Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

One of the questions I get asked about most is exercise in pregnancy.  A lot of mother’s worry about what type of exercise they can continue or what type to start (if any?) when they become pregnant.  I’m here to bust a few myths and  give you the low-down on exercising in pregnancy.  

First off, exercise in pregnancy is a huge, YES!  Myth #1 is that physical activity in pregnancy increases risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. This is not true.  In fact, unless you have a high-risk pregnancy or your doctor has specifically advised you against it; the current recommendation is that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily (ACOG).  What does moderate intensity mean?  A good rule of thumb is your heart rate is up, you’re sweating, and you can still talk- but not sing.  I don’t know about you- but now I’m picturing my pregnant body trying to sing while doing zumba haha.  A sight to see I’m sure!  

You might be thinking, but WHY exercise?  Pregnancy seems like a great excuse to kick up your feet and binge watch netflix all day right?  Well don’t get too comfy just yet.  First, let’s look at the pro’s to exercising in pregnancy.  

  • Increases energy levels and boosts mood
  • Decreases swelling, constipation and bloating
  • Can ease back pain
  • Helps you sleep better! Zzzzzzz
  • Promotes healthy weight gain
  • May decrease risk of gestational diabetes, cesarean delivery and preeclampsia
  • Helps improve general fitness and lose the “baby-weight” after delivery

I don’t know about you, but these are all pretty convincing reasons to get moving.  Maybe consider taking your netflix line-up to the gym and walking at an incline while you catch up on the latest episodes?  

But what if you haven’t exercised in a long time?  Or ever?  The CDC (center for disease control) still recommends daily exercise for pregnant women.  The benefits are just too good!  The catch is how you start.  You can’t just lace up your shoes and run a marathon- ESPECIALLY if you’re pregnant and have never ran a day in your life.  First things first, be sure to get the approval of your healthcare provider on the type of exercise program you’d like to start.  If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with just 5 minutes a day.  Build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes and so on until you reach the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily.  

What if you’re an avid exerciser?  Can you continue your crossfit and body pump classes? The answer is, most likely!  You can probably continue to workout at the same level as pre-pregnancy as long as it’s approved by your healthcare provider.  Just be sure to avoid contact sports or exercise that puts your abdomen at risk of being hit- like ice hockey, basketball, soccer, and boxing.  You’ll also want to avoid activities that may result in a fall like skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics and horseback riding.  You should also avoid activities that could cause overheating like hot yoga.    

What are some precautions I should take while exercising?  These include;

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout
  • Avoid becoming overheated, especially during the first trimester
  • Avoid standing still, or lying flat on your back as much as possible  

What about warning signs to STOP exercising?

  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Calf pain or swelling

Any conditions that should avoid physical activity in pregnancy all-together?  Definitely;

  • Cervical insufficiency or cerclage
  • Some heart and lung diseases
  • Risk factors for preterm labor
  • Preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension)
  • Severe anemia
  • Ruptured membranes (your water has broken)
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks pregnancy

As you know, there are SO many overwhelming changes going on in our bodies during pregnancy.  It’s to be expected that these changes will affect your workout routine.  Because of the drastic change in hormones your joints become more relaxed- so you’ll want to avoid high-impact or jerky movements.  Because of the shift of weight to your abdomen your balance will change- so you’ll want to take extra caution since you are at greater risk of falling.  As your cute baby grows so will your belly and the extra pressure on your diaphragm may make it harder to breathe- thus not allowing as strenuous of exercise.  As always, listen to your body and tone it down if you are feeling short of breath or faint during a workout.  

If you are new to working out try something that experts agree are “pregnancy-safe”.  This includes activities like brisk walking, swimming, stationary bicycling, and prenatal yoga.  As always, consult with your healthcare provider before starting anything new, and be sure to take up any physical activity  concerns with them!  

What’s your go-to exercise?  Does your routine change during pregnancy?  We want to know!