Shake it like Shakira

Prenatal belly dancing, Nia offer alternatives for working out

Exercise during pregnancy is a good thing. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes almost every day. Not only is it good for your health, but it can mean shorter deliveries and fewer problems, says Dr. Foti Chronopoulos, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Some of the hottest prenatal exercise trends are belly dancing, yoga and Nia, a mix of dance and exercises.

Belly dancing. You can learn to swing your hips (and belly) at Grow in Motion (, a studio in Forest Park. Instructor Gabrielle Deschaine, who belly danced up until three weeks before labor during her recent pregnancy, teaches a prenatal class for beginners.

Yoga. If you’re looking for a lower-key routine, Chronopoulos suggests yoga.

Tracey Carr, group exercise supervisor at Edward Hospital in Naperville, teaches prenatal yoga and Pilates classes. She credits yoga with easing some pain during her three pregnancies. "In my experience my ankles and legs didn’t swell," she says. "There are poses in yoga you can do to alleviate that."

Before choosing a class, Carr suggests asking about the instructor’s certification. Some have extra prenatal fitness training. And ask whether she taught while pregnant.

Nia. This first appeared 25 years ago in California. Think of it as a blend of tai chi, dance and yoga.

"The class is adjusted for your body and has more movement than yoga," says Margaret McIntyre of Chicago, who took prenatal Nia classes. "You feel energized just from the exercise and relaxation of it."

Whether you’re perfecting the figure eight or stretching your arms out in an expressive Nia move, Chronopoulos says, "It’s better to do something than nothing." Remember: Ask your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Avoid anything with a high probability of falling or abdominal injury, such as kickboxing.

Meg Shreve

Kids Eat Chicago

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