A healthy pregnancy includes exercises to strengthen muscles and increase your endurance. Exercises targeting the leg muscles provide you a solid base through the pregnancy and beyond. Strong legs don’t require hours at the gym using specialty equipment. While some weightlifting is safe during pregnancy, you have other options to tone and build up your legs.
Strong leg muscles aren’t the only benefit of focusing on that area of the body during pregnancy. Moving your legs helps improve circulation. Leg exercises help some pregnant women reduce or avoid swelling in the legs and ankles. You might also find some relief from cramping or aches when you do a leg workout.
No special equipment is required to exercise your legs during pregnancy, but you can use some items if desired. An exercise or fitness ball is an inexpensive item you can use at home to work on your legs. Sitting on a fitness ball is also more comfortable for some pregnant women. During labor, the ball offers a comfortable sitting position for some women. The ball works as a support for laboring positions, such as squatting and kneeling. A leg extension machine that allows you to sit rather than lie is also an option.
Low-impact aerobics such as swimming, biking and walking increase your leg strength and general endurance. Leg extensions performed at the gym are an option. Some pregnant women prefer repetitions of leg moves that don’t require any equipment. Yoga and Pilates classes for pregnant women offer a group approach to prenatal exercise. Many of the moves focus on the legs, but other muscle groups also get a workout. Skip exercises during yoga and Pilates class that involve lying flat on your back or use a specialty Pilates support that inclines your spine. Avoid yoga poses that involve lots of twisting in the abdominal area or inversions.
Avoid leg exercises that require lying flat on your back. In the second and third trimester, this can compress blood vessels and restrict blood and oxygen flow through the body. Start with a low number of repetitions, especially when starting a new leg exercise. Gradually increase your reps as your legs grow stronger.
Pushing yourself too hard increases the risk of injury. Consult with your physician if you notice any strange pains or sensations as you work your legs. Some leg swelling and cramping is normal during pregnancy, but a sudden increase in swelling or more swelling in one leg can indicate pre-eclampsia or a blood clot. Call your prenatal health care provider if you notice these swelling symptoms any time during your pregnancy, including before or after your leg workout.