Staying active throughout pregnancy is filled with benefits for you and your baby — from improved sleep and overall energy to a smoother labor and faster post-birth recovery — but the key is knowing how to exercise safely and well.
So in order to reap those rewards of advanced development for your little one and better stamina for you, here are the basic do’s and don’ts to keep in mind!
- DO talk to your care provider. Just because your mom, sister or friend worked out a certain way when they were pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for you, too. Every woman’s pregnancy is different, so before you jump into a new exercise program, be sure to consult with your doctor. The professional who knows your medical history and is acquainted with your conditions will be the person best equipped to advise you on exercising.
- DO stay hydrated — very hydrated. Drinking lots of water is always important in pregnancy, but particularly when working out.
- DON’T wear overly tight clothing. The last thing you want when you’re already feeling bigger and less comfortable than normal is to wear clothes that make the situation worse. So avoid super-tight workout clothes, and opt for loose clothing in breathable fabrics instead. Likewise, as your body grows, don’t expect your usual workout clothes to cut it. Instead, go ahead and spring for larger items that will accommodate your growing abdomen.
- DO resist the urge to stay sedate. When you’re sick to your stomach or dealing with swollen ankles, it can be all too tempting to put your feet up and watch television. But remind yourself that, as long as you have the OK from your physician, moderate exercise can pay by dividends down the line, from less discomfort to less weight gain.
- DON’T start an intense new routine. If you weren’t the type to workout before pregnancy, now is not the time to take on high-impact activities. Don’t take up running or mountain biking when you didn’t do those things before getting pregnant; your body is under more stress now and won’t recover as quickly.
- DO shoot for 30-minute sessions. Great-for-pregnancy workouts include swimming and walking, at low to moderate intensities for half hours at a time.
- DON’T work out on your back. Avoid the exercises that have you lying on your back, such as crunches or certain types of aerobics, particularly once you’ve reached the halfway point in your pregnancy. Exercising your back and abdominal muscles is important, but try standing or side exercises instead. Prenatal yoga or prenatal Pilates can be excellent choices for this!
- DO keep cool. When you’re pregnant, it’s important not to overheat when exercising, so look for cool or air-conditioned environments in which you can move. Likewise, shoot to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute (i.e., fast enough to exercise but slow enough to still hold a conversation while exercising).
- DON’T overdo it. The reoccurring theme with pregnancy exercise is to be careful — and that’s why if you feel dizzy, faint, short of breath or experience uterine contractions or vaginal bleeding, stop exercising immediately.
- DO find a partner. Working out with a friend or your spouse is a great way to stay motivated, so find a walking buddy and keep each other accountable.
- DON’T let it get boring. You don’t have to walk the exact same path every day unless you want to, so get creative and try a new park or the local shopping mall to mix things up. When you keep your exercise fun, you’re much more likely to stick with it.
- DO remember to rest. Your body is not the same as it once was, so don’t let yourself think that it can do everything it once did. You’ll probably need to rest more, particularly as your pregnancy progresses, so give yourself permission to take breaks when your body tells you it should.
- DON’T forget about diet, too. It may sound obvious, but the best workout routines are always paired with nutritious diets, and that’s especially true in pregnancy. Rather than using pregnancy as an excuse to eat anything and everything, make healthy choices that can support your body in the months ahead.
Being pregnant is an exciting time in a woman’s life, particularly when she’s feeling good. Use the tips above to make the most of your exercise in pregnancy and help yourself and your baby feel as good as possible!
About the Author:
Dr. Charles Bowers works as a medical forensic evaluator at Ross Feller Casey, LLP. He is also a retired OB/GYN who has over 30 years of experience in the medical field.