Fitness For The Mom-To-Be
Major changes occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy. It is usually a time when women gain weight and for most women, this is not a welcomed change. Thankfully exercise during pregnancy is safe for most women and highly recommended by obstetricians.
Leading an active lifestyle has many benefits for everyone including managing weight, strengthening bones and muscles, increasing energy levels, improving moods and decreasing sleep disturbances. During pregnancy, regular, moderate exercise can help you avoid excessive weight gain, lessen your risk for pregnancy complications, reduce constipation, backaches, bloating and swelling and may even help you have an easier delivery.
There are many forms of exercise that are safe in pregnancy. At least 30 minutes of activity four days a week are ideal to get the most benefit from exercise. During the hardest part of your workout, you should be able to converse without gasping for breath but not be able to talk with complete ease, either. A maximum heart rate is no longer recommended because of individual differences. However, a safe exercise duration or intensity for pregnant women has not been determined. For anyone at any fitness level, walking is an excellent exercise. If you were a runner before pregnancy, you can often keep running during pregnancy. Some women are able to continue their normal routine for several months in pregnancy but most have to modify their routine because of discomfort and switch to lower-impact activities. Other safe exercises are swimming, cycling and aerobic workouts. Swimming or water exercises are great workouts because there is no risk of falling and no stress on your joints. Weight lifting is also fine to do during pregnancy but you want to limit the amount of weight to 15 pounds or less.
An important point to remember is that pregnancy hormones may cause ligaments to relax. This makes your joints more mobile and increases your risk of injury. Furthermore, the extra weight in the front of your body shifts the center of gravity and makes you more likely to lose your balance and fall. Thus, exercises that are high risk for falling should be avoided (skiing, gymnastics, horseback riding). Also, activities such as contact sports where there is increased risk of injury should be avoided. There are many myths surrounding exercise during pregnancy. The following are tips to keep you safe.
- Do’s and Don’ts for exercise during pregnancy:
- Avoid exercises on your back after the first trimester.
- If you are a beginner, start slow and increase your workout by five minutes each week until you can do 30 minutes a day.
- HYDRATE. HYDRATE. HYDRATE. Avoid becoming overheated and dehydrated.
- Make sure you consume the extra calories per day needed in pregnancy (about 300 calories).
- Stop exercising and call your doctor if you experience bleeding, dizziness, increased shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, weakness, calf pain or swelling, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement or leakage of fluid.
- Talk to your doctor and make sure you don’t have any conditions in pregnancy during which exercise should be avoided (i.e. heart/lung disease, premature labor, or hypertension).
Not only is exercise recommended during pregnancy but it is also great for the postpartum period. Although there may be some limitations on weight lifting if you had a cesarean delivery, there are generally no limitations on returning to exercise postpartum. A woman should resume her activity at her own pace and as she feels she is physically capable. Exercising postpartum may prevent or improve depression or blues that many women experience. Walking is a great way to ease back into a more rigorous routine and has the advantage of getting mom and baby out of the house for some fresh air.
Whether you are a first time mom-to-be or a veteran mom, it is important to understand that exercise can be incredibly beneficial to your health and safe for your baby. So what
are you waiting for? Get moving!
By Glynn Wittber, M.D.