Pregnancy is a time of renewal, of committed relationships, bonding and love. It is also a time of change. A new life is coming into the world and change will be the order of the day. If this is a first pregnancy, gone will be the just-the-two-of-you dinners or lazy Saturday mornings languishing in bed. Now all things will become a family affair. One of the first areas of change is your body and one of the biggest questions should be, how can I keep my body fit and healthy for my baby, my family and myself. Should I exercise and, if so, what kind is safe for me while I’m pregnant?
As always, follow the advice of your physician. Be assertive and discuss what you want to accomplish with your exercise routine and find out all your options, as there are many types of approved exercises for pregnant women.
“There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. They include:
- Holding your breath during any activity.
- Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding).
- Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball.
- Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.
- Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running.
- Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches.
- Bouncing while stretching
- Waist-twisting movements while standing.
- Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity
- Lying on your back during exercise in the last trimester
- Exercise in hot, humid weather
- Exercising over 6,000 feet as lower oxygen levels are bad for you and baby
- Scuba diving puts you and your baby at risk for decompression sickness which may cause birth defects, miscarriage or other complications. Try snorkeling instead.”
Dr. Raul Artal, lead author the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), stressed that pregnancy is a great time to start exercising or continue with an exercise program but that it was important to do a risk-benefit analysis. “Consider that activities with a high risk of injury in someone who isn’t pregnant will have the risk amplified by some unknown factor for pregnant women,” Artal said. He cautioned that there are two important positions to avoid during late pregnancy. Deep knee squats and lying on your back. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes to the joints causing them to soften and weaken. Doing deep knee squats may cause knee pain and should be avoided. Lying on your back seems benign but in late pregnancy in 10 to 15 percent of women it can compress the blood vessels that serve the uterus, compromising blood flow to the baby and causing blood pressure changes for the mom.
Exercise is great during pregnancy for strengthening muscles used in the birthing process, keeping flexibility at optimal levels, preventing backaches and may prevent the onset of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia (a dangerous condition of high blood pressure and excess protein in the blood with usual onset after 20 weeks of pregnancy). Consult your doctor and get the okay to do the beneficial exercise programs as follows:
- Swimming – low impact and strengthening for all muscle groups. Feels great to be light as a beach ball no matter how big your baby bump! Tones and stretches with low risk of injury
- Barre Method for Pregnancy – 75 locations around the US offer the Bar Method, a guided work out tailored to pregnant moms. Stretching and body sculpting exercises provide a low risk approach to staying fit. A ballet bar is used in many toning movements and a professional trainer will guide you through the approved exercises for pregnancy. This particular method elongates muscles rather then bulking you up.
- Yoga – is one of the best approved exercises during pregnancy. It is low impact, easy on the joints and relatively safe. Avoid the “hot” yoga (yoga done in an elevated temperature setting) which can over heat you. Yoga can relieve stress while toning back and core muscles used in delivery. Also avoid lying on your back during your last trimester.
- Brisk Walking – an exercise you can do right up until delivery. It improves mood and safely tones muscle groups. Start out slow and work up to a semi-swift mile three days a week. Build in a few hills as you get stronger.
- Low Impact Aerobics – Aerobics keep your heart and lungs strong, tone your body all over, and give you a burst of endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical. If you are an avid exerciser, the key is to lower the intensity of the workout to fit your changing body. If you’re a beginner, look for a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics teacher
- Weight Training – Light strength training can help you stay toned before and after delivery. If you were lifting weights before your pregnancy, it will most likely be okay to continue during pregnancy but with modification. Avoid heavy weights or routines where you lie on your back. If you weren’t strength training before you got pregnant, then don’t start now.
- Indoor Cycling – Take a load off your legs! Cycling on a stationary bike is generally safe even if you’re just beginning an exercise program. Spinning is okay and a good way to raise your heart rate without impacting your joints. Spinning is intended to be a high energy, very intense workout that focuses on high RPM pedaling so be wise and modify your routine down to safe levels and low risk. You’re not trying to win any contests here so remember moderation is the key. One added perk is as your tummy grows, you can raise the handle-bars for more comfort.
It can’t be stressed enough, that when exercising while pregnant, you need to receive approval from your doctor after a full checkup and blood work. If you feel any discomfort or have any complications
such as vaginal bleeding, cramping, dizziness, pain or breathlessness, stop and consult your healthcare professional. Being pregnant is a time to be good to yourself and your unborn child. Your health and the well being of your little one on the way is most important, so keep that at the forefront of all your decisions while exercising during your pregnancy. Let common sense rule the day.