Pregnancy, alone, can feel like running a marathon, and exercise may be low on your prenatal “to-do list”, but regular physical activity is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 30 minutes of daily activity can help relieve pregnancy-related bloating, constipation, and insomnia. Exercise can also boost your energy, mood, and prevent and treat gestational diabetes. Best of all, hitting the gym regularly may lead to an easier labor and delivery! If you’re ready to experience the many benefits of prenatal fitness, these 5 rules will help keep you and baby safe.
Rule #1: Check with Your Doctor
The number one rule of prenatal fitness is “always check with your doctor”. While exercise is generally safe for most pregnant women, certain conditions, such as a history of pre-term labor, high blood pressure, or cervical problems, can make physical activity dangerous. Even after an OB clears you to exercise, listen to your body and immediately seek medical attention if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, spotting, consistent contractions, or chest pain.
Rule #2: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
While regular gym-goers can generally continue their fitness routines (in moderation), many women begin exercising during pregnancy. New exercisers should start gradually, performing at least 10 minutes of a low-impact activity (such as walking, biking, swimming, or elliptical training) with the goal of working up to 30 minutes of exercise on all or most days of the week. Aim for low-to-moderate intensity, making sure you can speak clearly throughout your workout. Pregnancy is not the time to seek weight loss, physique enhancement, or dramatic athletic improvements. Instead, focus on feeling better and keeping baby safe and healthy.
Rule #3: Prepare for Success
Prepare for success by following a few simple guidelines. Make sure to wear cool, breathable clothing, proper footwear, and a supportive sports bra. As your belly grows, a pregnancy support belt or “belly band” may also provide welcome relief. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after activity, and avoid exercising in extreme temperatures or to the point of exhaustion. A 5-minute warm-up and cool-down/stretch session should also be part of your routine. Most importantly, a successful prenatal fitness routine requires you to be gentle and patient with yourself, so listen to your body’s cues and take breaks whenever needed.
Rule #4: Follow Trimester Guidelines
What is safe and easy during the first trimester may become dangerous or uncomfortable later in your pregnancy. As your body changes, it’s important to modify your fitness routine accordingly. In the second trimester and beyond, any exercise that requires you to lie flat on your back should be avoided, as this position decreases blood flow to the uterus. As pregnancy progresses, the hormones relaxin and progesterone cause your joints to relax and stretch, allowing for an easier delivery. This increased flexibility can make you prone to injury, so avoid high-impact movements and use caution when stretching. In the third trimester, a growing belly can throw you off-balance, so avoid working out on elevated or unstable surfaces. Breathlessness and joint paint (due to pressure on the diaphragm and excess weight) also increase during the third trimester. These unpleasant symptoms can make you want to sit on the couch until delivery, but gentle exercises, such as swimming (you’ll love the buoyant feeling!) and prenatal yoga can help you stay moving.
Rule #5: Stick with Safe Activities
Any activity that poses a risk to you or your baby should be avoided. Risky activities include contact sports (such as tennis or kickboxing), activities where falling is a risk (such as horseback riding, skiing, and step aerobics), “hot” yoga, and exercising in high altitudes. If you enjoy strength training, avoid lifting very heavy weights and pushing weights overhead. Choosing bodyweight exercises and lighter weights with higher repetitions will help you stay safe and strong throughout pregnancy. Additionally, activities such as walking, swimming, indoor cycling, elliptical training, prenatal yoga, and prenatal Pilates are typically safe and effective exercises for pregnant women. With your doctor’s permission, try different activities and find one you enjoy!
We’re here to help you have stay active! VHP offers many classes that are generally appropriate for prenatal clients, such as “Walk & Sculpt for Weight Loss” and our “Indoor Walking Class.” Just register for a live class or search our media library! If you have questions, you can reach out to our Virtual Fitness Specialists via our messenger or schedule a one-on-one appointment.