Pregnancy Cardio Workout

Safe pregnancy cardio workout? Discover tips, low-impact cardio pregnancy exercises to do with step-by-step instructions

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A pregnancy cardio workout routine reduces pregnancy discomfort while benefiting your overall health. Exercise has been proven to be highly beneficial during pregnancy. [1] But which pregnancy cardio exercises are safe to do? 

Cardio exercises for pregnancy have amazing benefits for your body and mind. Read on to learn about the types of cardio exercises that are considered safe for pregnancy. To help you get started, here is your guide to pregnancy cardio workouts.

Can You Do Cardio Exercises During Pregnancy?

Can you do cardio workouts while pregnant? Pregnancy cardio exercise gets your heart rate up and increases the intensity of your breathing. While cardio is effective for helping you to stay fit, you also want to make sure that you and your baby stay safe while working out.

Understand that cardio exercises, such as dancing, boot camp, contact sports, and running, that could put you at risk of a fall should be avoided during pregnancy. Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity will change and affect your balance. 

What kind of cardio is best for pregnancy? Focus on low-impact cardio exercises during pregnancy that are safer. Swimming, aquarobics, stationary bike, elliptical, rowing machine, walking, stretching and other floor exercises are the types of cardio to do instead. 

Pregnancy Cardio Workout Benefits

Here are the benefits of pregnancy cardio exercises that you should know about:

  • Help to reduce stress and low mood. During pregnancy workout cardio, your body releases endorphins helping to improve your mood. Cardio decreases stress [2], which is critical to helping avoid pregnancy complications. 
  • Helps avoid pregnancy complications. Cardio exercises pregnancy can help to decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean birth. [3]
  • Fights fatigue. Cardio exercises help you avoid low-level tiredness, which is common during the first trimester and third trimester. It also helps you sleep better. 
  • Improved circulation. Pregnancy cardio workouts help to increase blood flow. [4]
  • Reduce pregnancy leg swelling. Pregnancy cardio exercises help alleviate the swelling that can occur in the legs from fluid retention.
  • Gain healthy pregnancy weight. By doing cardio, you can gain weight in a healthy manner and keep away excess fat while building muscle
  • Prepares you for labor. Cardio exercises during pregnancy can help you prepare for labor by increasing your endurance. [5]
  • Easier recovery after pregnancy. With an established post pregnancy cardio workout routine already in place, you’ll find it easier to recover. You’ll have less excess weight to lose after birth as you adjust back to a non-pregnancy weight distribution and body shape. 

How to Stay Safe While Doing a Cardio Workout for Pregnancy

Pay close attention to how you feel during every pregnancy cardio workout. To stay safe during pregnancy exercises cardio, here are the rules:

  1. Avoid hot yoga and exercising in hot weather. Check weather forecasts for heat-related warnings and recommendations before working out outdoors.
  2. Stay hydrated at all times. Drink water before, during, and after every workout. 
  3. Don’t stretch outside of your normal range of motion. Your ligaments get looser during pregnancy. This could result in an injury if pushed too far.
  4. Skip high risk activities and contact sports. Avoid all activities that place you at high risk of falling. 
  5. Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. If you find yourself out of breath or raising your body temperature too high, it’s time to stop. Monitor your heart rate and keep it below 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.

How do you know if you’re overdoing it while doing pregnancy cardio exercise? To check if you are exercising at a safe level, use the ‘Talk Test.’ You should exercise hard enough that you can breathe more deeply and your heart beats faster. However, it should not be so hard that you are gasping for breath or can’t hold a conversation.

Stop your workout if you feel lightheaded or unusually short of breath. [6] If you experience any swelling, muscle weakness, bleeding, back or pelvic pain, fluid leaking, contractions or other acute symptoms, contact an urgent care facility or a healthcare professional immediately. 

It’s never too late to start exercising, but take proper precautions first. If you haven’t worked out before, it’s okay to start at any time. However, given the higher risks involved with working out while pregnant, you should talk to your doctor first. Always consult your doctor first before starting any pregnancy cardio workout.

Pregnancy Cardio Workout Step by Step Instructions

What is the best cardio while pregnant? This workout that keeps your heart rate at a moderate level only takes 20 minutes a day! Here is how to do it step by step:

Warm-Up:

Start by marching in place for about one minute to gradually elevate your heart rate and prepare your body for exercise.

The Workout (Exercises 1-4):

Exercise #1: High Knees

What it does: High knees help improve cardiovascular endurance and gently engage the core and lower body muscles. 

How to do it:

  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift one knee towards your chest while balancing on the other leg.
  3. Alternate legs in a running motion while continuing to lift your knees.
  4. Maintain a steady and controlled pace.

For a low intensity , lift your knees to a comfortable height. For moderate intensity, aim to lift your knees a bit higher.

How many reps: Perform for 45 seconds. For moderate intensity, Increase your effort for 30 seconds.

Exercise #2: Jumping Jacks

What it does: Jumping jacks are effective for improving circulation. This pregnancy workout cardio exercise works the cardiovascular system and promotes overall body flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. Start by standing with your feet together and arms by your sides.
  2. Simultaneously jump your feet out to the sides while raising your arms overhead.
  3. Jump your feet back together while lowering your arms.
  4. Keep a gentle pace that feels comfortable for your body.
  5. For low intensity, step your feet out one at a time and raise your arms partially.
  6. For moderate intensity, execute the classic jumping motion.

How many reps: Perform for 45 seconds. For moderate intensity, Increase your effort for 30 seconds.

Exercise #3: Windmills

What it does: Windmills help improve flexibility in the hips and shoulders while gently engaging the core muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and arms extended straight out to the sides.
  2. Hinge at your hips and bend sideways, aiming to touch your left hand towards your right foot.
  3. Keep your chest open and facing forward.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Maintain a controlled and fluid movement.
  6. For low intensity, perform a smaller range of motion.
  7. For moderate intensity, try to reach closer to the foot.

How many reps: Perform for 45 seconds. For moderate intensity, Increase your effort for 30 seconds.

Exercise #4: Narrow Squat With Back Kick

What it does: This exercise helps strengthen the lower body muscles, especially the legs and glutes, while enhancing balance.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet close together.
  2. Perform a squat by bending your knees and lowering your hips.
  3. As you stand up from the squat, kick one leg back behind you.
  4. Maintain a steady pace and controlled movements.
  5. For low intensity, perform shallow squats and gentle kicks.
  6. For moderate intensity, lower into deeper squats and extend the kicks higher.

How many reps: Perform for 45 seconds. For moderate intensity, Increase your effort for 30 seconds.

Do all of the exercises one-time through and then rest for 1 minute. Then, repeat all 4 exercises once more.

Pregnancy Cardio Workout Commonly Asked Questions

Pregnancy cardio exercises aren’t always straightforward. Knowing the answers to cardio exercises for pregnancy FAQs can help guide you in creating a pregnancy cardio workout routine that works for you. Here are some common questions and answers about cardio exercises during pregnancy.

How much exercise should I do while pregnant?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 30 minutes more of moderate exercise every day if not most days of the week.

Are cardio exercises during pregnancy safe?

Yes, pregnancy cardio exercise is safe with modification. High-impact exercises, such as contact sports, and activities that place you at risk of falling should be avoided. [7] The cardio workout for pregnancy exercises that you can do will depend on your health. If you are experiencing a normal ‘uncomplicated’ pregnancy and have no prior health issues, there are a wider range of exercises you can do. [8]

What exercises should I avoid during pregnancy?

During the first trimester, start with cardio exercises pregnancy that engage your core and pelvic floor. [9] Use the first trimester to build up good exercise habits. Take care or avoid doing single leg exercises so that you don’t fall.

During the second trimester, avoid exercises that involve lifting both legs in the air at the same time. Skip exercises that don’t support the core or put it under pressure. Exercises to avoid include anything high-impact, plank crunches, leg lifts, V-sits, and ab rollouts. 

During the third trimester, continue to avoid core-specific exercises. You may also find single leg exercises, such as lunges and split squats, to be uncomfortable. 

Can you get toned while pregnant? 

Yes. If you want to keep your body toned during pregnancy, low-impact cardio exercises for pregnancy on a regular basis can help. These exercises increase your heart rate to burn more calories, while helping you build muscle. Pregnancy cardio workouts combined with a nutrient-rich diet can help keep you toned even while pregnant. [10]

Stay Active With Pregnancy Cardio Workouts

With a regular pregnancy cardio workout routine, you can embrace the benefits of staying fit while nurturing your baby. Combined with a nutrient-rich diet, cardio pregnancy workouts can help you improve each and every day.

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References:

  1. https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-022-00524-z
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8658622/
  3. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/jpm-2021-0315/html?lang=en
  4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2020.00450/full
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20524714/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206837/
  7. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/17/1080
  8. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/21/1377
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4622376/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9182711/

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