How to Safely Exercise During Pregnancy

posted: 07/21/16
by: Ashley Lauretta
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When it comes to motherhood and staying active, everyone has an opinion. Last year, a pregnant women posted a video of herself dancing and it went viral, simply because people thought she was harming her baby.

Then there is the story of Sarah Brown, who just a few weeks ago raced in the Olympic Track & Field Trials four months after giving birth. In an espnW series that chronicled her journey, she shared comments she was getting on social media as she trained through pregnancy.

"Selfish b**** thinking of herself not her baby," read one. "She is already a wackjob; can't imagine what kind of parent she'll be," said another. A visibly shaken Brown sat in silence for a few moments after reading them aloud.

So, the real question is, is it safe to exercise while pregnant? Are these women being chastised for no reason?

"It is not only safe for women to exercise while pregnant, it can be detrimental when women don't--and it makes the post-pregnancy recovery much more difficult," explains Tatum Rebelle, who specializes in pre and postnatal fitness and is the owner of Total Mommy Fitness.

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She says "There are many old myths and wives' tales that discourage women from staying active during pregnancy, but the current research emphatically states that there are countless benefits to prenatal exercise with negligible risks."

Of course, you can overdo it, just as you can if you are working out and are not pregnant. But as Rebelle notes, the concern about being unhealthy and sedentary should far outweigh concern of working out.

"A healthy, active expectant mother is much more likely to have a healthy, active child," she continues, "While the opposite is also true."

How, then, can you safely work out while you are pregnant? Rebelle recommends using a stability ball to work out. She has provided an eight-move workout that you can do at home to stay moving while growing your little one.

Ball Squat

Increases strength of thighs, rear, and core.

  • Stand with good posture, leaning against the wall with the stability ball placed comfortably on lower back.
  • Tighten your rear, hamstrings, abs and pelvic floor.
  • Squat by bending at the knees as you push your hips down and back so the body is lowering toward the floor, not underneath or in front of the ball.
  • Stand back up and repeat.

Hamstring Curl with Ball

Increases strength of hamstrings (back of thighs), glutes and core.

  • Lay on the mat with your heels and calves on the ball.
  • Tighten your rear, hamstrings, abs and pelvic floor as you press your heels into the ball and raise hips off the floor.
  • Slowly roll the ball to your rear as you brace yourself with your hands at your side.
  • Push the ball back to the start position and keep your hips elevated off the floor.
  • You should feel this in the back of your thighs. If it is straining behind your knees or calves reposition your feet on the ball and try again.

Reverse Lunge

Improves balance. Tones thighs, glutes (rear) and core.

  • Stand with good posture and feet placed shoulder width apart.
  • Tighten your rear, hamstrings, abs, and pelvic floor.
  • Step back while bending at the knees and lower your body towards the floor.
  • Weight stays on your front heel and the knee does not go in front of your toes.
  • Return to starting position and switch legs.

Side Plank

Tightens core and shoulder muscles. Tones obliques (side abs).

  • Lie on the right side with elbows, shoulders, hips and knees in alignment.
  • Place your elbow under the shoulder, tighten your abs, and lift body off the mat.
  • Drop bottom knee to the mat if straight leg feels too difficult at first.
  • Hold for 5-30 seconds (varies depending on ability).



Increases strength of glutes, hamstrings and core.

  • Lie on the mat with your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.
  • Kick one foot out straight in front of you, press your hips up and squeeze your glutes as you exhale. (If one leg is too difficult at first press with both)
  • You should feel this in the back of your thighs and rear. If you feel it in your knee or it feels awkward try different foot positions.
  • Push your body up until it makes a straight line from your shoulders to knees.
  • Pause for a few seconds at the top.
  • Inhale and lower down to the mat.


Scapula Retraction Push Up

Strengthens back, chest, shoulders and abs. Improves posture.

  • Start in the modified push up position on your knees.
  • Keep your arms straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Slowly lower your body slightly without bending your arms and allow your scapula to retract (shoulder blades move toward your spine).
  • Push your body back up several inches as you let your shoulders move away from your spine.
  • Your back should arch as in "cat pose" as you press up, exhale and tighten your abs.


Hip Press with Ball

Increases strength of glutes, hamstrings and core.

  • Lay on the mat with your feet placed flat on the ball.
  • Tighten your rear, hamstrings, abs and pelvic floor as you press your feet into the ball and raise hips up off the floor.
  • Slowly lower your hips back to the floor as you brace yourself with your hands at your side.



Strengthens core and shoulders. Pulls abs in like an 'internal girdle.'

  • Lie with forearms on mat and elbows positioned under shoulders.
  • Draw your abs in tight as if you were bracing your belly.
  • While keeping the abs drawn in, tighten your rear and hold your body straight. Never lower your hips past the straight body position.
  • Raise hips or take a break if you can no longer hold perfect form. Form is more important than how long you hold!
  • Either on toes with hips elevated, or down on knees with body straight. Keep abs tight the whole time, and don't forget to breathe!!