quick indoor pregnancy workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home.
It's hard enough being motivated to do exercise while pregnant, but now that we have to stay at home, lots of the more accessible workouts are also out of the question (goodbye, swimming). Never fear, though: there are plenty of quick and simple indoor exercises you can do right from your living room, so we've rounded up some Mumsnet favourites to get you started.
Remember: while 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week during pregnancy is recommended, it's really important that you take it slowly and don't over-exert yourself.
Keep an eye on your temperature so you don't overheat, and make sure you're never so out of breath that you couldn't hold a conversation. Read our page on exercise in pregnancy for more information on all the dos and don'ts. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime during pregnancy.
Here are 12 quick and easy pregnancy exercises that you can do at home.
1. Arm raisers
A brilliant bit of prep for when the baby arrives, using arm weights will tone your muscles so you're ready to carry around a baby
and the endless paraphernalia that comes with them.
If you were already a bit of a weights master, bear in mind that during pregnancy your ligaments become more relaxed and are more susceptible to injury, so you'll need to lift lighter weights and go for more reps if needed. If you're a total newbie, go no heavier than 2.5kg. You can find more guidance on strength training exercises to do while pregnant from Tommy's.
Try the below steps with proper weights if you have them or, if not, with tins or cans from your kitchen cupboard:
- Hold the weights one in each hand, and make sure you're standing with your feet shoulder-width apart (or, alternatively, perform this exercise sitting on a fitness ball, but make sure you are fully stable)
- Slowly raise your arms in front of you, keeping them straight, until they're parallel to the ground – you should feel this in the front of your shoulders
- Try and do three sets of eight reps, but remember to take it easy and not over-strain, particularly when using weights
- This exercise can be repeated lifting arms out to the sides, too
Watch this video for more arm exercises with weights. But bear in mind that, as this is an American video, when they say they're lifting 'fives', they mean 5lbs not 5kgs.
Mumsnet users have been known to tie this and similar arm exercises into a mini circuit training regime, pulling in squats and lunges as well:
“I'm at 26 weeks and was relatively fit before falling pregnant, but I found it hard to do much in the first trimester. Things have picked up a little now so I do a mini circuit every morning in my lounge which consists of squats and weights.”
“I did circuit training three times a week until I was 38 weeks, with both my pregnancies. It was perfect as I could adapt each exercise as I got bigger and go at my own pace.”
Why not try: USA Pro Hand Weights
Yoga is a brilliant form of exercise, pregnant or not, not only for the body but also for the mind. For a start, it helps to improve flexibility, but will also work on your breathing (which will be really really helpful during labour).
Mumsnet users really rate this workout by Adriene. Or, if you're confident that you know your stuff, choose a normal session which you can alter to suit you.
“Yoga for pregnant women can really help you to improve your breathing and flexibility. You can do yoga at home, but try the basics first. It is a full-body exercise, and it relaxes your mind and body.”
“As far as yoga goes, there are definitely certain asanas that should be avoided – deep backbends, twists, forward bends. You could do yourself some serious damage if you didn't know the modifications. I also do a restorative sequence if I'm just too knackered on the day. Pregnancy isn't the time to push yourself to the limit.”
Why not try: Extra-long Yoga Mat
If you fancy more of a muscle-building home exercise, Pilates may be your best bet. Mumsnetters see Pilates as a good all-rounder, a chance to stretch out and loosen some tight muscles while also building a bit of strength.
Here's a video Mumsnet users recommend:
“I did my usual Pilates class, but I told the instructor I was pregnant as soon as I knew myself (had been going to her classes for a long time and trusted her), and then she sometimes gave me different exercises to do if the ones the class were doing were unsuitable.”
“Pilates is the way to go! Good for everything pregnancy-wise.”
Related: The best maternity exercise clothing for any budget
4. Pelvic floor exercises
Recommended whether pregnant or not, pelvic floor exercises help to ensure everything is ticking over down below. Particularly during pregnancy, however, it's good to strengthen these muscles to help prevent any uncomfortable leaks, and for helping your recovery after birth.
These muscles are a really simple set to put to work as you can do the below exercise at any time during the day while you're getting on with other things. Try it once in each advert break while you're watching your favourite TV programme.
- If you're struggling with which muscles you should be working here, think of clenching the muscles that would stop you mid-wee
- Begin by tensing and releasing quickly to build up your strength, and then gradually begin to hold the squeeze for longer until you can count to 10
- The NHS recommend doing three sets of eight squeezes three times every day
“Pelvic floor exercises. And, then, some pelvic floor exercises. And, if you've time, fit in a few pelvic floor exercises.”
Related: How to do pelvic floor exercises
5. Low-impact aerobics
Alongside strengthening and stretching exercises, it's important to make time for some aerobic routines too.
Aerobics is a great way to get your heart pumping that little bit faster and get you breathing that little bit deeper – great for yours and baby's health and it can easily be done from the comfort of your own living room. Tommy's recommends three 15-minute pregnancy-safe sessions a week for newbies.
Try this prenatal cardio workout video, with warmup included:
The most important thing to remember here is that this should be entirely low-impact. This means having one foot on the floor at all times and making sure you're never so out of breath that you couldn't hold a conversation (check out the 'Talk Test'). Also, make sure you're warming up and cooling down fully before and after.
If you're already an aerobics pro, you can continue with your normal workouts, adjusting as you feel appropriate.
“I Zumba-ed three times per week until 28 weeks, decreasing the impact and intensity as I got bigger and started finding it difficult. I was previously doing these three classes plus two further gym or aerobics sessions a week.”
Why not try: Michelle Heaton Active Pregnancy DVD
6. Birth ball exercises
For days when you're feeling a little more fragile, a fitness ball can be a brilliant workout buddy. Whether you want to use it for support on other exercises, or want a whole workout focused on the ball itself, there are lots of options on offer:
- Pelvic rocks – lean over your ball from a kneeling position and slowly rock yourself forwards and back again
- Upper-body twists – hold the ball out in front of you at arm's length and rotate it from side to side using just your upper body
- Wall squats – place the ball against the wall and hold it there with your back, then roll the ball down the wall as you squat, and hold it there for added support
- Assisted plank – kneel and rest your elbows on the ball, engage your core and assume a supported plank position
- Assisted bridges – place your upper back on the fitness ball and lift your pelvis into a supported bridge position
This video from the NHS covers some other slightly less demanding exercises you can do with your ball:
Some key tips to consider if you've never used a fitness ball before:
- Fitness balls can be really unsteady, so make sure you have something (or someone) to support you when you first begin using it
- Make sure you're on a non-slip surface and not in socks – grip underfoot will be really important
- Start with simpler exercises to get you used to the movement
- Use the above video to check your fitness ball is the right height for you
Why not try: BABYGO Anti-burst Eco-friendly Fitness Ball
Related: The best reusable water bottles to keep you hydrated while you exercise
Other easy at-home pregnancy exercises to try:
7. Pelvic tilts
You may know this one as the 'cat and cow' stretch. Simply get on your hands and knees and alternate arching your back upwards and then stretching it downwards.
This will generate a tilting movement in your pelvis, which is great for pregnancy as it increases hip mobility, strengthens the muscles of the lower back, and even helps to alleviate some of the pain you may be feeling during pregnancy.
If not already encompassed in your aerobic workout, squats are a magic move which shouldn't be missed. Not just good for lower body strength, but also for stretching out your back muscles and keeping your ankles mobile.
Lunges are great for keeping strength in the legs and training your balance. During pregnancy, it's good practice to hold the wall for support to make sure there's no chance of you toppling over.
Place one foot in front of the other, both feet pointing forward, and bend the front knee gently, keeping the back leg straight.
Related: How to get the most out of an at-home workout
10. Gentle dancing
If you're stuck in the house alone or with young children, pop some of your favourite music on the speakers and have a gentle boogie around the house – just stick to the same rules as with aerobics, and don't overdo it.
11. Pliés with barre
To appease your inner ballerina, try gentle pliés while holding on to a chair back, window sill, countertop or even a wall – simply turn your feet out with your heels touching and bend slightly at the knees.
This is another exercise that is great for the leg muscles but doesn't put too much strain on your joints. Try and keep your back up straight and your tailbone tucked under.
12. Butterfly stretch
For stretching out at the end of the workout (or incorporating into your warm-up), the butterfly stretch is a great way to open up your pelvis and alleviate some tension.
Sit with your feet flat together and your knees dropped outwards as far as they will go, and hold for 30 seconds at a time.
We used the following sources to compile this information page to the best knowledge currently available. If you are uncertain of anything at all, please seek further guidance from your doctor or healthcare professional.
- NHS pregnancy and exercise guidelines
- NCT exercise during pregnancy information
- Tommy's exercises to do in pregnancy
- NHS Start4Life exercise in pregnancy guidelines
Read next: Bluetooth headphones to help keep you motivated
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