Healthy & Safe Pregnancy | Pregnancy Fitness: An At-home Gym
Exercising while pregnant is no easy feat. First, there are the physical limitations – morning sickness, fatigue, raging hormones. Then there are the details: What exercises should you do? Where will you do it? How much will it cost? One easy answer to these questions is to work out at home. While it isn’t for everyone, it can be a convenient way to fit in exercise both during pregnancy and after the baby comes.
The advantages of home workouts include the following:
- Convenience. No packing a bag, finding a sitter or driving to the gym.
- Economical. Home exercise equipment can be expensive, but no more than a gym membership or a year’s worth of personal training.
- Flexibility. You can exercise anytime, perfect for those days when you only have time for short workouts.
- Easy access. After the baby comes and sleep deprivation sets in, it will be easier to workout with equipment nearby instead of miles away at the gym.
- No more excuses! You can’t use bad weather or lack of a babysitter to skip your workout!
Before you take the plunge into home exercise, realize that exercising at home takes plenty of self-motivation. At a gym, there’s nothing to do BUT exercise. At home, you may find many projects to distract you from exercising (i.e. suddenly your sock drawer must be re-organized). Make sure you’ll stick with it, even when the laundry isn’t finished or your living room is a disaster area.
Where to Start
One of the easiest ways to stay healthy during pregnancy is with cardio exercise. A high-quality cardio machine can be a lifesaver during bad weather or for those times when you’re squeezing in a workout while the baby naps. If you’re wondering which one to buy, just about anything will do. Your choice will depend on the following:
Home exercise equipment can be expensive.
- How much money you have to spend.
- How much space you have.
- What activities you enjoy.
- What you can see yourself doing for a long time.
- Below are the most popular cardio machines and how to choose the best one for you.
Treadmills are popular because they are easy to use, there’s no learning curve and because walking is great exercise, both during pregnancy and after delivery when you’re easing back into fitness. When choosing a treadmill, look for the following:
A continuous duty belt motor with at least 1.5 horsepower (avoid the “treadmill duty” motor).
- A belt size of 48 inches long by 16 inches wide
- A speed of up to 10 mph and an incline up to 10 percent.
- A cushioned belt that doesn’t move with each foot-strike.
- A stable treadmill that doesn’t shake when you’re walking or running.
- An easy-to-reach control panel.
Bikes are great, but you may not be too thrilled sitting on one immediately after giving birth (ouch!). Upright bikes can strain an already aching back. If this is a problem for you, consider a recumbent bike, which provides back support.
When choosing a bike, look for the following:
- A comfortable seat. This is crucial for long-term happiness.
- Adjustable handlebars. This will help reduce back strain.
- Ease of use. You don’t want one that requires a Ph.D. to operate.
- A covered flywheel to protect curious little fingers.
Elliptical trainers offer a low-impact workout, which can be heaven on your aching joints. Some models offer arm handles (for a full-body workout), adjustable ramps and a variety of programs from which to choose.
When buying an elliptical trainer, look for the following:
- Smooth motion. The pedals shouldn’t feel “jerky.”
- Arm handles. These aren’t necessary but add intensity.
- Adjustable resistance. Increasing resistance will allow you to progress.
- Adjustable ramps. These aren’t standard, but they offer a more progressive workout.
- Other cardio machines to consider include stair steppers, rowers and cross-country ski machines, all of which are great options but tend to be more expensive and have a higher learning curve than the machines listed above.
The Little Things
Cardio is important, but you should also stock your home gym with basic equipment for stretching and weight training. You’ll need a set of dumbbells ranging from 3 to 15 pounds, as well as a mat for stretching and abdominal workouts. These are inexpensive and can be found at any sporting goods or department store. Just make sure to keep your weights out of reach of children’s fingers.
Crossing Home Fitness Equipment
Finding the right machine can be difficult since there are so many choices. Use this checklist to help decide what to buy:
__ Map out your space. Determine how much space you have and where your equipment will go. Be sure it’s near a TV and/or stereo to keep you motivated.
__ Determine your budget. Cardio machines range from $150 to $5,000, but remember – you get what you pay for. A quality machine will last longer and give you better workouts.
__ Decide what you want. Don’t buy a bike just because your best friend said it’s a great workout. Choose what you enjoy doing and, more important, what you see yourself doing for years to come.
__ Try before you buy. Visit a few sporting goods stores to test different machines and plan to spend 10 minutes or so on each one. Pay attention to the following: How loud is it? If it wakes the dead, move on. Does it have all the extras you want (i.e. heart rate monitor, etc.)? Is it easy to use? Does it have a good warranty? Have you heard of the manufacturer?
__ Do a little research. The Internet is a good place to start when shopping for home exercise equipment. A good place to start is Consumer Reports.
- Any machine with moving parts can be a safety hazard. However, if you use them correctly, there is little chance of injuring yourself.
- Avoiding injuries simply requires good form and a little common sense.
- Always warm up, increase your speed or intensity slowly, keep good posture and know how to use your machine.
If you plan to exercise with the baby around, make sure she’s strapped into a baby seat or secured in a playpen or highchair. A treadmill’s moving belt or a shiny bicycle wheel can tempt little ones into exploration.
Pay attention to your body temperature. Keep in mind that working out indoors means there isn’t any wind to cool you down, so crack a window, turn down the A/C, keep a fan handy and drink tons of water.
As always, check your doctor before starting any type of exercise program.