Many of us think of pregnancy as a time to rest our bodies in preparation for labor. With hormone changes, morning sickness, and the change in appetite that comes with being pregnant, it also might be very tempting to do nothing but sit around and watch television all day. You may have heard of exercising during pregnancy being linked to preterm birth or low birth weight, but this current research does not support these myths. The link between regular physical activity and overall health in the general population is well-known, but the benefits of exercising also apply to both expectant mothers and their babies.
Regular exercise helps prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy. The average woman should gain 25-35 lbs during pregnancy, but gaining too much weight can increase the mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight also makes it easier to lose the extra weight after the baby is born. Aside from controlling weight, staying physically active during pregnancy can also prevent or decrease depression, low back pain, and urinary incontinence.
Babies benefit too.
Babies also benefit from their mothers participating in regular exercise during pregnancy. While it is necessary for the mother to gain some weight during her pregnancy, excessive weight gain increases the risk of the newborn baby being too large or becoming overweight later down the road.
While exercising during pregnancy is a healthy habit, it is still important to be cautious. Avoid contact sports, twisting your waist, deep knee bends, full sit-ups, and long bouts of jumping, skipping, hopping , running, and bouncing. Activities that put you at risk of falling or suffering abdominal trauma, such as skiing or horseback riding, are also off the table.
So what does that leave you with? Depending on the trimester, pregnant women can participate in exercises such as swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, stretching and rotating the neck, ankle, shoulders and legs, and working the pelvic muscles (which prevents urinary incontinence). Twenty to thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day on most days is an ideal goal, but adjust this based on your current fitness level. Start slowly, especially if you were not very active prior to becoming pregnant. Low-impact aerobic classes designed for expectant mothers may also be available at your local fitness center. Power 20’s Prenatal Workout App offers 20-minute exercise routines for each trimester, all requiring no equipment.
Past or present medical problems such as asthma, heart diseases, preterm births, and miscarriages may prevent you from exercising while pregnant. Stop exercising immediately if you experience any sort of chest pain, lightheaded feelings, headache, shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding, swelling, or feel any changes in fetal movement. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid becoming overheated. As beneficial as exercise is, remember to pay attention to your body and talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routines.