Recommendations And Benefits Of Exercising During Pregnancy

Recommendations Benefits Exercising Pregnancy

There is a lot of information about exercise and pregnancy out there. Maybe you’ve heard that you shouldn’t exercise at all, which is only true in certain cases, or that it’s okay to continue any exercise you were doing before you became pregnant, but that you shouldn’t start anything new. The truth is that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that it’s safe to exercise during pregnancy, if your pregnancy is healthy and you’ve gotten the okay from your care provider. [1] In this post, we’ll talk more about the recommendations and benefits around pregnancy and exercise, as well as discuss suggestions for great exercises to do while you’re pregnant.

Contraindications for Exercise While You’re Pregnant

There are a few conditions and complications that, if you have them, mean you should avoid exercise during pregnancy. Discuss any and all concerns with your care provider. In general, according to ACOG, you shouldn’t exercise if:

  • You have low iron—also called anemia­—or high blood pressure induced by your pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • You are at risk of going into labor early or preterm birth, especially if you have a multiple pregnancy—that is, you’re expecting twins or triplets—or cervical insufficiency or cerclage
  • You have certain issues with your lungs or heart; ask your care provider if this is something you need to worry about.
  • Your care provider told you that you have placenta previa, where your placenta is close to or covering your cervix, in your late second and third trimesters

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

If you are used to exercising, continuing some of that physical activity during pregnancy can help you feel more like yourself. Exercise has benefits for all healthy pregnant people, too. [1] Some of those benefits might include:

  • Improving posture and possibly decreasing back pain
  • Reducing constipation
  • Decreasing the risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and cesarean birth
  • May also decrease the risk of developing preeclampsia
  • Strengthens heart and lung function, increasing overall cardiovascular health

Recommendations for Pregnancy Exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the same amount of exercise for pregnant women as for non-pregnant women: 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, but you don’t have to do all of those minutes at once. You could do stretches of 20-30 minutes of activity nearly every day, or even break it down further into 10-minute increments at a time.

If you are already a runner or do some other type of high intensity exercise, you can probably continue with your exercise program until you feel too uncomfortable or your care provider advises you to stop. Types of exercise that are not recommended during pregnancy include contact sports, anything that could result in a fall, exercise at elevated temperatures (either outside in very hot summer months or in a heated space, as in hot yoga), and scuba and skydiving.

Because things change frequently with your body during pregnancy, including increased looseness in your joints, balance differences due to your changing center of gravity, and breathing challenges, it is important to prepare carefully and choose your type of exercise deliberately. For any type of exercise, it is important to make sure you drink plenty of water before and throughout any stretch of physical activity, to avoid overheating and dehydration. Wear clothes—especially bras—that offer plenty of support to your changing breasts. And stop immediately if you feel lightheaded, experience bleeding or any pain including headaches, or feel contractions.

Types of Exercise You Might Want to Try in Pregnancy

You have a lot of choices when you exercise during pregnancy, but here are a few options that could work well for your changing body:

  • Walking: is easy to do and great preparation for labor. Walking is also fun to do socially—maybe with a pregnant friend—and can be as vigorous or as leisurely as you prefer.
  • Swimming: if you have access to a pool, swimming is a great way to move your body in a low impact way and can really help you cool off. It’s also surprisingly vigorous exercise if you swim laps or tread water, which can be good if you’re used to tough workouts.
  • Prenatal yoga: there are lots of classes and exercise videos that are specifically for pregnant people to practice yoga, which generally involves a lot of stretching and introspection. The great thing about prenatal yoga is that generally teachers are trained to specifically guide pregnant people in exercise, and in a class you’ll likely be practicing alongside other people experiencing the same things.

Reference:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Exercise During Pregnancy

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and daughter in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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