Pregnancy and Exercising

If you were on a regular exercise routine before you became pregnant, you will most likely to be able to continue exercising, by making a few small adjustments.  While pregnancy may have you feeling so tired you can’t even think about working out, regular exercise can actually increase energy levels and relieve fatigue.

If you are in good health and there are no problems or complications with your pregnancy, exercising while pregnant is actually good for you.

Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant

Exercise can be beneficial during pregnancy, as long you are healthy and are not having any complications with your pregnancy.  Benefits of exercise include:

Feeling better, overall
Exercise is a great mood lifter, as it releases natural endorphins that improve your mood and relieve stress. Less stress means you’ll also sleep better. And a good night’s sleep makes everything seem better.

Relief from backaches
Exercise helps relieve backaches by improving posture, strengthening and toning muscles.

Less Weight Gain
A moderate exercise program will help keep unwanted excess pounds off during pregnancy, making it easier to get back to your regular weight after the baby arrives.

Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes.
There’s some evidence that suggests exercising while pregnant lowers the risk of this type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.

Increased stamina which better prepares you for labor.
Regular exercise strengthens the body and gives you more stamina, making labor an easier process.

How Much Exercise is Recommended During Pregnancy?

exercising while pregnantThe American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise either daily, or on most days, unless you have a health condition or are having complications with your pregnancy.

Discuss exercising while pregnant with your doctor if you have any medical condition, or if you have problems such as bleeding or spotting during pregnancy, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, a chance of miscarriage, a weak cervix, low placenta, or a history of going into labor early.

Also, if you weren’t exercising before your pregnancy, but want to start an exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor. Normally, walking or some form of light aerobic activity is a suitable activity to start during your pregnancy. The U.S. Department of Health and Services recommends 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for those who were not already exercising on a regular basis. If you’ve been mainly sedentary, getting very little exercise, that may sound like too much.

It’s always ok to start slow, gradually working up to or near the recommendation. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion.

The Best Pregnancy Exercises, Workout Routine Guidelines, and Useful Tips

It’s important to choose exercises that are safe during pregnancy and have little risk of injury. Remember to always begin your routine with warm-ups and stretching and end with light stretching.

The safest and most beneficial exercises during pregnancy include:

  • Walking
  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Stationary cycling
  • Elliptical machines
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Jogging (in moderation)

These exercises have a low risk of injury and are not too intense. If you were exercising regularly before your pregnancy, you may need to modify your routine for safety reasons. Avoid high-impact aerobics, don’t let your heart rate exceed 140 beats per minute, and don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Also, avoid any exercise that makes you uncomfortable, and take it slow to avoid becoming short of breath.

A workout routine should:

  • Begin with 5 minutes of warm-ups and 5 minutes of stretching
  • Include 15 minutes of cardiovascular activity
  • Include 5 to 10 minutes of slower exercise, to gradually return heart rate to normal
  • End with light stretching.

Other Important Tips:

  • Wait for at least one hour after eating to exercise.
  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.
  • Wear the proper footwear with strong ankle and arch support.
  • Drink water before, during and after you exercise to stay properly hydrated.
  • Make sure to eat a balanced, nutritious diet, and consume enough calories (an extra 300 calories per day) to meet the needs of your pregnancy.
  • Exercise on a flat surface to avoid stumbling or falling.
  • Avoid becoming overheated. If exercising while pregnant outdoors, exercise early in the morning or late evening.

Types of Exercises to Avoid

To be safe, there are certain exercises and activities that should be avoided entirely during your pregnancy. These include:

  • Contact sports, due to higher risk of injury
  • Any exercise that involves bouncing or jarring
  • Leaping, hopping, or jumping
  • Horseback riding, skiing or other activities that have a high risk of falling
  • Any activity that could result in abdominal injury or causes pain in the abdomen
  • Deep knee bends, sits up, double leg raises and straight toe touches
  • Waist twisting while standing
  • Exercise or activity that makes you dizzy, increasing the chance of a fall
  • Holding your breath during an exercise or activity
  • Walking or performing any other activity on an unlevel or rocky surface, due to the risk of falling
  • Exercises lying flat on your back are not recommended in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters

Warnings

It’s important to pay attention to your body’s warning signals. You should stop exercising and consult your physician if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pains
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Headache that won’t go away
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Nausea or feeling light-headed
  • Dim or blurred vision
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Contractions that continue 30 minutes after you have stopped exercising
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Any other sudden pain, sudden swelling or unusual symptoms

Summary

exercise during pregnancyIt’s a good idea if you are pregnant to discuss your exercise program with your doctor, even if you have been exercising on a regular basis.  In most cases, exercising during pregnancy is safe, and actually has many benefits.  Exercise may not be recommended, however, if you have a medical condition, such asthma, or a heart condition, are experiencing complications with your pregnancy, or if you previously had a miscarriage.

If you have never exercised and want to start, it’s important to start slow, exercising as little as 5 minutes a day to start, working gradually up to as much as 30 minutes. Walking is generally a safe activity to begin during pregnancy, but you should discuss this with your doctor, who may recommend other activities.

Even if you were routinely exercising long before your pregnancy, you’ll probably need to make some slight changes to your routine.  Avoid high-impact aerobic exercises, and never exercise to the point of exhaustion.  Discontinue exercises in your routine that are risky during pregnancy and replace them with safer activities. Monitor your heart rate and don’t push yourself to the point of breathlessness. Thirty minutes of exercise daily is recommended and is all that’s needed to increase energy levels, and build strength.

Above all, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If you experience any discomfort or develop unusual symptoms exercising while pregnant, discontinue the activity and contact your doctor.

References

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