Regular exercise is important for pregnant women and their babies, with safety being the top priority. Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) provides a fun and effective choice. By enjoying the outdoors, spending time with friends, getting in movement, strengthening various muscles, and improving balance, women can safely reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits of SUP during pregnancy.

If you’ve never tried SUP before, starting it while pregnant is not the best time since beginners are at greater risk of injury or falling. However, if you have experience in the sport, you can safely continue SUP. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you exercised prior to pregnancy then you can most likely exercise at the same level during pregnancy, provided you are feeling healthy and your doctor gives you clearance.

The Benefits of SUP During Pregnancy 

A Full-Body Workout

SUP is low-impact and provides a full-body workout that is easy of the joints, making it ideal for pregnant women. It works the core muscles, which can eliminate or reduce back pain during pregnancy. Additionally, the sport improves your posture, and strengthens your hips, glutes, arms and legs. For pregnant women, having stronger muscles can make delivery easier and reduce the risk of having a C-section. Since it’s a great cardio workout, pregnant women will sleep better and manage their weight more effectively with regular SUP. If your labor is long, the endurance you built up doing SUP can pay off. 

Increases Energy and Enhances Health 

Fatigue is common during pregnancy, and SUP can boost energy levels and reduce stress. As with other forms of exercise, SUP can help pregnant women decrease constipation, bloating, and other discomforts.

Good for the Mind and Body

It is common for a woman to experience a wide range of moods and emotions during pregnancy. Continuing regular SUP during pregnancy can provide many therapeutic benefits. Enjoying outdoor activities can improve concentration, increase energy, enhance your mental outlook, make you calmer, and help you connect with nature. Feeling the fresh air while successfully performing an outdoor activity such as SUP can give pregnant women a boost of confidence. Fulling embracing the activity and focusing your thoughts only on the movements of paddling can do the mind and body a lot of good. This helps to release tension and allows the muscles to work more efficiently. Spending time outside also supplies a healthy dose of Vitamin D, and women need to make sure all of their nutritional requirements are met during pregnancy. Packing enough food for the trip out on the water to keep energy levels up is important for pregnant women.

SUP Makes Meeting Daily Exercise Requirements Easy 

According to guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pregnant women should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, with those minutes spread out throughout the week. Similarly, the Mayo Clinic recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week for most pregnant women. In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training is also beneficial. SUP gives you a great aerobic workout that also strengthens your muscles (lessening the need to incorporate other strength training exercises into your routine). For pregnant women who are short on time and unsure which exercises can be done safely, this makes SUP a great choice.

It Can Be Done in All Three Trimesters 

SUP is a sport that can be enjoyed by women during all three trimesters of pregnancy, in addition to other low-impact cardio activities such as walking and swimming. Carrying the extra weight while pregnant puts stress on your joints, but SUP is easy on your joints and strengthens your muscles. During the second trimester, exercises that involve lying on your back should be avoided. That excludes such core exercises as sit-ups and crunches. Planking is great for the core but becomes more difficult the further along in the pregnancy. SUP, on the other hand, is an effective core workout that can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy. You may, though, want to alter your paddling technique as reaching too far forward could tear your abdominal muscles while pregnant. Stand more upright for paddling than you normally would.

It Doesn’t Require Being in Physical Demanding Positions 

The limitations that women experience during pregnancy that prevent them from doing activities – such as difficulties jumping, running, bouncing, bending over, and squatting – don’t apply to SUP.

You Can Go at Your Own Pace 

It is a sport you can comfortably do at your own pace, which makes it accessible for pregnant women. If you’re full of energy one day, you can go for a longer paddle. If you’re lethargic the next day, you can take it easy on your board and soak in the nature. Unlike some other sports where you need to reserve a booking, you can do SUP on the days you feel up to it and at the times that fit with your schedule.

When SUP Is Not Safe During Pregnancy 

If the Risk of Falling is High 

The risk of falling is a factor when deciding which activities to do while pregnant. Skating, gymnastics, downhill skiing, and snowboarding are examples of ones to avoid. There is risk of falling in SUP, although landing in the water is better than on the ground. However, caution still needs to be taken. If you aren’t completely comfortable standing on your board, you can go on your knees or sit on the board. Your center of gravity changes during pregnancy, so make sure you are comfortable with your balance before doing SUP. Wider boards provide more stability, so you may need to change the board you’re using. 

If Paddling in Rough or Deep Water 

Paddling in rough water should be avoided to lessen the risk of falling. Also avoid deep water. If the water is shallow enough for you to touch the bottom, you’ll be in a safer position and you’ll be able to get back on your board easier if you fall. For added safety measures, paddle only on days when the weather conditions are suitable and avoid busy areas of the water.

If You Haven’t Done SUP Before 

It is not advisable to do SUP during pregnancy if you have no experience in the sport. University of Cincinnati researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 new mothers, and 27% said they fell at least once while pregnant. For women thinking about becoming pregnant, it is beneficial to take up SUP well before pregnancy. The enhanced balance the sport gives you will reduce your risk of falling during pregnancy. Also, you will feel comfortable continuing with SUP while pregnant (during this time you don’t want to take up new sports).

If You Can’t Meet All Safety Precautions 

It is advisable to paddle with a friend during pregnancy. If you need assistance, you’ll want someone by your side. SUP with a friend also provides companionship, which can help with the mental and emotional challenges of pregnancy. Other safety precautions include carrying a whistle with you in case you need to call out for help, and wearing your leash and life vest. It is also important to wear a wetsuit. The temperature shock that could result from falling into water without a wetsuit can have harmful effects for your baby. Even if you’re an experienced paddler, it can be helpful to take a refresher class on SUP during pregnancy. This will ensure you have all the safety precautions covered and your technique is sound.

Tips for Doing SUP During Pregnancy 

Keep it Simple

Only perform basic moves and only paddle as fast as you’re comfortable with while pregnant. More advanced techniques may place stress on your joints and increase your risk of falling. If you can’t carry on a conversation while paddling, you need to slow down. If you experience fatigue, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, shortness of breath, pain, or cramping, then you should stop exercising. Your enthusiasm to keep paddling needs to be balanced with a recognition of when to ease up.

Stay Hydrated 

As with all forms of exercise, pregnant women who do SUP need to drink plenty of water throughout the day. For the health of you and your baby, the Mayo Clinic recommends consuming about 10 cups or 2.4 liters of water daily during pregnancy. Overheating can result from dehydration. Make sure to pack a big water bottle for your trip out on the water. Avoid SUP in excessively hot or humid weather while pregnant.

Insights from a Paddler 

Stephanie Myers, an avid participant of SUP, shared her experiences of keeping up with the sport while pregnant in an ISLE blog post. She noted how physically demanding it is to give birth and how staying strong and active was her goal during pregnancy. She paddled 5-7 days a week before pregnancy, helping her to feel comfortable with her balance on the board while pregnant. She felt calm gliding on the water. Myers wrote she was more easily winded the first time she went SUP during pregnancy, but she made the smart decision to listen to her body and slow down her pace. Her hips hurt carrying the extra weight but she continued with SUP and it became her only activity in late pregnancy.