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Pregnancy swimming and aquanatal classes

Active for 2


Water-based exercises such as swimming and aquanatal classes may result in less pregnancy tiredness1, a reduced risk of gestational diabetes2 and less pregnancy weight gain3. For your baby, it could mean a healthier heart rate4 and birth weight5It may even help your baby's brain to mature sooner. The hydrostatic pressure of the water helps to reduce swelling7, improve the circulatory and respiratory system and lower blood pressure8. And because it’s low-impact, there’s no stress on the joints.

Meet your coach


Ali Beckman


Ali is a mum, ex-competitive swimmer and Swimming Teacher with Puddle Ducks – providers of aquanatal and antenatal swimming classes. Specialising in pregnancy swimming fitness, Ali has developed and taught her aquanatal programme to over 1,500 expectant mums. Watch as she explains the unique fitness benefits Swimming for 2 can bring.


Exercising safely during pregnancy

 Pregnancy Exercise


You don’t need much to start Swimming for 2, but a well-fitted swimming costume and float will keep you comfortable and help you get the most out of Ali’s routine.

  • A maternity swimming costume with a built-in supportive bra, and a stretchy panel to accommodate your bump
  • A water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout
  • A pool woggle (noodle) to use both as a support and a resistance aid to help strengthen muscles
  • Ankle or wrist weights if you’d like to increase the intensity of your workout

Warm up

Allow your body to warm up to any routine by walking across the pool whilst punching down with your fists into the water. Continue warming up the body by practising heel raises – coming up on the toes whilst shrugging the shoulders. Finish your warm-up with some lovely side sweeps, moving the water from one side of the body to the other, without twisting. Do this for approximately five minutes. Don’t forget to cool down after your workout.

Your aquanatal workout

Choose your trimester:

Ali’s first sequence of moves is ideal for beginners and is designed to get your heart working whilst toning and strengthening your muscles. There are five moves to complete. They can be repeated as many times as you feel comfortable with.

1. Hamstring and arm curl With feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and toes pointing forwards, bring your right heel up to kick your buttock but keep your thighs parallel. Bring your heel down and switch to the other leg. As you raise and lower each leg, raise and lower your arms in a bicep curl. Repeat for approximately 30 seconds.

2. Knee lifts with arm press
Standing with your legs hip-distance apart, lift each knee alternately. At the same time, push the palm of your hand out and away from your body, alternating arms. Repeat x20.

3. Sidestep with squat and push Stand with your feet together, toes pointing forwards. Step to the right, then squat and push your hands down into the water. Bring your left foot to meet your right and stand up. Repeat x6 per leg.

4. Rolling
Bend your elbows and make a winding motion with your hands circling each other, in front of your body. The lower in the water you go, the more resistance you’ll feel. This is an intense exercise, so do try to roll forward for 20 seconds, then backwards for 20 seconds.

5. Rocking horses
Standing with your left leg in front, raise your left knee to your chest. As you bring it back down to the floor, transfer your weight and kick your right leg out behind you. When you lean forward, push both hands out in front. Raise your left knee again, jumping back onto your right foot, and bringing your arms back to your body. Continue in a rocking motion, kicking your right leg out behind you whilst pushing the water away with your arms. Repeat x20, then switch legs.

This routine can be adapted depending on existing fitness levels. The moves use a woggle, but they can be completed without if you have any kind of injury to the shoulder, arms, neck or back.

Following the routine as stated will improve muscle, strength and endurance while increasing the speed of the repetitions will add an aerobic element.

1. Woggle press Hold the woggle with one hand, arm down, hand next to your thigh. Bend the elbow to bring the woggle up, keeping it close to your body, then push it back down again. Repeat x20, then swap sides.

2. Woggle push
Hold the woggle with both hands under the water in front of your body. Push the woggle out, then pull it back towards you. Repeat x20.

3. Tyre pumps
With one foot, stand on the middle of the woggle, holding each end to keep it in place. Bring the knee up, then push the woggle back down. Repeat x20, then swap sides to work the other leg.

4. Seahorse swimming
 Sit on the woggle, as if it were a seahorse, and let it carry your weight. Whilst floating on the woggle, kick – alternating your legs – to propel yourself around the pool. Do this for two minutes.

5. Squat and Cuddle Baby
With toes pointing forwards and soft knees, place one hand at the top of your baby bump and the other at the bottom. As you squat down, swap your hands over so you are stroking your bump.

You can continue with any of Ali’s routines for as long as you feel able. But if you begin to tire more easily in your third trimester, this gentle sequence will help to open your hips and keep you active without too much exertion. Repeat the sequence two or three times, depending on fitness levels.

1. Hip openers With feet shoulder-width apart, move your hips forward through the water, then push them back, keeping your back as straight as possible. Next, roll your hips around in a circular motion, and then roll them back the other way. Repeat for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat.

2. Jogging on the spot
Shift your body weight from one foot to the other, lifting your feet off the floor one at a time. With your hands under the water, push each arm out alternately with each leg lift. Repeat for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat.

3. Gathering in
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, use your hands to scoop the water towards you, one arm at a time. Continue for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then repeat.

4. Supported swimming
Using a woggle for support, swim on your front or back, pointing your toes, and repeatedly kick your legs behind you. Swim for around five minutes.

5. Bingo wings buster
Hold your arms down and close to your body. Slowly raise your arms out to the side, keeping your elbows straight, until your hands break the surface of the water, then push back down again. Repeat x20.

Choose your trimester:

Stretching out and cooling down

A thorough stretch after your workout will help to release any remaining tension and reduce soreness. Watch Ali’s full stretching sequence now.

Prenatal swimming safety

  • Always inform your midwife or doctor of your intention to exercise during pregnancy.
  • Eat little and often to maintain your energy levels, but no less than 30 minutes before entering the pool.
  • Never hold your breath – remember to breathe deeply and continuously.
  • Stand at a depth that’s not too deep and not too shallow – let the water just cover your chest.
  • Use the steps or a ladder to enter and exit the pool; twisting can stretch the stomach muscles and could lead to diastasis recti (separation of the stomach muscles) or increase the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain (PGP).
  • Remember to warm up and cool down effectively, making sure you gently stretch out the muscles used during your session.
  • If you’re experiencing PGP, keep your feet hip-distance apart, avoid lifting your knees too high and make sure your toes are always pointing forwards.
  • Listen to your body. If it feels uncomfortable, either physically or mentally, take a break.

View references

Hide references

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    1. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.

    2. Sanabria‐Martínez G et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta‐analysis. BJOG 2015;122(9):1167-74.

    3. Domenjoz I et al. Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.

    4. May LE et al. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability. Early Hum Dev 2010;86(4):213-7.

    5. Bisson M et al. Physical activity volumes during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association with infant's birth weight. AJP Reports 2016;6(02):e170-e97.

    6. Labonte-Lemoyne E et al. Exercise during pregnancy enhances cerebral maturation in the newborn: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2016:1-8.

    7. ACPWA. Aquanatal Guidelines [Online]. 2010. Available at: [Accessed: February 2017].

    8. Freedman FB. Aqua Yoga. USA: Lorenz Books, 2000.

Last reviewed: 25th April 2017

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