Exercising while pregnant can do wonderful things for your changing body. Although not the time to train for a competitive event, pregnancy is a time to nurture and care for yourself while protecting your growing baby.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, recommends being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Exercise helps you reduce back discomfort, improves your mood, diminishes gastrointestinal issues, helps your posture, boosts your mood, gives you energy, lowers your risk of gestational diabetes and can help you sleep better. When you add resistance training exercises into your routine, you also keep your muscle tone and endurance. Avoid jumping and jarring activities such as skiing, soccer or gymnastics as your joints are extremely mobile during this time.
Should You Exercise During Pregnancy?
Most aerobic, or cardiovascular exercises are safe during pregnancy, although, this is not the time to do something new. For example, if you were not a runner before you were pregnant, you should hold off on learning to run until after you give birth. However, if you jogged or ran consistently before pregnancy, you can continue to run under your doctor’s approval and as long as you feel comfortable. You may have to modify your running routine by decreasing the speed, distance or duration. Other types of aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, group exercise classes in and out of the water, and cycling on a stationary bike are beneficial and safe for most pregnant women.
You can also perform resistance exercises such as arm curls, arm extensions, shoulder presses, chest presses- from an upright position, back pull-downs, squats, lunges and calf raises. Use a resistance amount that you can lift for one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions and be sure to exhale on the exertion portion of the exercise. Avoid performing exercises while lying on your back after the third month of pregnancy. This includes crunches, bench presses, and other abdominal exercises such as reverse crunches, helicopters or bicycles.
If you experience any of the following, stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor:
- vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage
- chest pain
- muscular weakness, swelling or cramps
- difficulty breathing
- reduced fetal movement
Begin your workout routine slowly if it has been a while since you’ve exercised. Start with 5 to 10 minutes of walking and add 5 minutes each week until you can safely perform 30 minutes of exercise. You can also split your 30 minutes into different sessions. For example, walk for 10 minutes, three times a day. It is important to stay well hydrated during your workouts, so drink more water than you think you need. Keep a water bottle with you and drink as you exercise.
Exercise during pregnancy is not the time to focus on weight loss. You still need to consume enough calories to support your growing baby and your fitness routine. The focus on exercise is to keep you feeling physically and mentally healthy. Treat yourself to new workout wear that is comfortable and breathable and purchase a supportive sports bra to care for your changing body.
Always seek the guidance of your physician and listen to your own body. It will tell you what it needs.