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Is it OK to work out vigorously while you're pregnant?

Tonya Whittle


Health & Fitness

I started blogging in 2012 as a way to engage my audience and educate people about weight loss and healthy eating.

Jessa Duggar recently sparked controversy with pregnant workout photos. What's really safe?

Is working out while pregnant healthy and safe for the baby? Everyone wants to know! Every month, it seems there's a new celebrity under fire for training with a bun in the oven, with people weighing heavily on both sides, with the latest being Jessa Duggar's weight training workout.

Some believe it's not the time to be training, that mom should be focused on the baby and providing a low-key incubator for the fetus. Others, like me, believe training while pregnant is not only safe, but healthy!

There are some rules to follow if you want to stay fit while pregnant. As a fitness coach, I train primarily women. So, every year, I coach several pregnant women. The first question many ask me when they find out they're pregnant is, "Is it safe for me to continue training?"

It's not only safe, but it's a great way to get ready for delivery. Pregnancy isn't the time to be thinking about weight loss, muscle gain or strength gains, nor is it a good time to begin a vigorous exercise routine if you have been inactive prior to pregnancy.

Dos and don’ts of working out with a baby on board

  1. If you have not been exercising regularly when you discover the positive on the pregnancy test, now isn't the time to get involved in weight training, weight loss or high impact activities. If you’ve been fairly inactive and you want to keep a healthy body and weight throughout your pregnancy, join a pre-natal group for beginners that focuses on strengthening the areas that are most impacted during pregnancy. I highly recommend beginners' fitness programs and prenatal yoga programs if you have not been exercising regularly but want to start.
  2. If you have been exercising regularly leading up to your pregnancy, there’s no medical reason to stop training as you are. It does not put you at an increased risk of miscarriage. Your body is accustomed to exercising. You don’t have to worry, but you need to listen to your body, especially in the first trimester, when you’re battling nausea and fatigue. Discuss your fitness level with your doctor. Eat and drink enough to maintain your energy levels and provide you with what you need for changing hormones and your changing body.
  3. There are no contraindications in the first trimester, meaning you do not need to start adjusting your workouts to accommodate the growing life!
  4. As you enter your second trimester, be careful not to put your low back flush to the floor. The main vein bringing blood flow from the abdomen and legs to the heart and lungs to release carbon dioxide can become pinched, lowering oxygen flow to the baby. Fit women have a higher oxygen delivery ratio, but it is not known by how much, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and not do exercises that require your back being flat to the floor after the first trimester.
  5. There used to be a recommendation to train within 140 beats per minute for heart rate to help regulate your body temperature, but the Mayo Clinic now says that’s no longer recommended. Instead, use your energy levels and how you're feeling as indicators for workout intensity.
  6. Be conscious of over stretching as the body begins to produce a hormone called relaxin. Your body is producing this to aid in implantation, growth and stretching of the body. Often, pregnant women are able to get into positions in exercise, go lower, stretch further than they could prior to pregnancy because of this hormone. It's important not to overextend yourself because this can cause injuries you might not realize until your relaxin hormone goes back to normal.

There is no reason to give up your fitness routine when you’re pregnant. In fact, it’s recommended that you continue to train to keep your body healthy and your weight managed. Exercise promotes better sleep and prepares you for delivery.

Use your common sense, just like you do normally while exercising. If something feels off, stop and head to your doctor. Always discuss your training programs and plans with your doctor to ensure it’s right for you, as every body is different and responds differently to pregnancy. You will need to adjust to your growing belly, reduce impact as you grow and modify exercises that are no longer comfortable to do. Now is the time to keep your body strong and healthy as you bring a new life into the world.

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