Congratulations on your pregnancy! For the next few months, you will be counseled in how to eat healthily and instructed to avoid a list of foods and substances that can potentially harm your developing baby. However, the days when pregnant women were barred from physical activity are long gone. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, healthy women with healthy pregnancies should remain active and exercise throughout their pregnancy. Find out the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, and learn how to go about a workout routine safely.
Why Should You Exercise?
The fitness benefits that exercise provides to everyone can actually be helpful in preventing many of the problems that commonly afflict women during pregnancy. For example, pregnancy can reduce a woman's level of energy. Exercise improves mood and blood circulation, which will help you to feel peppier during the day. The improvement of blood circulation can also be beneficial in preventing the following:
- Swelling of the ankles
- Leg cramps
Exercise also tones and strengthens your muscles, which can improve back support and prevent backaches. The combination of improved cardiovascular function and muscle strength can reward you at the end of your pregnancy with a labor that is shorter and less exhausting and one of reduced risk for complications during delivery. Your heightened level of endurance will make the process of labor and delivery a little more bearable.
What If You Haven't Exercised In Awhile?
Whether you have been a regular at the gym for years or have leaned more toward the sedentary lifestyle, you need to obtain clearance from your obstetrician before you proceed to engage in any workout routine. If you are already a workout guru and you are healthy, he or she may clear you to continue working out with the same level of intensity as you had been doing just before you became pregnant. Your body is already used to that level of activity. Do not set out to increase the intensity of your workouts from that level, however. Your obstetrician will advise you if you need to make adjustments to your workout as your pregnancy progresses.
If you have been assuming the role of content couch potato all along, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends starting an easy workout routine from a beginner level and gradually increasing the activity level over time. Do not expect to begin jogging for three miles when you have not done so before. Instead of a jog, begin with a walk for 10 minutes a day for the first week or two, and gradually increase that walk by five minutes a day each week until you can walk briskly for 30 minutes.
Can Anyone Exercise During Pregnancy?
Certain health conditions and pregnancy complications may prompt your obstetrician to put the brakes on an exercise routine. Some such conditions include the following:
- Heart or lung disease
- Placenta previa during the last trimester
- Bleeding during the second or third trimester
- Being at risk for preterm labor
- Cervical insufficiency
- Cervical cerclage
Depending on your level of risk, your doctor may allow a controlled exercise regimen under close supervision.
How Should You Exercise During Pregnancy?
Remember that the point of exercise during pregnancy is not to lose weight. The goal of working out during pregnancy is to maintain an optimal level of health and fitness. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that healthy pregnant women should exercise for 150 minutes per week. Don't go for the weekend warrior routine, however. These guidelines advise breaking up your workouts into 30 minutes per day on five days each week. You may decrease the time per day if you wish to work out every day. Some safe exercises to engage in during pregnancy include the following:
- Stationary cycling
- Step machines
- Prenatal yoga
- Low to moderate impact aerobic dancing
As your pregnancy moves along, your center of balance shifts, putting you at greater risk of falling. You also need to avoid exercises that can result in blood pooling in your legs or raise your risks for drops in blood pressure, dizziness or sustaining blows to your abdomen. Some physical activities that you should avoid include the following:
- Contact sports
- Bike riding
- Downhill skiing and snowboarding
- Horseback riding
- Scuba diving, waterskiing, and surfing
- Mountain climbing
- Exercises that require lying on your back, such as sit-ups
- Exercises that require extended periods of standing in one spot, such as weight lifting
Play it safe by informing your obstetrician of any exercise or physical activities you enjoy or wish to try out, and get his or her okay before pursuing them.
What Should You Keep In Mind When Exercising?
Keep your workouts safe for you and for your baby by remembering not to push the intensity of your workouts to the point of exhaustion. You should be able to hold a conversation during exercise, and you should not walk away from a workout feeling like it was grueling. Adhere to the following tips as well:
- Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to contraction.
- Avoid exercising in high temperature or high dew point index settings, and skip the sauna or hot tub.
- When changing positions during the course of your workout, be sure to do so cautiously to prevent dizziness or falls.
- Consume the number of calories per day that your obstetrician recommends. The amount recommended will be based on your current weight.
Be sure to stop exercising and contact your obstetrician at once if you experience any concerning discomfort or symptoms.
A sensible exercise routine and pregnancy counseling approved by your doctor is part of a healthy lifestyle that will improve your overall health and your pregnancy, labor and delivery experience.