Pregnancy Water Workout
By Dana Sullivan
As your belly expands, keeping up with your regular exercise routine
becomes more of a challenge since the added weight puts extra stress on
the muscles and joints. Consider alternating or switching your routine
to a water workout. "Whenever I teach water exercise to pregnant women,
they say they can't believe how light and graceful they feel in the
water," says Mary E. Sanders, M.S., an exercise physiologist and
water-exercise researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno.
An added plus: You don't need to know how to swim to reap the
benefits of water exercise (you don't have to get your hair wet,
either). "Just moving in water is like lifting liquid weight," says
Sanders. The more effort you use, by bumping up the intensity of a
particular move, or using resistance tools such as dumbbell-shaped
paddles or webbed gloves, the higher the resistance.
Water-exercise also forces you to strengthen your trunk muscles --
especially the abdominals and lower back -- almost without trying.
That's because you must contract and use these muscles in order to
stabilize yourself as you move. "Performing abdominal exercises on
land, while you're lying on your back, doesn't prepare your muscles for
the way you use them in real life," notes Sanders. In the water, you
work them in an upright position by simply walking through the water.
The following workout, designed by Sanders, is so gentle that even a
beginner can do it (although if you didn't exercise before your
pregnancy, be sure to ask for your physician's approval). Get into the
water and warm up for five minutes, swimming laps or just walking back
and forth across the pool. Then, alternate these four strength-training
moves with aerobic intervals. For instance, walk or jog as quickly as
you can for 15 seconds, then go at a slow recovery speed for 15 seconds
(as you get stronger, increase the duration of the high-intensity
intervals). Alternate back and forth for 3 minutes. Then do move #1. Do
another three-minute aerobic interval and do move #2, and so on. The
workout should take about 30 minutes.
The Buggy Push (targets the trunk, upper back and shoulders).
Hold a kick board so it's up on one edge and immersed halfway into the
water. Now walk while pushing the kick board in front of you.
Concentrate on keeping the board straight. Turn around and walk back to
the starting position, but this time zig-zag the board in front of you.
Lifting the Baby (targets the arms). Stand with your elbows
bent, palms facing up, floating on top of the water, (to make this even
more challenging, wear webbed gloves or use water paddles, see below
for details). Bend your knees and lower your body into a squat
position. At the same time, pushing your hands (or the paddles) down
through the water until they're in front of your thighs. Rise up to the
start position, curling your arms up toward your shoulders. Repeat
Step Climb (targets the buttocks and legs). Stand in the
shallow end of the pool facing the stairs. Step up onto the lowest step
and then back down. Repeat 10 times, slowly, leading with the right
leg, and then 10 times leading with the left. Now turn sideways, so the
stairs are on your right, and step up, leading with the right leg;
repeat with the left. Finally, turn away from the step and step up
backward, again, 10 times leading with the right leg and 10 times with
Tip: Keep your hands above the water to make the exercise more challenging.
Charlie Chaplin Walk (targets the middle and
upper back). Tuck your elbows into your sides, hold your hands out
to the sides with your thumbs pointing up. Walk the width of the pool
twice forward and twice backward.
Tip: To make the exercise more challenging, wear webbed gloves to increase resistance.
With a few simple tools, you
can increase the cardiovascular and strength-building effects of water
exercise. Here are a few essentials (you can find these items at many
sporting goods stores or the Speedo Website):
- Inflatable Flotation Belt, used for suspension and support, can be used in shallow or deep water; about $20.
- Fitness Paddles, dumbbell-like devices used for strength-training; about $20.
- Webbed Gloves to add resistance in the water, about $10/pair.
|Where to Workout |
To find a prenatal water exercise program in your area, contact the following organizations:
- Aquatic Exercise Association, call (941) 486-8600 (they will email a list of local certified instructors to you)
- Jewish Community Center Association, for a listing of JCCs in your area, visit their Website
- YMCA of the USA, for a listing of the Y nearest you, visit their Website (some Ys include class schedules on their sites)