All About Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnancy Yoga

You may think that pregnancy is a free pass to lie on the couch and indulge your cravings, but the reality is your body needs exercise just like when you’re not pregnant. Exercise during pregnancy has both physical and emotional benefits for mom from reducing the occurrence of backaches and other bodily discomforts to boosting your mood and energy level. Although some considerations must be taken to ensure your exercise regimen is safe for you and baby, in most cases, you can continue with your pre-pregnancy routine with moderation. Even if you weren’t previously an active person before pregnancy, now’s a great time to speak with your care provider about incorporating a healthy amount of exercise into your daily routine. Here are some of the most important things to know about exercise during pregnancy.

The Benefits:

There are many ways that exercise can benefit your mind and body while you are pregnant. Just a few of these benefits include:

  • Improved posture
  • Stress relief
  • Warding off illness
  • Improved sleep
  • Preventing excess weight gain
  • Reduced back pain
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Better mood
  • More energy
  • Less fatigue
  • Reduced chance of developing gestational diabetes
  • Building stamina and endurance for labor
  • Reduced risk of having a baby that is born too large
  • Reduced risk for postpartum depression and anxiety
  • Preventing pregnancy-related high blood pressure

How Much Exercise?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, most days per week. This recommendation applies to women with healthy normal pregnancies and no known complications that would make exercise dangerous for them or their baby. 

Which Exercises Are Safe?

As a general rule of thumb, you want to exercise at a moderate level in which you feel comfortable, not one in which you are straining yourself. A good gauge for determining if an exercise is too strenuous is to see if you are able to carry on a conversation while doing it. If you are so out of breath that it is difficult or uncomfortable to talk, you are probably pushing yourself too hard. It’s also always important to remember to warm up, cool down and stay hydrated just as you would if you were not pregnant. Some safe and healthy exercises for pregnancy include:

  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Walking briskly
  • Elliptical machines
  • Stationary cycling machines
  • Yoga
  • Tennis and racquetball with caution
  • Jogging in moderation
  • Strength training with light weights

Exercises to Avoid:

  • Any activity that requires considerable balance or coordination
  • Any contact sport (soccer, football, softball, basketball, volleyball, etc.) 
  • Anything that requires you to hold your breath
  • Any activity involving jumping, hopping, bouncing, running intensely, or skipping
  • Anything with the possibility for abdominal trauma such as sports that require quickly changing directions or jarring movements
  • Fall risk sports (riding horses, skiing, snowboarding)
  • Any activity that requires you to lie on your back after the first trimester
  • Exercises that involve waist twists
  • Sit-ups
  • Double leg raises
  • Straight leg toe touches
  • Deep knee bends
  • Any exercise in hot or humid weather
  • Scuba diving
  • Gymnastics
  • Water skiing
  • Surfing
  • Exercise in high altitude

Although most pregnant women can safely engage in a regular exercise routine, there are some circumstances and medical conditions that may prompt your care provider to advise against physical activity. These circumstances may include:

  • Presence of medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease or diabetes
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriages
  • Weak cervix
  • Low placenta
  • Previous incidents of premature labor or birth
  • Pregnancy related high blood pressure
  • Carrying multiple babies

You should always speak with your health care provider before incorporating any new exercise into your daily regimen while pregnant. They can best advise you as to whether or not your exercise plans are healthy and beneficial and help you come up with a plan that works for you. It’s also important to remember to listen to your body. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, short of breath, experiencing chest pain or heart palpitations, or if you are having any pregnancy related complications such as bleeding, fluid leakage, contractions or decreased fetal movement, stop exercising immediately and contact your care provider. 

Exercise done safely and in moderation can be a great way to stay healthy, improve your mood and take care of yourself and baby during pregnancy. Simply use caution and good judgment, and you should be able to enjoy a normal physical fitness routine. Health Foundations offers a variety of fitness class opportunities for moms and moms-to-be ranging from Candlelight Yoga to Postpartum Core Training and more. To learn more about these great opportunities to stay mentally and physically fit, click here.