Many of you may remember this story that made headlines just last fall: a woman who was 39 weeks pregnant completed the Chicago marathon and gave birth to a healthy baby girl just a few hours later. That story made many of us, especially those who weren’t pregnant at the time, reconsider our own exercise routines and even may have encouraged us to squeeze in another mile that day! While the majority of us are not marathon runners, this story is a good reminder that exercise, in moderation, is an important part of a healthy pregnancy.
Just like the old adage “eating for two” is rarely true in pregnancy, using pregnancy as an excuse to not exercise is also a myth. In fact, exercising during pregnancy has many benefits and can help alleviate some of the common ailments you may experience. Here are just a few of the benefits that you can gain from exercising during pregnancy:
– Increased energy level
– Reduction in backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
– Improved mood
– Increased muscle tone, strength and endurance (which can also help prepare you for labor)
– Improved ability to sleep
– The prevention of excess weight gain
– A healthy routine, which can make it easier for you to get back into shape after your baby is born
Please note: these are general recommendations for exercising during pregnancy. Before starting any exercise program, make sure you speak with your health care provider to ensure you do not have any health conditions that may limit your activity.
During pregnancy, you should look for an exercise routine that gets your heart pumping, keeps you flexible and controls your weight gain without putting undue stress on you or your baby. Throughout your pregnancy, try to get 30 minutes or more of exercise on most days (if not every day). If you were not active prior to your pregnancy, you should start with a few minutes of exercise each day and build up to 30 minutes or more per day. If you’re not able to do 30 minutes of exercise at one time, you can always break it up into smaller segments. Here are some suggestions for different types of exercises during pregnancy:
– Cycling or biking (as you progress through pregnancy, riding on a stationary bike will be safer)
– Aerobic classes or water aerobics
– Yoga classes (avoid Bikram yoga as well as certain poses; look into prenatal yoga classes)
– Pilates (avoid certain poses; look into prenatal Pilates classes)
– Tai Chi
One thing to keep in mind when you’re planning your exercise routine is that your body will experience many changes throughout the course of your pregnancy and some of these can make certain activities unsafe. During pregnancy, hormones can cause the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, making you more prone to injury. In addition, your center of gravity will shift as you gain weight. This puts stress on different muscles and can make you more likely to fall. Finally, the extra weight you are carrying can make exercising more difficult than it was before. While you are exercising, make sure that you can maintain conversation at a normal level.
There are some sports that you should avoid during pregnancy. They include:
– Contact sports
– Downhill snow skiing
– Inline skating
– Horseback riding
– Water skiing
– Scuba Diving
Pregnancy is a great time to get in a healthy routine of regular exercise. Make sure you stretch, warm up, cool down and keep a water bottle with you so that you stay hydrated. Take a step in the right direction – for your own health and that of your new baby!