Pregnancy comes with a lot of weird, unpleasant feelings—back pain, swollen ankles, bloating and constipation, morning sickness, fatigue, and many other strange ailments. There’s one thing, however, that has been proven to alleviate all of these things—exercise. A lot of women are nervous when it comes to exercising while pregnant, but there’s nothing to fear! As long as you listen to your body and consult your doctor, there’s no reason you shouldn’t keep up a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s good for you and for your baby.
How Much Exercise Should You Be Getting?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes or more of exercise per day, ideally all days of the week.
Keep in mind that these 30 minutes don’t have to be consecutive! For example, three 10-minute walks throughout the day count toward your goal. Even things like vacuuming or light yard work can count—basically anything that gets your heart rate up.
Cardio Exercises for Pregnant Women
These kinds of exercises will increase your blood circulation, muscle tone, and endurance, which will help you come delivery day!
Swimming and water aerobics are perfect exercises for expecting moms. Being in the water will make exercise easier, as you’ll feel lighter and more agile than you might feel on land. In addition to the fitness benefits, a dip in the pool may relieve nausea, sciatic pain, and swelling in your ankles.
When you’re floating in a pool, your baby is floating with you! Water is very gentle on your loosening joints and ligaments, which is your body’s natural response to pregnancy hormones. Make sure you’re careful when walking around the slippery edges of the pool, and don’t jump or dive into the water. Your baby isn’t able to handle the bubbles that form inside your body when you change altitudes quickly—that’s why scuba diving while pregnant is a big no no!
Walking is one of the best exercises out there for pregnant women, because you can do it anywhere, anytime. Not to mention it’s an exercise you can do all the way up until delivery! Walking around during labor can even help your contractions along. No special equipment or gym membership required—just make sure you have a comfortable, supportive shoes.
Walking 2.0! If you’re looking for a little more exercise, running is a great option for the same reasons walking is. Make sure you take it easy, though—even if you’re an experienced runner, pregnancy is changing a lot about your body. Your ligaments and joints are loosening up, and the larger your bump grows, the more off-balance you may feel. Always stick to level terrain or a treadmill, and don’t allow your heart rate to spike too much.
Group Dance or Aerobics Classes
Classes are a great way to get fitness motivated, especially if you’re new to exercise! Low-impact aerobics or dance like Zumba are fun ways to get your heart rate up and your endorphins flowing. As your baby gets bigger, however, you’ll need to be wary of any activity that requires careful balance. Avoid jumping or high-impact movements, and make sure you never exhaust yourself. If you’re new to exercise, consider trying water aerobics first until you get a feel for how your body moves!
If you were an avid cycler before pregnancy, you’re in luck—you should be able to keep it up, as long as you tone down the workout. Although it may feel frustrating at times, while pregnant you simply can’t push yourself as hard as you did pre-pregnancy. Spin classes are great, though, because you can pedal at your own pace with zero risk of falling. There’s also less stress on your ankles and knees. Make sure to let your instructor know that you’re pregnant, and sit out sprints or hill climbs if you ever feel overheated or exhausted. We’d recommend adjusting the handlebars as well, so you aren’t leaning over as much—this will save your back!
You may not be as quick or as graceful as your pre-pregnancy self, but if you have some experience kickboxing, there’s no reason to quit! You should take some precautions though—be sure to leave plenty of space between you and other kickboxers, and make sure everyone knows that you’re pregnant. An accidental jab to the stomach is not something to risk. Kickboxing and other exercise classes specifically for pregnant women are pretty common, so check your area!
High-Intensity Interval Training Workouts (HIIT)
This is not for every expecting mother, and if you haven’t already been doing this, now is not the time to start. If you did HIIT pre-pregnancy, however, you can continue with modifications! Avoid jumping, any kind of jarring movements, or abrupt changes in direction. Choose lighter weights than you’d usually pick up for exercises, and stop immediately if you feel out of breath or exhausted. Be especially careful with any workouts involving balance!
Other Tips for Exercising While Pregnant
Now is not the time to pick up a new sport. If you’re an experienced athlete, however, you should feel safe continuing to play your sport or participate in your activity. Just talk to your doctor along the way and make all the necessary modifications to your workouts.
Start slowly—diving in head first (just an expression—seriously no diving!) can lead to sore muscles, frustration, and even injury to you or your baby. Start small and see how you feel, then slowly build up to 30 minutes per day, or more if you’re comfortable.
Don’t push yourself too hard. If you’re already a self-proclaimed gym rat, it can be easy to get frustrated. You won’t be able to work yourself as hard, or do as much as you did pre-pregnancy, but that’s okay. Your body is working hard on something miraculous! So cut yourself some slack. Now is not the time to hit any PRs, just focus on staying healthy for you and your baby.
Stay cool. Avoid saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, or anything that can raise your temperature more than 1.5 degrees. If it’s hot outside, find somewhere indoors to do your exercises.
Warm up and cool down. Do your best not to shock your system, as abruptly spiking your heart rate and circulation increases your chance of getting injured. In addition to starting abruptly, stopping abruptly traps blood in your muscles and reduces the blood supply to other part of your body—including your baby. Finish your work out with a few minutes of walking followed by a few minutes of relaxation.
Drink and eat. Make sure you’re hydrating yourself before, during, and after your workout. Basically, drink water 24/7. In addition to this, high-intensity exercise for longer than 45 minutes can lead to low blood sugar, so snacking before and after your workout is a good idea.
Listen to your body. This is probably the most important tip—every woman is different, and no one knows your body like you do. So listen when it’s trying to tell you something. Never, ever exercise to the point of exhaustion. A basic rule of thumb is, if you feel good, you’re probably doing a good job. If you feel pain or strain, you need to tone it down. You should be able to talk through your workout, and feel energized when you’re done. This is not to say that expecting moms can’t enjoy vigorous exercise—they can! The intensity level just shouldn’t exceed a 13 or 14 out of 20.
Know when something is wrong. If you have any kind of pain, selling, muscle weakness, etc. you should call your doctor. If you feel any unusual pain anywhere from your hips to your head, call your doctor. If you’re experiencing a cramp that won’t go away, regular, painful contractions, chest pain, a very rapid heartbeat, have difficulty walking, a sudden headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, bleeding, or reduction in fetal movement after week 28, call your doctor. The gist is this—when in doubt, call your doctor.
Stay motivated. The key to exercising while pregnant is to find something you actually enjoy doing! Consider trying a bunch of different things to keep it interesting. Of course, always talk to your doctor, don’t be too hard on yourself, and make sure you’re having fun.
For more expert advice and pregnancy tips, contact Regional Medical Center today!