The benefits of swimming during pregnancy
Swimming is great exercise because it uses both large muscle groups (arms and
legs). Though low-impact, it provides good cardiovascular benefits and allows
expectant women to feel weightless despite the extra pounds added by pregnancy.
It also poses a very low risk of injury.
Any type of aerobic exercise helps increase the body's ability to process and
use oxygen, which is important for you and your baby. So swimming also improves
circulation, increases muscle tone and strength, and builds endurance. If you
swim, you'll burn calories, feel less fatigued, sleep better, and cope better
with pregnancy's physical and emotional challenges.
Swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise. If you swam regularly before
pregnancy, you should be able to continue without much modification. If you
didn't swim or exercise at all, you should still be able to swim, but check with
your doctor or midwife first. You'll need to start slowly, stretch well during a
gradual warm-up and cooldown, and not overexert yourself.
When you're in the water, it can be easy to forget to stay well-hydrated. James
M. Pivarnik, Ph.D., of Michigan State University, says that while there is no
official recommendation for how much water pregnant women should drink while
exercising, a good guideline is to drink one cup (8 ounces) before you start
your swim, one cup for every 20 minutes of exercise, and one cup after you get
out of the pool. In hot and/or humid weather, you'll need more.
If you can summon the energy, swim for at least 30 minutes daily. Swimming first
thing in the morning may counteract nausea and energize you for the rest of the
Your pregnancy won't require you to cut down on swimming as you grow because
it's easy on expectant moms. You probably won't need to modify your regimen, but
a maternity swimsuit may be more comfortable as your belly expands.
The water supports your joints and ligaments as you exercise, preventing injury
and also protecting you against overheating. The breast stroke is particularly
beneficial in the third trimester, because it lengthens the chest muscles and
shortens the back muscles, two areas that typically become misaligned as your
body changes during pregnancy, says Julie Tupler, RN, certified personal
trainer, and founder of Maternal Fitness, a fitness program for new and
expectant moms in New York City. Use a snorkel to relieve the pressure on your
neck created when you bob up and down for air.
Best strokes for pregnancy
The breaststroke is probably your best bet while pregnant since it requires no
rotation of the torso (as does the front crawl) and requires less exertion.
Also, it helps counteract the increased strain in the back due to the belly
weight of pregnancy. While pregnancy forces the spine and shoulders to round
forward and the pelvis to tilt out of alignment, the breaststroke gently
strengthens the muscles and counteracts that tendency.
Another good stroke is the backstroke. Because the water reduces the effects of
gravity on your body, you can lie on your back to do the backstroke without
risking the impaired blood flow such exercises can cause on dry land. (Ref:
What are the benefits of running during
Going for a run is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body, giving
you a mental and physical boost when you feel tired. Plus, like walking, it's
easy to fit into your schedule.
Is it safe for me to run during pregnancy?
It depends. If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it's fine to continue
— as long as you take some precautions and first check with your doctor or
But pregnancy isn't the time to start a running routine, according to Julie
Tupler, a registered nurse, certified personal trainer, and founder of Maternal
Fitness, a fitness program for pregnant women and new moms in New York City.
Pregnancy's also not the time to start training for a marathon, a triathlon, or
any other race, cautions Tupler. "The first trimester is when the baby's major
organs are forming, and overheating's a real issue. If a woman's core
temperature gets too high, it could cause problems with the baby, so why risk
it? Instead, train for the marathon of labor by strengthening your abdominals
and pelvic floor muscles," she says.
Whether you're pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During
pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless
you're an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout
at least until after your baby arrives. For now, focus on exercises that are
safe for pregnancy.
First trimester tips
Follow the usual precautions, such as drinking lots of water before, during, and
after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even
cause premature contractions.
Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles
and arches. Invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well
Second trimester tips
Your center of gravity's shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more
vulnerable to slips and falls. For safety, stick to running on flat pavement.
If you lose your balance, do your best to fall correctly, says Tupler: Try to
fall to your side or on your behind, to avoid trauma to the abdomen. Or put your
hands out to break your fall before your abdomen hits the ground.
Consider running on a track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track
surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where
you won't get stranded in case of an emergency.
Third trimester tips
Be as careful as you've been during the first two trimesters. And remember: If
you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being
sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful.
Most avid runners find that their jogging pace slows down considerably during
the third trimester — a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date
Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the
limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby.
Stop running or jogging immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you have
any of the following symptoms:
• vaginal bleeding
• difficulty breathing, especially when resting
• chest pain
• muscle weakness
• calf pain or swelling
• preterm labor (contractions)
• decreased fetal movement
• fluid leaking from your vagina (Ref:
Q. Is it safe to do abdominal exercises during pregnancy? When it is best
to stop doing them?
A. Through your first trimester you can continue doing regular ab exercises
(crunches, reverse curls, leg lifts, etc.)
After your first trimester you can, and should (!), absolutely continue working
your abs, just not in the traditional way. You shouldn't do any exercises in a
back-lying position at that point because your heavier uterus could compress
your vena cava (the main source of blood return), causing abnormally low blood
pressure and restricting the amount of oxygen getting to the baby.
That said, here are a couple of exercise suggestions for the 2nd and 3rd
1. Start in a quadruped position (forearms & knees), exhale as you tighten the
abs pulling the belly button in toward the backbone, inhale as you release.
2. You can work the obliques by starting in a side-lying position with knees
bent and at a 45 degree angle, exhale as you lift the rib cage toward the hip
bone, squeezing in the waist line, inhale as you lower.
You should also combine these exercises with pelvic floor or Kegel exercises to
get maximum benefit. (Ref