Fitness experts agree that any woman who exercises regularly can usually continue to do so throughout her pregnancy. Bicycling, jogging and walking are ideal, as are prenatal exercise classes that are developed especially for pregnant women. Exercise increases lung capacity, improves circulation, eases back pain from added weight, keeps weight under control, helps prepare a woman’s body for labor and delivery, and enables her to recuperate more rapidly after childbirth.
Lots of women actually DO exercise for the whole nine months, and one of their major considerations is for good maternity fitness gear. The lack of work-out attire for pregnant women has been a common problem for a long time. One mom laments," I worked out 6 days a week with my first pregnancy and was very uncomfortable in my workout stuff as I got bigger. I have searched high and low for workout wear for pregnant women and have been unsuccessful. I am now pregnant again and am not looking forward to working out because I know I will be uncomfortable."
Buying larger sizes of the regular athletic garments just doesn’t work – the larger sizes are not shaped to the pregnant form. Regular bike shorts ride up as the belly expands. Oversized tank tops have straps that fall down and arm holes that reach to one’s waist. Men’s athletic clothes are…well, just that…men’s athletic clothes!
Fortunately, maternity companies are finally addressing the need for maternity exercise apparel. Comfort and support go hand-in-hand: while clothing needs to be non- restrictive and cool, it also needs to firmly support extra-full bellies and bosoms, as well as over-strained backs and legs bearing the increased weight.
Bess Hilpert, owner and founder of "Mothers in Motion", a maternity fitness wear manufacturer, expressed her frustrations with not being able to find running clothes during her four pregnancies. She says, "I had belly, back, inner thigh and sciatic nerve pains while I ran." And so her clothing line was born. Her company now offers a patented built-in three panel support system: belly support, back support, and inner thigh support all in state-of-the-art nylon-Lycra fabrics. They retain their shape, allow heat to escape and wick moisture away from the body, reducing the chance of overheating. Her product line includes a unitard, leggings, bike shorts, short shorts, briefs, running shorts, a sport bra, tee shirt and tank top.
Preferences for maternity fitness pieces vary from mom to mom and are dependent on individual taste as well as the climate in which a woman works out, and the type of exercise she does. For indoor exercise or warmer weather, short unitards or bike shorts may be preferred. For outdoor exercise in cooler climates, long unitards and leggings may be more appropriate, as well as a lightweight zip-up jacket to throw on before and after. For low or no impact exercise, a jog bra may be fine. For higher levels of impact, a good sports bra would be much more supportive.
A pair of extra thick socks and shoe pads made a big difference in comfort for one mother who did step aerobics all the way through her pregnancy! They helped absorb some of the shock of the extra weight on the step.
Another mom-to-be has a strong preference for fitness separates: bike tights and sports bra tops with tanks or tees over them. She also loves the longer maternity leggings, as they provide a little extra coverage when modesty is important to her. She loves the look, feel, and support of unitards, too, even though she feels that the separates provide a little easier access to the bathroom!
For yet another woman, her greatest maternity staple IS the unitard – either tank style or with sleeves, because, as she says, "…they create a long line, don’t cut into the thighs (great if you gain a lot there like I do during pregnancy), and they provide support under clothing without lines or elastic to dig in. A nice stretchy one can be worn throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born!"
Fabric is another personal preference. Laurie Begley, founder of Fit Maternity and Beyond, finds that while a cotton/spandex blend wicks moisture away effectively, some women do prefer the higher tech supplex or Lycra/supplex blends that are very stretchy, and also do a good job of wicking away moisture. She does advise, however, that "One drawback of either of the fabric blends is that the care is almost always cold wash and line dry to avoid shrinkage."
Laurie also suggests the following shopping list for nine months of working out to cover all the bases: one bike short, tight, or unitard (short or long, depending on the season), two supportive bras, a supportive swimsuit for aquatic exercise, and an oversized maternity tank or tee for layering. If you would prefer to purchase something that you can wear "post baby", look for a style that was specifically designed that way, such as Fit Maternity’s maternity/postnatal unitard. She advises that fitness wear should fit comfortably – waistbands should be either over or under the belly to minimize unnecessary pressure across the middle.
Once again, remember that—with your doctor’s OK—exercising throughout your pregnancy is not only possible and beneficial, but, with today’s maternity fitness wear options, you can be fashionable and comfortable too! Take advantage of the attractive selections available in the maternity marketplace to choose the proper fitness wear. Stick to your exercise regimen, and enjoy staying fit and healthy for your entire nine months!
Editorial provided by Teresa Gallagher and Maria Mueller, Founders of Anna Cris Maternity.