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profile picture of Elena Donovan Mauer
Elena Donovan Mauer

6 Easy Ways To Fit Prenatal Exercise Into Your Busy Schedule

You know you’re supposed to be exercising during pregnancy, but life’s pretty hectic. Here’s how to squeeze in a fitness routine.

Don’t you hate when people tell you to “make time” for exercise? No matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in a day—and with a busy work schedule, the need for (lots of) sleep and a pregnancy to-do list that’s growing faster than your belly, finding an hour to spend at the gym can be way harder than it seems.

What's equally true, though, is how important exercise is when you're expecting. It can help you deal with pregnancy aches and pains, give you more energy and help you sleep better. Plus, staying fit can keep pregnancy weight gain in check, and even make childbirth easier. On top of all that, it’s good for baby too.

So how do you squeeze those must-do workouts into your already-packed day? Try these tactics.

1. Do an At-Home DVD or YouTube Workout

Going to the gym can be really time-consuming. So why not try a pregnancy-approved workout from the comfort (and convenience) of your home? Without needing to pack a gym bag or drive around looking for parking, you’re bound to save time. There are a bunch of subscription-based streaming services and online video series that offer guided prenatal exercise routines, such as Beautiful Belly by Daily Burn, Moms Into Fitness or babyweight.tv, to name a few.

You can also go with a prenatal exercise DVD. It’s a good idea to choose one that’s designed specifically for pregnant women, since it won’t include moves that are off-limits, like ones that require lying on your back. Keep in mind, you might have to try out a few different DVDs to get the right intensity level for you. “There were a few prenatal DVDs that were way too easy for me when I was pregnant,” says Nicole Glor, a personal trainer and creator of NikkiFitness Baby Bootie Camp, a post-pregnancy workout video. As long as your doctor has okayed it, “you can keep about 80 percent of the exertion level you used pre-pregnancy,” she adds.

2. Multitask

Waiting for the nursery painters to arrive? Watching birthing videos to prep for labor? Work in some exercise at the same time. “You can stay seated on the couch and do biceps curls with weights,” Glor says. “You can also do shoulder extensions and triceps curls, where you raise your arms and lower and lift weights behind your head, or lean forward slightly and do triceps kickbacks.” It’s particularly important to strengthen your upper back, since when baby comes, you might find yourself often hunched over to hold or nurse her, and that can really hurt your posture. “Do wall-assisted push-ups,” Glor suggests.

Some pregnant women’s wrists bother them because of carpal tunnel. If that’s the case, Glor recommends laying your back on a pillow to do incline chest flies, where you extend your arms out to the side in a straight line aligned with your shoulders and, holding weights with your hands palms-up, bring them together like you’re giving someone a bear hug. Or try chest presses, where from that same position, you push your arms up and down. It's important to do this on an incline, so you’re not lying flat on your back.

3. Turn Off the TV

Make exercise your entertainment and spend less time doing less beneficial things, like watching TV. We’re betting a sweat-inducing workout—or even a brisk walk outside—is going to empower you and ultimately leave you feeling better than an evening watching Dancing with the Stars will. “Exercise helps you with the mental and emotional aspects of pregnancy," Glor says. "There’s so much that you feel isn’t under your control while you’re pregnant, but exercising helps you take some of the control back and clears your head.”

4. Do Shorts Workouts Throughout the Day

A little bit of exercise is always better than nothing, and if you find just a few quick ways to incorporate fitness throughout your day, it can really add up. Apps can be a good place to start. Move reminds you to stand up and do a simple exercise a few times a day, from stretching to push-ups. Looking for something a little tougher? Johnson & Johnson introduced an app that guides you through seven-minute cardio workouts for all ability levels.

There are even smaller things you can do too. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk the long way to work. Some stores offer closer parking spaces for moms-to-be, but if you’re feeling good, you don’t have to use one. Park farther away and enjoy some fresh air!

“If you walk past a park, or you’re spending time with your child in the playground, find a bench or the edge of a slide and do triceps dips,” Glor suggests. “Look for a step or the edge of a sandbox—something that’s about a foot and a half off the ground—and do mini step-ups.” Step up with your right foot, bring your left knee up toward your belly and then step back down again. Repeat a few times and then do it on the opposite leg—it's a great workout for your quadriceps (the muscles in your thighs).

5. Make Dates With a Trainer

If you decide to hire a personal trainer, you’ll have to spend time going to the appointments—but you’re definitely more likely to block out time if you’ve got someone waiting for you—and you’ve already paid them. Trainers can really customize your workout and push you to maximize your efforts, so even a short workout gives you effective results.

6. Reward Yourself

Another motivator to leave work at a decent hour and head to the gym? An awesome reward. You did four walking workouts this week? Made all your trainer appointments? Kept up with your prenatal Pilates videos? You earned a pretty new necklace or maternity dress—maybe even a prenatal massage. “Prenatal massage can reset you mentally and emotionally, and it’s really great for your back,” Glor says. “Plus, if they have a table with a cutout for your belly, it'll feel so good to be able to lie there on your stomach. That would be my reward for the week.”

Updated January 2018

Plus, more from The Bump:

Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

Best Maternity Workout Clothes

20 Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

PHOTO: iStock