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Pregnancy and Exercise: Part 2

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Disclaimer: Always consult your team of physicians to make sure you are getting the right and best care possible for you and your baby. If you exercise on a regular basis, report all changes and concerns with your team and get the green light to incorporate new or more challenging exercises while pregnant.

“It is a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions. This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells... to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.”

Dave Barry

Just like exercising through recovery from injury or exercising as a beginner, exercising through pregnancy helps your body stay fit through the changes your body is experiencing and can help the developing baby too. You might feel like just sitting around and will feel the weight of the baby on your own body, however, being pregnant is a great time to start an exercise routine.

Exercising during pregnancy can help “reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling”, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Exercising during pregnancy can boost your mood and energy levels, help you sleep better, prevent excess weight gain, and promote muscle tone, strength and endurance.” In addition to those benefits, exercising during pregnancy can lower your risk of gestational diabetes, help foster shorter labor, and reduce the risk of having a C-section.”

Best time to exercise:

For most women, at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is recommended on most days of the week. Exercising every day is encouraged.

Warm up, stretch and cool down remain key when exercising in any condition. Drink water as often as you can. During pregnancy, avoid overheating. Exercising increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and away from your uterus. As before pregnancy, being able to carry on a conversation while exercising is a good pace to maintain. Struggling to speak during exercising means that you are probably pushing yourself too hard.

What exercises are best:

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Walking is the number one exercise to do every day whether you are a beginner or more advanced. Walking provides moderate aerobic conditioning with little stress on your joints.”

Swimming, yoga, low-impact aerobics such as stair climbing, anaerobic exercise (see below), or Pilates, and stationary bike riding are all good choices at this time. You can strength train, but it is recommended to use low level weights.

** Anaerobic exercises are based on resistance and use energy within tissues and muscles rather than the oxygen you will be breathing in. This kind of exercise uses the muscles and improves a person’s flexibility. Examples include Yoga, weight training, and strength training.

The Mayo Clinic suggests for beginners of physical fitness or those who have not worked out in a while: Start with as little as 10 minutes of physical fitness per day. Build up to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, etc., until you reach a sustainable 30 minutes per day. Don’t forget about Kegel exercises. If you haven’t started doing those on a regular basis before pregnancy, now is a great time to start.

Exercises best to avoid:

No matter how experienced you are in various kinds of exercise, not all of them are safe to continue during pregnancy. Here is a list of exercise to avoid:

Any exercise that forces you to lie flat on your back or stomach after your first trimester. Twisting exercises will have to wait until after your 6-week post-partum doctor’s visit. Scuba diving, which could put your baby at risk of decompression sickness. Contact sports like soccer, hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc. High risk of falling exercises like skiing, in-line skating, gymnastics, horseback riding, surfing, diving.

Avoid exercises that are impactful such as tennis or racquetball, kickboxing. Avoid hot yoga or hot Pilates. If you dance as part of your regular exercise routine, avoid a lot of spinning, leaping, and jumping during pregnancy.

Warning signs to watch for:

Stop exercising immediately and call your physician if you show signs of: Vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath before any exercise, or chest pain. If you experience painful uterine contractions that continue after rest, contractions that have no tipping point could be due to dehydration. Stop exercising if you experience fluid leaking or gushing, calf pain or swelling, and muscle pain or weakness affecting balance.

“Pregnancy does not limit lung function, and both pregnancy and exercise improve the ability of body tissues to take up and utilize oxygen.”

Call to Action:

Whether you are pregnant now or have already had children, what exercises did you find most helpful throughout your pregnancy?

Did you choose to exercise all throughout your pregnancy, or did you wait until after the baby was born to begin an exercise routine?

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