Finding Maternity Workout Clothes

If you're keeping fit during your pregnancy, you'll be even more inspired to get the exercise you need with our wealth of fitness tips as well as this look at pregnancy fitness fashion.
Teresa Gallagher and Maria Mueller

Many ways to stay fit
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.

Something for the whole nine months
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 workout 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 have finally addressed the concerns of 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.

Real-life inspiration
Owner and founder of "Mothers in Motion", [] Bess Hilpert 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 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.

Something for everyone
Individual preferences for maternity fitness pieces vary from mom to mom 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 light weight 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 comfortable difference 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 also 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 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."

Your shopping list
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.

Fitness meets fashion
Once again, remember that -- with your caregiver's approval -- 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 available selections 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!the end

Some good maternity fitness wear resources include:

Anna Cris Maternity
Order online at, or
call 1-800-281-2662 for a catalog

Fit Maternity and Beyond
Order online at
or call for a free catalog at 530-926-5551

Purchase through select Nordstrom stores or call 1-877-512-8800

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