Exercise during pregnancy is a controversial topic that can be both confusing and terrifying for us women. The first thing a woman asks about exercise once is she pregnant is what is safe and what is best for them. No matter your fitness level, the vast majority of pregnancy exercises are not helpful for you but also for your baby. Through exercise, you can help ease away those pregnancy problems from tiredness, aches, and pains to reducing the chances for complications throughout your pregnancy and labor.
Every woman knows that life doesn’t stop just because you are pregnant, but it can be really hard for moms-to-be to fit in a 30-minute workout even for a couple times a week. The good news is that any activity that makes your body warm and feels slightly out of breath such as brisk walking, dancing, swimming, gardening, and vigorous housework – but where’s the fun in housework? If you didn’t exercise much before you were pregnant, then build your body up slowly. Try a brisk walk for 15 minutes at least three times a week.
If exercise is normal for you, it is possible to still carry on with your vigorous exercises doing everything from joining a mommy fitness class to jogging and swimming. Just make sure to adapt or reduce your exercise regime as your precious bump grows bigger. There are a certain few absolute “no-no’s.” As a rule of thumb, avoid anything in a hot environment like Bikram Yoga, Kickboxing or any sports where you might get impact to the stomach.
Becoming a mom will become the workout of the lifetime, and the added bonus of healthy physical fitness is that you will have the stamina to chase what lies ahead, as well as finding it easier for you to get back into shape. Exercise is not only safe during pregnancy, but women who are pregnant are advised to do a minimum of 30 minutes at least four times a week.
The many benefits include less swelling of the hands and feet, less back pain, general tiredness and fatigue, while also strengthening muscles and improve their overall health and fitness. This means that women will be able to cope better with the weight of their slowly growing baby. Babies also receive improved blood flow from the placenta which is important for good growth and development. By staying active, you will also reduce risking any complications at birth by building the fitness and endurance you will need in labor.
MYTH vs. FACT about Exercising during Pregnancy
“Exercise can cause a miscarriage.”
There are no risks of a miscarriage from exercise. The risk of complications start when they become excessively hot, so those who do intensive training need to make sure they stop and slow down if they overheat and stay hydrated.
“If you don’t exercise already, pregnancy is not the right time to start.”
Unless you have advised NOT to due to a complication, there is no reason why you can’t start exercising now. The key is to build up your stamina and choose the appropriate exercises to your level of fitness like walking, swimming or even a Pilates class specifically for pregnant women.
“Exercise will cause an underweight baby.”
Actually, it’s the opposite. Women who are inactive are more likely to have a low birth weight baby.
Main Lesson: Don’t believe everything other moms tell you. The myths and superstitions will only stress you out and prevent you from doing what you think is best for you and your baby.
Top 10 Tips for Exercise during Pregnancy
- Exercise is a great way to aid in aches and pains. Through exercise, you have the ability to prevent and manage any swelling, cramps, headaches, backaches and even that dreadful stage of constipation.
- Walking itself it the foundation of the perfect exercise during pregnancy. If you don’t normally exercise, this is the place to start. Begin your exercise routine with a nice stroll in the park and gradually build up the intensity of your walks until you are able to take larger strides that may leave you slightly breathless.
- Pilates is one of the best exercises that should be added to your workout routine. Through Pilates, you will be able to strengthen your pelvic floors, abdominal muscles, and back muscles. The stronger your muscles are, the more it will help ease and prevent any aches and pains.
- Yoga is a great way to release any unwanted pregnancy tension and simply de-stress your mind and body. You will also improve your breathing and circulation. Although some poses can help loosen the pelvis and strengthen up your core, there are other poses to avoid. Make sure to inform your instructor that you are pregnant to increase all measures of safety during pregnancy.
- Continue your aerobic exercise class, but avoid quick jumps, twists, and turns – to be on the safe side.
- For those who are regular joggers, it’s fine and safe to continue during pregnancy. Consider wearing a comfortable, stretchy support band to reduce any signs of discomfort when your bump becomes too heavy.
- Cycling is another excellent cardio workout. Though if you are not used to it, it should be avoided. Pregnancy affects your sense of balance, so an inexperienced cyclist who is pregnant may be at more risk of falling off. Consider a more stable indoor machine for the meantime.
- Swimming is another great way to keep your heart rate going without adding any extra stress on your joints or ligaments. Avoid holding your head out of the water because it can cause a strain in the neck or back.
- Resistance training is a good way to keep your muscles nicely toned during your pregnancy and strengthen the core. Opt for free weights instead of machine weights. But avoid if you have high blood pressure.
- Always, Always, ALWAYS listen to your body; you know your own limitations as well as your capabilities more than anyone. Be sure to stop when you have any discomfort or pain during exercising or become too hot.
Exercise Rules Moms-to-be Should Follow
Now that you are trying to be fit for two (or more), Here are nine rules of exercise you should consider with your little one still on board.
Talk to your health care provider.
If you were an avid fitness junkie before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, continue exercising as before with certain modifications. Regardless of your fitness level, always talk to your healthcare provider first.
Always Warm Up.
Make sure to always prepare your joints and muscles for exercise and build your heart rate up slowly. By skipping any warm-up, you could strain your muscles and ligaments which may cause you to experience an increase in post-workout pains and aches.
Modify Your Workout.
While your belly continues to expand, be mindful of your constant changing center of gravity. This can throw you off balance as well as be relaxing in your joints, which will cause you to overextend them.
Remember to drink enough fluids before, during, and after you exercise. If you become dehydrated, your body temperature may rise and cause contractions – possibly to higher levels that are dangerous to you and your baby.
Don’t Lie Flat On Your Back.
After your first trimester, you must avoid lying flat on your back to avoid adding any pressure on the vein called the Venacava. This may reduce blood flow to your heart and even the brain and uterus.
Never Overdo It.
While exercise during pregnancy is a great benefit to your body and to your baby, just remember: work your body but don’t push it!
When wearing a maternity support belt, you will be able to alleviate pressure in the front as well as support your lower back.
Wear the Right Gear.
Make sure that your clothes are very supportive. Consider dressing in layers so that you can always shed them as you need to avoid overheating.
Always Cool Down.
Never skip on post-workout stretches and cool down exercises. It is important to stay flexible as it can alleviate aches and pains.
Exercises to AVOID during Pregnancy
Pregnancy might feel like a huge roadblock for those who live a highly active lifestyle. But there is no reason you should give up exercising. The fact is you SHOULD exercise. Staying active is vital for a healthy pregnancy. But all are exercises equally safe? What are exercises not safe to do during pregnancy? We’ve got answers!
Here’s a list of what exercises you should avoid when pregnant:
Sit-ups or Crunches
Why? Before pregnancy, these two exercising are a MUST in your workout regimen. But for now, it’s time to take a break as your body is not the same right now. Sits and crunches are not great choices as your abdominal muscles are already stretched.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
No matter how good they are for your body, High-intensity interval workouts are extremely dangerous when you are pregnant. These workouts can add pressure on your heart, which proves to be too risky. This is because when you are pregnant, your heart is already pumping 30% more blood.
Tip: If you can have a conversation while exercising, your heart is doing okay.
Overhead Shoulder Press
As your belly begins to expand, it puts extra stress on your lower back. Doing this exercise is not a good idea as it will put excessive strain on your back.
Lying Flat On Your Back
Lying flat on your back, as mentioned above, can lead to a condition called Supine Hypertensive Syndrome. This can cause symptoms such as dizziness and low blood pressure.
High Impact Sports
Sports of any kind have a high threat of injury, especially to the abdomen. If you play high-impact or contact sports, give it up for now. Abdominal trauma can harm your body or even worse – cause a miscarriage.
Deep Squats or Deadlifts
Your body releases a hormone called Relaxin during pregnancy. The primary function is to prepare your body for childbirth. When this is combined with exercises like deep squats and deadlifts, relaxin can lead to injuries and painful issues such as a backache.
Lifting weights isn’t necessary a complete NO-NO during pregnancy unless you have any sort of complications. What is important is how much you lift. It is important to consult your doctor before you start pumping iron. Heavy weight lifting can cause cardiovascular stress as well as musculoskeletal stress.
Other Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy:
Avoid all sports that drain your energy quick and increase your risk of falling. This includes horseback riding, gymnastics, and water skiing.
The Best Exercises during Pregnancy
Regular exercise during pregnancy can help boost your mood, improve your sleep, and reduce stress associated with pregnancy. It can also help prevent pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Exercise keeps your body strong making you more likely to lose the baby weight faster after pregnancy. We already know that muscle burns more than fat and if we lose our muscle mass we will have to start over and work on building it up again after delivery.
These exercises are generally safe to perform, but always be sure to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Walking is one of the best pregnancy workouts. It is low impact which doesn’t affect your knees or ankles. It is a moderate intensity exercise and will help keep your blood sugar level stable. This is probably the easiest exercise since it requires no equipment besides a good pair of tennis shoes.
Swimming is a pregnancy-friendly exercise that works all of your muscle groups and provides cardiovascular benefits, but it also lows impact since you are in the water. Swimming is one of the favorite exercises because it has the capability to increase the amount of oxygen your body can transport without risk of injury.
Low Impact Aerobics
Low impact aerobics will help strengthen your body and keep your heart strong. Any cardio exercise has proven to increase the size of the placenta enabling more oxygen and nutrients to send to the baby. This will also enable you to build more stamina during labor and delivery.
Join a dance group and get to know other pregnant moms. While dancing during your pregnancy, try to avoid any jerky movements. Although you may not want to do this after your belly starts getting too big.
Yoga is a great way to maintain muscle mass and keep your body flexible and strong. Studies show prenatal yoga improves sleep routines, reduces stress and anxiety, and creating the strength, flexibility, and endurance you need during childbirth. Make sure you join a class designed for pregnant moms.
To keep your body flexible and muscles from being strained, stretching can be very beneficial to any pain relief or tension. Make sure to keep your stretches tailored to your specific needs and never overstrain yourself.
Low Weight Training
Low impact weight training is best if your body is used to doing weight workouts. Make sure to reduce the amounts of weight you are lifting or make sure you are doing slow controlled movements. Body weight exercises with many repetitions are better to do rather than higher weights and lower reps.
What is your favorite exercise to do while pregnant? Have you had an active pregnancy before? What can you recommend to other moms?