Getting Enough Exercise
If you've been in great shape all of your life, and exercise regularly, you'll have no problem staying in shape throughout and even after your pregnancy. However, if you're like most people, you'll need to take extra care to manage your body during your pregnancy — and long after the baby's born. All pregnant women, especially those in high-risk pregnancies and those who were inactive prior to pregnancy, should speak with their physician about exercise options.
The best forms of exercise are the ones that work your entire body, like swimming, walking, or cycling (as long as you can do it comfortably). More extreme forms of exercise (like racquetball, marathon running, and gymnastics) should be avoided. Low-impact exercise that requires moderate exertion is probably best. Walking, swimming, dancing, and cycling seem to be comfortable and enjoyable activities for most pregnant women. Your best bet is to choose a form of exercise that's not only comfortable, but also less likely to injure either you or the baby.
Start Slowly, Warm Up, and Cool Down
When you embark on a new exercise regimen, start slowly and work up to a more intense workout. For example, if you're walking, start out with a slow 15-minute stroll and work up to a faster 30- to 45-minute walk. Do warm-up stretches before exercising, and cool down when you're done. Remember to stay well hydrated before, during, and after exercise — especially since you'll need to keep both you and baby replenished.
A pair of good walking or running shoes is an exercise essential, especially due to the fluctuations in weight that will take place over the next several months of your pregnancy. Since your feet may grow in addition to your belly, you may need to purchase a size larger for better fit and comfort.
Why Exercise During Pregnancy?
Whether you're pregnant or not, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and emotional health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women without health problems or pregnancy complications exercise moderately for 30 minutes or more on most, if not all, days of the week. Exercise helps keep the heart, bones, and mind healthy. Staying active also seems to give some special added paybacks for pregnant women.
Here are some really good reasons to get regular exercise during pregnancy:
It can ease and prevent aches and pains of pregnancy including constipation, varicose veins, backaches, and exhaustion.
Active women seem to be better prepared for labor and delivery and recover more quickly.
Exercise may lower the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy.
Fit women have an easier time getting back to a healthy weight after delivery.
Regular exercise may improve sleep during pregnancy.
Staying active can protect your emotional health. Pregnant women who exercise seem to have better self-esteem and a lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Exercise may not be safe for all pregnant women, but for most healthy moms-to-be who do not have any pregnancy-related problems, it's a safe and valuable habit. Regardless, your doctor or midwife will be able to suggest a fitness plan that's safe for you. Getting a doctor's advice is important for women who exercised before their pregnancy as well as for those who'd like to start a fitness routine.
General Guidelines for Healthy Workouts
According to ACOG, many different types of exercise can be safe for most pregnant women. They recommend following these guidelines when choosing a pregnancy exercise plan:
Avoid activities in which you can get hit in the abdomen, such as kickboxing, soccer, basketball, or ice hockey.
Steer clear of activities in which you can fall, such as horseback riding, downhill skiing, and gymnastics.
Do not scuba dive during pregnancy. Scuba diving can create gas bubbles in your baby's blood that can cause many health problems.
Stop exercising and call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience dizziness, headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling, abdominal pain, blurred vision, fluid leaking from the vagina, vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement, or contractions.
Remember to follow these tips to have safe and healthy workouts:
When you exercise, start slowly, progress gradually, and cool down slowly.
You should be able to talk while exercising. If not, you may be exercising too intensely.
Take frequent breaks.
Don't exercise on your back after the first trimester. This can put too much pressure on an important vein and limit blood flow to the baby.
Avoid jerky, bouncing, and high-impact movements. Connective tissues stretch much more easily during pregnancy. So these types of movements put you at risk of joint injury.
Don't exercise at high altitudes (more than 6,000 feet). It can prevent your baby from getting enough oxygen.
Make sure you drink lots of fluids before, during, and after exercising.
Do not work out in extreme heat or humidity.
If you feel uncomfortable, short of breath, or tired, take a break and take it easier when you resume exercise.