Pregnancy is a wonderful time in an expectant mother’s life. During this time, the mother wants to be as well educated as possible. However, this may be difficult with so many varying recommendations from different sources. One particular recommendation that expectant mothers should disregard is that exercise during pregnancy is not safe. Under a provider’s supervision, it is recommended to maintain one’s fitness level throughout pregnancy, which can prepare you for labor and childbirth. The American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, states a multitude of studies have shown physical activity to not only be safe, but beneficial for expectant mothers.
Benefits of Exercise
Benefits for exercising during pregnancy to both mother and baby include:
- More blood flow to the baby in utero
- Less low back pain
- Prevents excessive weight gain
- Easier delivery
- Faster post-partum recovery
- Lower risk for pregnancy complications
- Easier time getting back into pre-baby weight
- Better sleep
- Lower risk of gestational diabetes
- Lower risk of pregnancy related high blood pressure
Where to Start?
Before beginning or continuing an exercise program during pregnancy, women should first consult their doctor. The level of activity a pregnant woman should engage in is dependent on the level of fitness prior to her pregnancy. Women who were active and exercised vigorously regularly each week before pregnancy can continue exercising vigorously during pregnancy when given doctor approval. Women who were not habitually active prior to becoming pregnant should engage in 150 minutes or more of moderate, low impact, aerobic exercise per week. Examples of moderate, low impact activities are walking or stationary biking. Additionally, expectant mothers should also complete resistance training 1-2 days per week. An example of resistance training that is appropriate for pregnant woman is weight lifting with lower weights and higher repetitions, doing yoga, or body weight exercises such as squats or pushups. Lastly, pregnant women should work to maintain flexibility through gentle stretching during pregnancy, and perform an extended warm-up and cool-down.
Some great activities for pregnant women include: walking, swimming, yoga, stretching, weight lifting, stationary bike, dancing, or running (if already in running condition prior to pregnancy).
Exercise & Pregnancy Tips
- Pay attention to your body.
Expectant mothers should pay special attention to their bodies. If feeling fatigued or strained, take it easy and do something simple such as go on a brief walk.
- Avoid high-risk activities.
Activities that could be high risk are contact sports, volleyball, horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, or waterskiing. In addition, exercising while lying on the back should be avoided after the 1st trimester as this may put pressure on the blood vessels, and result in fainting.
- Stretch gently.
Be aware that pregnancy increases hormones that make the ligaments surrounding joints more relaxed, so stretch gently.
All pregnant women should seek doctor’s approval before beginning or continuing any exercise program. It is also necessary to keep in contact with your doctor in regard to your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses. For more information on exercise during pregnancy visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.