Prenatal exercise classes

Four top prenatal workouts for expectant mothers in Shanghai

These days, pregnacy is no excuse for ditching your regular workout. Eight month's pregnant, Crystyl Mo tries out four top prenatal classes for safe, healthy esercise options for expectant mothers.

Aqua aerobics

Our largest class, with more than ten students, this popular swimming fitness routine takes us into the pool for running, kicking, jumping jacks and ‘weight lifting’ (with foam dumbbells) – all done underwater. We start by ‘running’ in a circle in the water to warm-up and work our way up to full laps of swimming with both scissor kicks and back kicks, holding the foam dumbbells.

A nutritionist and personal trainer, instructor Adela Stoulilova tells us she recommends aqua exercise as the safest workout for pregnant women, and one of the few routines where you can get a great cardio workout without the risk of overheating or over-stretching. On land, our big belly makes us feel like a beached whale, so it’s wonderful to be buoyant in the water. A satisfying session, it’s clear why this class is always packed with regulars.

Casa Lakeville 506 Huangpi Nan Lu. See Casa Lakeville for address details.

Cross training

By far the toughest work of all our prenatal classes is this cross-training program where we get our heart and muscles pumping as we sprint through a ten-station circuit which includes push ups, planks, squats and lunges for both strength and cardio training. ‘This would be hard even for non-pregnant folks!’ is the thought racing through our mind as we pant through the stations over this hour-long class – although clearly some of the exercises have been modified for safety (we do our lunges with one hand on a dance bar for balance, for example).

Experienced instructor Martina Klotz, who’s schooled in everything from zumba to reiki, is enthusiastic and gives plenty of one-on-one instruction. This class gets us sweating and we feel proud to have completed a proper workout even in our rotund state. That said, we’d suggest starting this program early in your pregnancy in order to gradually build your fitness level so you’re strong enough to continue the routine even when your belly is busting out.

Lakeville Regency Club House,Shunchang Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu. See Lakeville Regency Club House for address details.


Shanghainese instructor Fiona Xu radiates calm and health from the moment we meet her. Xu boasts extensive training in Pilates, yoga, Chinese massage, hypnosis therapy, psychology and even hypno-birthing, a technique of breathing and visualisation for relaxed, natural births.

Thanks to this background, Xu’s Pilates class is more than just physical exercise and includes fascinating, in-depth explanations of birthing, relaxation breathing and the pregnant body – she has a small skeleton model handy to explain any anatomy questions.

We use a yoga ball, yoga mat and foam blocks to do stretches and easy movements such as leg lifts and squats. At the end of the class, Xu’s soothing voice talks us through a visualisation which puts our whole body at ease. We would love to practice with Xu throughout our whole pregnancy and also return for her postnatal classes; very impressed.

LiveStone Pilates Studio
1518 Zhangyang Lu. See LiveStone Pilates Studio for address details.


Australian yoga teacher Caitlin Reilly (pictured) brings her aura of peaceful serenity to this wonderfully relaxing class, taught in the posh Four Seasons gym, suitable even for yoga beginners and late-stage pregnant women. We use foam blocks to modify certain poses for pregnant bodies which can’t stretch as far forward, and have more trouble with balance.

Reilly instructs us in both physical movements and deep mind and body relaxation. Reilly modifies all poses depending on your stage of pregnancy. The most challenging pose is a shoulder stand, which sounds intimidating at first, but she shows us how to use the wall to ease our legs up slowly and, although we feel pressure from our big bellies, we do manage to get into position breathing easily. We feel calmed and comfortably loose from head to toe at the end of this class.

And Reilly projects an easy grace which makes us feel terrific. It’s good value, too, as the very reasonable class price includes use of the hotel’s ‘relaxation lounge’ (but not pool). If you can’t make the prenatal class, you can join one of Reilly’s regular ‘flow’ yoga classes and she’ll show you how to adapt the poses.

Four Seasons Fitness Centre 500 Weihai Lu. See The Four Seasons for address details.