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How 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.

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

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 (prepping for maternity leave!), the need for (lots and lots of) sleep and a to-do list that’s growing even faster than your belly, finding an hour to spend at the gym is way harder than it seems.
But remember, exercise may help you deal with pregnancy aches and pains, give you more energy and help you sleep better. Being fit can keep pregnancy weight gain in check and even make childbirth easier. And it’s good for baby too. Try these tactics.

Do an At-Home DVD

It can be really time-consuming going to the gym -- and kind of intimidating now that you’re pregnant, with all those teeny-waisted women. So why not try a pregnancy-approved workout at home? “There are some great pregnancy yoga DVDs out there,” says Nicole Glor, a personal trainer and creator of NikkiFitness Baby Bootie Camp (a postpregnancy workout video). It’s a good idea to choose an exercise DVD 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.

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 Glor. As long as your doctor has okayed it, “you can keep about 80 percent of the exertion level you used pre-pregnancy,” she adds. And without needing to pack a gym bag or drive around looking for parking, you’ll save time.

Multitask

Waiting for the nursery painters to arrive? Watching birthing videos to prep for labor? Work in some exercise while you’re doing those tasks. “You can stay seated on the couch and do biceps curls with weights,” says Glor. “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 hunched over to hold her or to nurse her quite a bit, and that can really hurt your posture. “Do wall-assisted push-ups,” suggests Glor. “But some pregnant women’s wrists bother them because of carpal tunnel. If that’s the case, lie back on a pillow and 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 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.”

Turn Off the TV

Make exercise your entertainment and spend less time doing less beneficial things like watching TV. Yes, we’re serious. Exercise may just empower you and leave you feeling better than an evening watching Dancing with the Stars will. “Take walks as much as you can,” says Glor. “Exercise helps you with the mental and emotional aspects of pregnancy. There’s so much you feel like isn’t under your control while you’re pregnant, but exercising helps you take some of the control back and clears your head.”

Work Exercise Into Your Day-to-Day

A little bit of exercise is always better than nothing, and if you find just a few ways to incorporate fitness into your day, it can really add up. So take the stairs, 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 it, find a bench or the edge of a slide and do triceps dips,” suggests Glor. “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. This will work your quadriceps, the muscles in your thighs.

Make Dates With a Trainer

Okay, so if you decide to hire a personal trainer, you will 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 paid them to. Trainers can really customize your workout and push you, so that even a short workout gives you effective results.

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 the prenatal Pilates DVD? 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,” says Glor. “Plus, if they have that table with the cutout for your belly, it will feel so good to be able to lie there on your stomach. That would be my reward for the week.”

Plus, more from The Bump:

Prenatal Walking Workouts for All Fitness Levels

Healthy Foods for Busy Moms-to-Be

Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

-- Elena Donovan Mauer

See More: Exercise , 1st Trimester , 2nd Trimester , 3rd Trimester , Pregnancy Health