I Like to Move It, Move It: How to Exercise When You’re Expecting

Exercise during pregnancy is enormously beneficial. Here’s how to make sure you’re doing it safely.
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Illustration by Paige Stampatori

Maintaining movement and exercise during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby.

For moms, movement stimulates endorphins and bolsters mental health. It also keeps your cardiovascular system strong, supports coordination patterns, and helps maintain muscle density, which can be compromised when growing another human.

Exercising while pregnant is also good for babies. “Research shows that exercise during pregnancy causes a little stress for the baby, which is a good thing,” says Stacey Hendricks, PT, DPT, WCS, a board-certified women’s health clinical specialist and founder of Elevate Physical Therapy in Blue Ash. “Babies whose mothers have exercised during pregnancy actually have reduced negative response to the stress of labor.”

So, what’s the best exercise when pregnant? “Things you enjoy and that you’ll do,” says Hendricks. Choose movement that won’t pose a fall hazard—no cycling, horseback riding, or ice skating once the baby has moved out of the pelvis (around 12 weeks)—and monitor your exertion level. You should be able to hold a conversation. Stay hydrated, be mindful of nourishment, and listen to your body. Symptoms like sharp pain, bleeding, contractions, dizziness, muscle weakness, pain or swelling in the calf, or gushing fluid are signals to back off and seek medical attention.

When possible, it’s beneficial to consult with a pelvic health physical therapist early in your pregnancy to assess musculoskeletal imbalances that could put you at risk of dysfunction. But the bottom line is to just keep moving. “Movement is always better than not,” says Hendricks.

Pregnancy-Friendly Exercise Classes

Icon by Jessica Dunham

B3 Mama

Four-week programs with small cohorts give customized movement and mobility instruction for prenatal and postpartum women. Barre3 Mariemont

Prenatal Exercise

A prenatal exercise specialist will guide your training to strengthen and condition muscles to help prevent and manage back discomfort. Go Beyond Exercise, Oakley

Prenatal Pilates

A 60-minute group class utilizing the reformer, chair, springboard, and other props to strengthen and support your body. The Breathing Room, O’Bryonville

Prenatal Yoga

This class brings attention to body areas that may experience discomfort during pregnancy. Embra, Columbia-Tusculum and Ft. Mitchell

Prenatal Yoga with Partners

Learn meditation, breathing techniques, and strengthening movements for the pregnant body. Birthing partners are welcome to attend. World Peace Yoga, Clifton

Shanti Mom Prenatal Classes

Learn pranayama breathing techniques to relax the mind and develop peace. NKO Yoga, Deer Park

Yoga for Pregnancy

A focus on pregnant-specific movements in preparation for birth. Shine Yoga Center, Hyde Park

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