Conventional wisdom used to be that it was unsafe to exercise while pregnant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While you might not go out and run a marathon during your pregnancy, maintaining a consistent exercise regimen can ensure a healthy pregnancy, easier delivery and quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight and size after you deliver the baby.
Prior to beginning or continuing any exercise schedule, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. If you were active prior to the pregnancy, you are probably able to continue the same level of exercise while making minor modifications, as your pregnancy stages require.
If you were sedentary before you became pregnant, it doesn’t rule out starting now. Just do it slowly and consistently. Simply start out by walking daily for 15 minutes and build up from there — even if it’s just 5 additional minutes per week. It is also vital that you find good pregnancy exercise books or DVDs to guide you. Do your research before you start so that you don’t inadvertently do any damage.
Benefits of exercising while pregnant
- Strong back and core muscles will relieve or even prevent backaches. As you progress through the pregnancy and get bigger, your spine tends to curve to compensate for the burgeoning belly; stronger muscles help you maintain better posture.
- Exercising helps to boost your energy level and gives you a greater sense of control over your body, which is now beginning to do things and behave differently than what you know.
- It helps to strengthen your joints and prepares them for laxity in the joints, which would make you more prone to sprains and twists.
- Helps with labor and delivery — regular exercise teaches you to breathe correctly, which helps you gain control of the pain during labor and might also provide added endurance in the case of a long delivery.
- Getting back in shape after the baby is delivered is easier and quicker.
Safely exercising during pregnancy
The most important rule of all — listen to your body.
- If you are dizzy, lightheaded or experiencing cramps, if you’re having any sort of abdominal pains or if you have a racing heart, vaginal bleeding or uterine contractions — stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention.
- Moderation is key — yes, initially you can still run 10 miles a week if that’s what you did pre-pregnancy, just don’t try setting any personal records for speed or time. A good rule of thumb is that you don’t want to be huffing and puffing, because if you’re not getting enough oxygen, then your baby certainly isn’t either.
- Swimming is the best form of exercise — not only does it provide a great cardiovascular workout, it also places the least amount of stress on your joints.
- Many yoga centers offer prenatal yoga, which not only assists with flexibility and breathing, but also is a good de-stressor.
- Avoid working out in the hottest parts of the day to prevent overheating — if possible work out in the air-conditioned comfort of a gym.
- Don’t do something new — now isn’t a good time to try out the 3 Cs (change, challenge, confuse your body). If you’ve never done it before, don’t try it now.
- Avoid jarring/bouncing exercises like horseback riding, mountain biking or even surfing, even if you’ve been doing them before. You want to avoid putting yourself in a position where you could injure yourself and consequently your baby.
- Drink enough water and get adequate nutrition — forget the old wives tale about eating for two, but certainly do increase your caloric intake by about 300 to 500 calories per day.
- Stop competing with yourself — you’re not in a race to get to the perfect dress size or the ideal weight, your only goal is to stay healthy and that your baby is born healthy. Shelve all your athletic goals for after the baby is born.
You will find that you have to evolve your exercise regimen as your body goes through its various stages. For example, as you get bigger and it gets harder to breathe, you might want to stop running to prevent oxygen deprivation and also to prevent damage to your bladder.
Just remember, its pointless to try to maintain a strict exercise schedule now at the risk of causing injury to your body thereby putting yourself in a position where you might not be able to go back to the exercises you’re used to pre-pregnancy. If you listen to your body closely, it will tell you what it is capable of doing. So listen well, be well and here’s to a healthy baby!