From the moment the positive sign pops up on a pregnancy test, people start treating women like a delicate flower. But that doesn’t mean you have to lay around and be one. Revel in the extra attention, but take care of yourself while you are at it. Exercising while you’re pregnant can help ward off the aches and pains of pregnancy, make your pregnancy more enjoyable, and keep you from getting down in the dumps.
Exercise is a key to a healthy pregnancy
“Exercise during pregnancy can help women stay positive and deal with stresses associated with pregnancy,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, registered dietitian, ACSM health fitness specialist and weight management expert with Diets in Review. “Women may even have a quicker labor as a result of regular exercise.”
The studies on exercise in pregnancy have been ramped up by scientists in recent years.
In August 2009, findings reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, encouraged women to start a fitness program during pregnancy – even if they weren’t regular gym bunnies before. Two months later, in October 2009, a cohort study in Obstetrics & Gynecology reported exercise during pregnancy may lower the risk for excessive birth weight for the fetus. That means you exercising will also directly benefit your baby.
Exercise during pregnancy improves postpartum fitness
Exercising while pregnant doesn’t just help with your baby’s weight. “Exercise will combat fat partitioning (where fat is deposited on the body) which can be useful when trying to lose some of those postpartum pounds,” says John Williams, a certified strength and condition coach and CEO of EVO Health & Nutraceuticals, Inc. Managing your weight during pregnancy, Williams adds, helps ward off the threat of gestational diabetes.
Exercising during pregnancy requires some adjustments
All the positives are there, but pregnancy does pose some challenges. That belly, for one, doesn’t fit on the Nautilus the way it used to. And the natural exhaustion during the first trimester will make your old routine impossible.
There are some exercises the pregnant body simply isn’t made for – it’s just a myth, for example, that you can’t strengthen the abdominal muscles after the first trimester, but you will need to avoid exercising on your back.
Scritchfield suggests low to moderate intensity up to about an hour a day – but don’t push yourself if it doesn’t feel right. “Even three days a week of exercise is beneficial; all exercise matters,” she says.
“The best exercise programs will be comprised of aerobic, strength and flexibility,” Scritchfield says. “Most exercises can be performed at all stages of pregnancy.”
The best exercises during pregnancy
Scritchfield suggests the following workouts for pregnant women at any point during baby’s development.
1. Cardio. Low to moderate intensity aerobic workouts like walking, swimming or water jogging, and stationary cycling or elliptical are beneficial for heart health, stress relief and maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight.
2. Yoga. Prenatal yoga is another excellent workout, taught by instructors with special training to include poses that help with the birthing process, and to avoid any contraindicated positions during pregnancy.
3. Resistance training. If you are used to strength training, you can continue with those exercises as long as the intensity is low to moderate. Put another way, don’t try to become a figure competitor while pregnant!
Regular exercise is beneficial for your health and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before starting any new fitness routines, and listen to your body as you are working out. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Exercising during this special time in your life will also better the chances you continue to include exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle after your baby is born.