Published on May 8th, 2020
Exercising while pregnant offers tremendous benefits for both you and your baby. Regular workouts can decrease common pregnancy side effects like fatigue, constipation, discomfort, and shortness of breath. Additionally, exercise offers a moment in time where you can get out of your head and focus on you and your body.
However, when your feet hurt and you’re tired, the act of getting dressed and going outside can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. This is when pregnancy workouts at home come in handy. No leaving the house. No getting dressed. Just working up a sweat from the convenience of your living room.
Below are some at-home pregnancy workout routines to get you moving.
Wait, is it safe to exercise while pregnant?
For most women, yes— regular exercise is not just safe, but encouraged. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes per week. And, if you did strenuous exercise before your pregnancy, it’s fine to continue while you’re pregnant (just modify if anything causes discomfort).
However, there are a few warning signs to watch out for.
According to WebMD, if you have experienced any of the following pregnancy-related issues, then pregnancy exercise may actually be harmful:
- Bleeding or spotting
- A history of early labor
- Weak cervix
- Low-lying placenta
- Previous miscarriages
Additionally, while you’re pregnant, this isn’t the time to “push through the pain,” especially when that pain is centered around your abdomen. If you’re ever concerned about your exercise routines and whether or not you’re doing it right, your physician can provide insight.
With this common question out of the way, let’s get sweating! Here are some home exercises for pregnant women.
You’ve heard about it from friends; you’ve read our guide on prenatal yoga; you’ve seen it on all the mama-to-be forums: Prenatal yoga is in.
Why is it so popular, especially during pregnancy?
- From a scientific perspective – Yoga proves to be a beneficial prenatal workout time and time again. Doctors Shilpa Babbar, Agatha Parks-Savage, and Suneet Chauhan found evidence that pregnant women who practiced yoga were less likely to experience sleep disruptions, discomfort, stress, and pain during pregnancy than women who did not. Similarly, in a study called Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome, it was found that yoga positively affected babies’ birth weight, it decreased the chance of preterm labor significantly, and it significantly lowered the chance of complications.
- From a yogi perspective – Yoga does not involve sharp movements, heavy weights, or strenuous physical activity. Instead, your own body becomes the “workout tool” and the “exerciser.” Stretching deeper and holding poses longer takes breathwork and mental concentration—strengthening both the body and the mind.
Lastly, from an “I don’t want to leave home” perspective: All you need is a small square of space (enough to stretch out) and a yoga mat (or towel) to get started. Minimal effort. Check!
Pregnancy Yoga Sequence
If you’ve never practiced yoga before, the keys are connecting to your breath and listening to your body. Some prenatal yoga instructors might encourage you to spend time holding your baby bump and imagining a warm, loving environment for your baby, as well as a golden thread connecting your heart to theirs.
However you want to practice, the choice is yours—that’s the whole concept of yoga.
If you want to follow a yoga sequence, here’s one adapted from Yoga Journal. You don’t need any props, although you might want to sit on a blanket or place one under your knees during cat-cow.
- Sitting (10-20 breaths) – connect deeply to your breath as you begin to center the mind. In yoga, you’re often asked why you decided to begin your practice. Is it to strengthen the body? Is it to take a break from the stress of the day? Set an intention, then breathe.
- Side bending (5 breaths per side) – from a seated position, place one hand at the side of your hip and raise the other in the air. Bend towards the hand that’s on the floor and breathe into your side body. Then, switch sides.
- Cat-cow (10 breaths, taking any movements that feel good) – from an all-fours position (hands and knees on the ground), alternate between arching and flexing the spine, breathing in on the arch as you drop your belly, and exhaling as you round.
- Chair pose (5 breaths) – come to standing. With your feet hip-width apart or wider, bend your knees, keeping your spine upright. Feel the strength (and burn) in your legs. For an extra challenge, reach your arms up high so that they’re parallel with your spine.
- Warrior Two (5 breaths per side) – separate your legs 3-4 feet apart. Bend your front knee and keep your torso upright as you feel a gentle opening in your hips. Switch sides.
- Goddess squat (5 breaths) – from a wide-legged position, turn your toes out. Squat deeply and keep your spine upright as you breathe into your hips.
- Triangle (5 breaths per side) – from a wide position, point your right foot towards the top of the mat and turn your left foot to 45 degrees. Check that your arch of your left foot is in line with the heel of your right foot. Then, face your torso towards your hips. Bend from the waist towards your front leg, using your right arm for support. For an extra challenge reach your left hand straight up into the air and look up at it. Then, switch sides.
- Garland pose (5 breaths) – return to a wide-legged position. Squat deeply until your butt is close to the floor (or a block). With your hands in prayer position, use your elbows to press your thighs open and breathe into your hips.
- Seated bound angle pose (Seated meditation) – come to a seat with your feet together and your knees open in a diamond shape. Sit up on a blanket if that is more comfortable. Sit and breathe for another 1-5 minutes, feeling connected to your body and your baby.
Seated meditation or lying flat on your back and breathing into your stomach are two common ways of ending a yoga session. This helps to center the mind, bring back the focus, and provide some much-needed relief after a good sweat.
Poses to Avoid
Online yoga classes and YouTube yoga channels (like Yoga with Adrienne) may have you perform new positions with each session. Not all poses are going to be easy or right for you. Here are some general rules for poses to avoid:
- Poses that put pressure directly on the belly – Poses like Locust and Bow should be off-limits.
- Poses that have inversions – Headstands and forearm stands come with a risk of falling over. These are best to be avoided.
- Poses that are straining and too difficult – Yoga is a practice that builds upon itself over time. If a pose is too difficult, it might be better to sit it out and wait the next pose—while you wait, focus on your breath and how your body feels.
With any type of prenatal exercise, it’s important to modify the workout routine as the pregnancy progresses. Poses that may be doable in the first trimester may no longer be comfortable in the second trimester or third, so be sure to adjust your prenatal workout as needed.
Connecting With Your Breath, Connecting With Your Baby
Yoga is a mindful practice. It helps you connect to your breath, your body, and your growing baby. Envisioning warmth and love during your seated meditation can help you to feel more confident as you walk into parenthood.
To help this deepening connection go from spiritual to physical, you can also try using a fetal doppler. With the SneakPeek fetal doppler, you can listen in on your baby’s heartbeat while you get your own racing. Listen and record your baby’s heartbeat, movements, and even their hiccups. This intimate experience will help you to feel in tune with your new baby, starting just 13 weeks in.
Like yoga, Pilates is focused on maintaining a connection to your body through a strong, steady breath. Because Pilates is also focused on strengthening the body (including the pelvic floor), it is thought to ease comfort during both pregnancy and giving birth. Best of all? You can easily do this prenatal exercise routine at home.
In a 2017 study, Luciano Rodríguez-Díaz and his colleagues found that after 8 weeks of practicing Pilates, women had less weight gain, lower blood pressure, more flexibility, and more ease during the birthing process than women who did not practice Pilates.
However, for those of you who are just getting started, you’ll need to modify your practice during pregnancy. In particular, avoid prone (belly-down) work, inversions, and the strong flexion of the abdominal muscles (crunching). This is not too dissimilar to yoga.
Pregnancy Pilates Sequence
During Pilates, focus on breathing deeply and listening to your body. Once you’re ready, you can try out the following workout from Fitness Magazine. All you need is a chair for balance in the first 4 exercises:
- Standing squats (10 reps) – standing with the chair for support and your knees hip-distance apart or wider, bend your knees to 45 degrees.
- Kickbacks (10 reps per leg) – stand on one leg. Point the toe of the other and kick back, trying to work from the glutes. Switch sides.
- Bend and extend each leg (10 reps per leg) – stand on one leg. Raise the other in a half-marching position, then extend it forward, pointing your toes. Return to standing and repeat. Switch sides.
- Lateral leg raises (10 reps per leg) – stand on one leg. Rotate the other leg’s knee away from your body. Raise your leg laterally 10x. Switch sides.
Transition to all fours for the next 3 exercises:
- Kickups (5 reps per leg) – from a tabletop position, raise one leg in a donkey kick. Tap the ceiling with your heel 5x. Switch legs.
- Hip circles (5 reps per leg) – from a tabletop position, raise one knee. Stir in a wide circle, working from your hip. Switch legs.
- Child’s pose (5 breaths) – touch your toes together and open your knees wide. Walk your arms forward as far as is comfortable. (Those of you in your third trimester might notice your new soon-to-be child getting in the way for this pose!)
Transition to one side for the next 2 exercises:
- Clamshells (5 reps) – lie on your side with your knees bent. Keeping your toes together, raise your top knee.
- Inner leg raise (5 reps) – Extend the bottom leg in line with your torso (keeping the top knee bent). Lift the bottom leg.
Repeat on the other side.
Finish with a seated meditation. For tips on finding your zen, check out our guide to meditation during pregnancy.
Sweating For Two
With the above exercises, you can fill your calendar with different at-home routines. Don’t be afraid to mix it up to avoid them becoming stale. While these pregnancy exercises at home are great to run through from start to finish, there’s no reason why you can’t do a little bit of yoga and then end it with a bit of Pilates to create your own flow. Pick and choose to craft the perfect healthy pregnancy routine for you.
Exercise while pregnant can help your physical and mental health, so be sure to exercise regularly. For more help on mental health and pregnancy, read our guides on managing pregnancy anxiety.
Now that’s sweating for two.
- ACOG. Exercise during pregnancy. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy
- Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Mindfulness yoga during pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk Women. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maria_Muzik/publication/232235683_Mindfulness_Yoga_during_Pregnancy_for_Psychiatrically_At-Risk_Women_Preliminary_Results_from_a_Pilot_Feasibility_Study/links/59df1cfeaca27247d7aa7faa/Mindfulness-Yoga-during-Pregnancy-for-Psychiatrically-At-Risk-Women-Preliminary-Results-from-a-Pilot-Feasibility-Study.pdf
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Efficacy-of-yoga-on-pregnancy-outcome.-Narendran-Nagarathna/acf47ccdcb919b51e0ecb5b93d6cad5cc211e4da
- Yoga Journal. A prenatal sequence to worry less and trust more. https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/a-prenatal-yoga-sequence-to-worry-less-and-trust-more#gid=ci02109141a00026b3&pid=hp_294_00787_bjk
- Enfermería Clínica (English Edition). Effectiveness of a physical activity programme based on the Pilates method in pregnancy and labour. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320320572_Effectiveness_of_a_physical_activity_programme_based_on_the_Pilates_method_in_pregnancy_and_labour