Exercise During Pregnancy?
Not so long ago, pregnant women were advised to avoid exercising during their pregnancy for fear of miscarriage. Fortunately, today you’re encouraged to exercise regularly during all three trimesters. We know that women who remain physically active during their pregnancies have a better pregnancy outcome, including gaining an appropriate amount of weight, decreased risk of developing gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, and shorter labors.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly before you became pregnant, make sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any kind of exercise program. You’ll likely get the thumbs up, but it’s not the time to be hitting the gym “biggest loser”-style nor training for a marathon. Make sure to buy a heart rate monitor so you can make sure you’re keeping your heart rate in a healthy zone, which is usually below 145 beats per minute.
- Start slowly, with 10 minutes a day and gradually increasing your time on a weekly basis until you can do 30 minutes a day.
- Choose low-impact cardiovascular activities, like walking, stationary biking, elliptical trainer, swimming, water aerobics, and low-impact aerobics classes.
- Work with a certified personal trainer, preferably one who has experience or certification in working with pregnant women, who can work with you on weight training and balance/core training. Weight training is an important part of a well-rounded workout program.
- Balance and stability training is so important to include, especially early on in your pregnancy. As you get into your late 2nd and 3rd trimesters, your growing belly can throw off your center of gravity, making you more susceptible to falling. Working on your balance will help to prevent this from happening.
- Abdominal work may seem counter intuitive to a growing belly, but it will help with your posture, core stability, labor and delivery, and your post-partum recovery. During your first trimester you can continue to do abdominal work while on your back, such as mat pilates and crunches. After your first trimester, avoid exercises that find you on your back, instead focusing on pelvic tilts and abdominal tightening exercises, as well as pilates and yoga poses.
Because you’ve been exercising regularly for a long time, there’s no reason that you can’t continue to do your same workout program, especially during your first trimester. The only exceptions would be for high-risk pregnancies, including if you’re carrying multiples. Of course, get your doctor’s approval before continuing with your normal workout routine.
The most important thing to remember is that you should listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. But if you feel great, then go for it. As mentioned above, wear a heart rate monitor to make sure that you’re not over-doing it. Also know that as your pregnancy progresses, you’ll won’t be able to do the same workout as you could do early in your pregnancy – it might not feel comfortable to keep on running with a big belly!
Also, be careful to avoid doing activities that increase your risk of injury, such as contact sports (football, basketball, soccer, softball), rollerblading, and skiing. Not only can the contact harm you and your baby, but the increasing balance issues that come later in pregnancy play a factor with hurting yourself if you attempt something that requires balance. Instead choose yoga, tai chi, and pilates as your pregnancy progresses.
For anyone who is pregnant, make sure to stay well-hydrated during your workout, as well as before and after exercising. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip from it constantly. Also, make sure to eat something before you exercise do you don’t experience low blood sugar while you’re working out. Also, it’s very important that you watch for warning signs that signals you to stop exercising and place a call to your doctor. These include pain, spotting, cramping, lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea. Your doctor may tell you to take a few days off and monitor your symptoms before resuming any activity. More severe symptoms, such as fluid leaking, decreased fetal movement, vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions, calf swelling, headache, chest pain, and shortness of breath should be reported to your doctor immediately.
The Bottom Line:
- Exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy.
- Get your doctor’s approval before beginning any kind of exercise program.
- Listen to your body so that you don’t over-do it.
- Stay hydrated.
- If you experience any unusual symptoms, stop exercising immediately and call you doctor right away.