exercise during pregnancy
Pregnancy is such a beautiful and life changing experience. It’s so exciting, anticipating the arrival of a new baby, but can also be a confusing time for the mother when it comes to exercise prescription. What’s safe, and what’s not? What types of exercises are the most beneficial for mother and baby, and what should be avoided in the different stages of pregnancy?
Even if the mother’s weight is not considered “ideal” (overweight or underweight), an exercise program should be based on maintaining the health and baby, not making substantial fitness gains or weight loss. Exercise during pregnancy should be focused on postural improvements, flexibility, decreasing discomforts, and building stamina that will help the mother get through labor and delivery. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30+ minutes of moderate exercise on 5-7 days of the week unless restricted by your doctor. Most pregnant women do not meet this recommendation. It is a misconception that unfit expectant mothers should not begin an exercise program during pregnancy. They absolutely should, unless there is a medical reason not to. It is important that expected mothers listen to their bodies at all times, resting when tired or stopping when not feeling well. If 30 minutes is too much initially, start with 15 minutes of light exercise and work your way up to 30 minutes.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
- Improved posture and flexibility
- Decreased backache and pelvic pain
- Increased energy levels
- Better quality sleep
- Weight gain management
- Much easier time getting back into shape post-delivery
- Feeling better about bodily changes
- Stress relief
- Improved stamina for labor and delivery
Safe and beneficial exercise during pregnancy include:
- Low impact cardiovascular exercises like brisk walking, jogging, stationary bike, elliptical, or swimming
- Strength training exercises: seated cable rows, seated chest press, seated pull-downs, seated leg press, lunges, squats, ball-on-wall squats, dumbbell curls, triceps, and lateral shoulder raises
- Flexibility exercises: pre-natal yoga, foam rolling (I recommend the I.T. bands, piriformis, hips, lats, and calves – those all get very tight during pregnancy), static stretching hamstrings and adductors
- Kegal exercises are highly recommended throughout entire pregnancy.
- Core exercises should be done daily until about 24 weeks, depending on size of bump. ; )
Exercises during pregnancy to be avoided:
- Exercises with a high risk of falling
- Contact sports
- Exercises with a risk of abdominal trauma
- Supine (on your back) exercises should be avoided after 16 weeks, or when breathing feeling compromised.
- There is no heart rate restriction, but the general rule is rest when out of breath.
Exercise during pregnancy is part of taking great care of yourself and your baby. Try exercising with a partner to stay motivated! Equally as important is great nutrition, keeping stress low, and getting enough sleep. For help designing an exercise program tailored your needs while pregnant, contact me! I have specified education in this area and years of experience training expectant mothers.