Sometimes, the last thing you want to do during your pregnancy is move around, especially as you get closer to your due date. However, staying active during your pregnancy is really important for both your health and the baby’s. Not only can it help you have a more comfortable pregnancy in the long run, it can also help prevent certain complications.
That being said, exercising while pregnant—even if you’re a workout veteran with years of experience—does come with special considerations and limitations. Grab your tennis shoes and discover 11 tips for staying active throughout your pregnancy:
Start building the habit before you get pregnant, if you can.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, but aren’t expecting yet, now is a great time to start exercising so you can start building the habit early. Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and starting to exercise after years of inactivity is just one more thing. However, it’s a total myth that it’s too late to start exercising if you’re already pregnant. You’ll get benefits from working out no matter how far along you are. Just start slow (even 10 minutes at a time) and go from there.
Talk it over with your doctor.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on which exercises you should do and which to avoid. If you have a history of complications during pregnancy or other health conditions, your doctor will also be able to take those into account and discuss individual precautions with you. Women who have certain complications, including preeclampsia and severe anemia, should not exercise.
Aim for aerobic exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Brisk walking, dancing, swimming and even raking leaves are all good workout ideas. Women who already do more vigorous aerobic activity such as running can usually continue their workouts as long as their doctor is okay with it. If 150 minutes sounds like a lot, you can start with just 10 minutes of activity at a time and build your endurance from there.
Don’t ignore your core.
Many people believe that you shouldn’t do ab exercises while you’re pregnant. However, strengthening your core and pelvic muscles can actually make your pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery go more smoothly. Nonetheless, you should avoid lying on your back after the first trimester (so no crunches!). As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists explains, “When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart…(which) can decrease the amount of blood returning to your heart and may cause your blood pressure to decrease for a short time.”
Be careful during strength exercises.
While it’s a myth that lifting heavy objects can cause miscarriages, it can hurt your back since the baby already puts a lot of strain on your muscles. Instead of straining yourself to lift heavy weights, do less repetitions with lighter weights to avoid putting yet more stress on your body.
Beware of balance changes.
As the baby grows, your center of balance will also shift, which increases your risk of falling and puts more stress on the joints and muscles of your lower back and pelvis. Be extra careful when engaging in balance-based exercises and know that you might need to stop them altogether in the later trimesters to avoid injury.
Stay aware of your increased flexibility.
During pregnancy, your system makes hormones that loosen your joints to help your body expand and make room for the growing baby. This means you’ll have greater range of motion and flexibility, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, as it leaves you open to injury. You can still continue to do flexibility exercises such as yoga and Pilates, but you’ll need to modify the moves so you don’t overextend yourself (literally). There are even prenatal classes specifically for pregnant women, so see if any are offered in your area.
Avoid high-risk activities.
Certain activities are risky during pregnancy, especially if they increase your odds of falling or getting hit in the stomach. Stay away from these sports–such as biking, horseback riding, downhill skiing, surfing, gymnastics, basketball and soccer–to protect both yourself and the baby.
Choose the right gear.
Support is the name of the game during exercise, and it’s even more important during pregnancy since you’re working out for two. Wear comfortable clothing and a good sports bra to keep your breasts from bouncing during exercise. Choose good tennis shoes with plenty of arch support and cushioning. Compression socks can help fight swelling and encourage blood flow even when you’re not exercising.
Keep the benefits in mind.
Exercising can be tough, especially when you’re pregnant. To help keep up your motivation, reflect on the many benefits exercise provides during pregnancy: reduces back pain; eases constipation; might decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean delivery; promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy; improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels; and helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born.
Use common sense guidelines.
Don’t forget to properly warm up and cool down each time you work out and avoid strenuous exercise in hot or humid weather. Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise, and eat a healthy diet with the proper nutrients. And, of course, don’t go too hard on any one exercise and take time to recover as needed.
Don’t stop after the birth.
Exercising continues to provide benefits after the birth (after you’ve recovered from labor, of course!). Working out can help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, improve your mood as your hormones change and decrease your risk of deep vein thrombosis. Once you feel up to it, try to continue your habit of moderate aerobic activity to aid in your recovery.
Regularly engaging in moderate aerobic exercise can make the pregnancy easier on you and the baby. Even if you’ve never exercised before, it’s never too late to start. Even just brisk walking several times a week can lead to a host of health benefits during your pregnancy. Follow these 11 tips to stay safe as you work out during your pregnancy.