Exercising Your Way to a Healthier Pregnancy
The Best Options for Moms-to-Be
Whether your exercise previously consisted of running marathons or running to the kitchen during commercial breaks, every woman can benefit from dedicated physical activity during pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who exercise in pregnancy have less weight gain, fewer medical complications, and decreased musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy; as well as healthier babies and faster return to pre-pregnancy weight after delivery, among other things. Although exercise is beneficial for every expectant mother, the choice of activity, like maternity jeans, is not one-size-fits-all.
Read on to discover what types of exercise are considered safest and most beneficial for the unique body changes that you may encounter during pregnancy. You might find that one is better suited to you during the first trimester, whereas another may be easier in the third. Keep in mind that it’s often much less daunting to embark on a new activity when you have a “buddy” — you’re more likely to stick with a plan and it is much more fun!
– Yoga: Many studios offer prenatal yoga classes, which are specially designed to avoid positions that may not be as comfortable or safe for women at different stages in pregnancy. Regular stretching and yoga may help with musculoskeletal pain and increase flexibility.
– Swimming: This is an excellent total body workout. You can increase your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength and endurance, all while feeling weightless, which can be especially helpful for women who are experiencing back, hip, and leg pain.
– Walking: Varying speeds can help make this basic exercise more vigorous. It is a great activity to do with friends or family. If you live in a colder climate, try walking indoors at a mall or even an airport.
– Dancing/aerobics: Whether it’s in a class or along to a video in the privacy of your own home, dancing or low-impact aerobics are fun ways to get your blood pumping. Take extra care if you have the proverbial “two left feet”, as you don’t want to increase your risk of falling! As you get closer to your due date, your center of gravity will change and your ability to balance may decrease. If you are in an organized class, let your instructor know early about your baby-to-be so that she can suggest ways to modify your exercise throughout the pregnancy.
– Stationary bicycle or elliptical: These machines are great low-impact options for cardiovascular fitness and building muscle strength. Being in improved shape may help you better tolerate labor.
– Kegel’s: Here’s one that everyone should try and it certainly won’t make you sweat! Squeeze and hold the muscles that help stop the flow of urine for three seconds and release, then repeat this for a total of ten times, three times a day (three sets of ten). You can do this anytime, anywhere — sitting in traffic, in a meeting at work, while cooking dinner, and no one will ever know, but it will help strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor which may decrease the likelihood of leakage of urine in the future, among other long-term benefits.
We all know that variety is the spice of life, and exercise regimens should include some diversity to keep you interested. Ideally, you should work towards a goal of 150 minutes a week of moderate exertion activities. This could include a Zumba class on Monday, a yoga video at home on Wednesday, thirty minutes on the elliptical on Friday, and fifteen minutes of vigorous walking at lunch or after dinner each night. Add in your three sets of daily Kegel’s and you’re going to be One Fit Momma!
There are some types of exercise that pregnant women should avoid. Sports with a high potential for contact, like hockey, soccer, football, and basketball, are not the best choices. In addition, any activity with an increased risk of fall or abdominal trauma, like horseback riding, gymnastics, downhill skiing, rock climbing, etc, should be put on hold until a few weeks post delivery. Scuba diving is also not safe during pregnancy. And remember, before embarking on any new exercise regimen you should talk to your doctor, as there are some pregnancy complications for which one or all types of exercise should be avoided entirely.
During exercise, it is important to remember to dress appropriately for the weather or temperature indoors, stay hydrated, and know when to stop. If you are unable to carry on a conversation while working out, you may be expending too much energy to get enough blood flow to the placenta and your baby. If you experience chest pain, trouble breathing, bleeding, contractions, increased pain, decreased fetal movement, or any other concerns, immediately cease your activity and contact your doctor.
Once you have your doctor’s clearance, pick your favorite activity, grab a friend, and get your heart pumping!