A Guide To Prenatal Water Aerobics

By MaryAnn DePietro, CRT. May 7th 2016

Although it is essential to first check with your doctor or midwife, exercising during pregnancy is usually beneficial for most women. According to Johns Hopkins University, women who exercise regularly during pregnancy may have an easier labor and get back into shape quicker than those who do not exercise. One option to consider for exercising during pregnancy is prenatal water aerobics.

(For more information on exercising while pregnant, read Exercising During Pregnancy: Advice For New Moms.)

What Is Water Aerobics?

Water aerobics involves performing exercises in deep or shallow water, such as a swimming pool. Typically, water aerobics includes cardiovascular exercise, which increases the heart rate. Water aerobics classes often include exercises to tone the body, build strength and improve flexibility. The water not only cushions the impact on the joints, but it creates more resistance. By exercising in the water, you may also use a larger range of motion.

Similar to other type of aerobic exercise classes, water aerobics classes usually start with a warm-up, followed by more vigorous exercise and a cool down. Exercises may include walking or jogging in the water, leg-lifts, squats and upper body movements. Fitness equipment specifically designed for water aerobics may be incorporated into a workout, such as water weights, a jogging belt and water gloves for resistance training.

(To learn more about water aerobics, check out Water Aerobic Exercises For A Low-Impact Workout.)

Benefits During Pregnancy

There are several benefits of participating in prenatal water aerobics. Since the water absorbs some of the impact to the body, it causes less stress on the joints than some other forms of aerobic exercise. Workouts may feel more comfortable, since the buoyancy reduces weight on the back. Overheating during exercise is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Because prenatal water aerobics is done in water, the chances of overheating are reduced.

Exercising during pregnancy, including doing prenatal water aerobics, can reduce constipation and may improve mood and decrease swelling, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Participating in prenatal aerobics may also have benefits during labor. Some studies indicate women who participated in prenatal water aerobics regularly needed less pain medication during labor. It may also help a woman recover from childbirth quicker and get back into shape easier.

Precautions To Take

All women who are pregnant should speak with their obstetrician or midwife to be sure it is safe to exercise. This is especially true for women who are just starting an exercise program. Pregnant women should keep in mind their center of gravity and balance may be different and adjust movements as needed to prevent injury. Women should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, which can lead to early labor. Even though classes are in the water, it is essential to watch for signs of overheating, such as nausea, extreme thirst and dizziness.

Is also extremely important that pregnant women are aware of signs that indicate they should stop exercising. Contractions, headache and lightheadedness all indicate it is time to take a break. In addition, if a woman experiences vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina, she should stop exercising immediately and contact her doctor.

Tips For Prenatal Water Aerobics

  • Try a shallow class first: Prenatal aerobic classes in shallow water may be a little easier, and a good option if just starting out. After you try a few classes, you can move into the deeper end of the pool, which usually involves water chest deep or over your head.
  • Start slow: This is important for anyone just starting an exercise program, but especially for pregnant women. You should always warm-up before starting vigorous exercise. It is also very important to pay attention to your body during pregnancy. If something feels off while you are exercising, stop your workout. It is better to be cautious than risk complications.
  • Use sunscreen: If you are exercising in an outdoor pool, be sure to use plenty of water proof sunscreen. Even if you did not tend to sunburn before you were pregnant, pregnancy can make your skin more sensitive.
  • Wear a supportive swimsuit: One thing is for sure during pregnancy, your body continues to change and weight is distributed differently. A suit with a supportive top can help make the workout more comfortable. Abdominal supports are also available for pregnant women, which may also help comfort, especially during the later stages of pregnancy.
  • Build up to 30 minutes: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women gradually buildup endurance to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. You may need to start out with less than this and increase a few minutes a day until you work up to 30 minutes.

Prenatal water aerobics can be good for the mind and body during pregnancy and may be a good option for staying in shape throughout a woman’s pregnancy. As research indicates, exercise is safe for most pregnant women and may even provide benefits during labor and recovery.


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