Exercise is important. It's especially important when you are expecting. Exercise can boost moods, improve sleep, prevent extra weight gain and reduce aches and pains that can come along with pregnancy.
Exercise helps you stay in shape and prepares your body for labor. It may also help protect you against gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and postpartum depression. Exercise is so important, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
During pregnancy, you will want to avoid exercises or activities that risk falling or hitting your abdominal area.
Some examples of activities it's best to avoid are horseback riding, gymnastics, rollerblading, or skiing.
Scuba diving is also not recommended because the change in pressure can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. The following exercises are usually considered safe during a normal pregnancy. Be sure to stay in close contact with your doctor to know what is right for you.
- Walking: Walking is a great activity because it is low impact and it can be done anywhere without any special equipment. Walking is generally considered safe throughout your entire pregnancy.
- Running: Running is safe during pregnancy and it's a great workout. If you are new to running, pregnancy is not the time to start, but if you have been training for a while it is usually safe to continue during pregnancy.
- Dancing: Dancing around your living room while you clean or going out with your friends is a great way to get your heart pumping. Beware of moves that involve jumping or twirling because they may cause you to lose your balance.
- Aerobics: Aerobics classes strengthen and tone your body while getting your heart rate up. You can always adjust your workout to be more low impact as you get further along in your pregnancy. Many areas even have classes specifically for pregnant women.
- Swimming: Swimming is often recommended as one of the best low impact exercises. It's great because it uses all of your muscles and allows you to feel weightless. There are often prenatal water aerobics classes as well.
- Yoga: This is a great way to supplement a cardiovascular workout. Yoga can help you maintain muscle tone while staying low impact. Be aware of your limitations because certain positions are not recommended for pregnant women. If you can't find a prenatal yoga class, talk to your doctor about how to adjust your workouts to fit your needs. It's generally not recommended to lie flat on your back after the first trimester.
- Stretching: Along with yoga, stretching to keep your muscles limber will help you feel better. Add stretching to your regular workouts to see the maximum benefits.
- Pilates: Much like yoga and stretching, pilates can be used to strengthen and stretch muscles, specifically the core. Pilates focuses one strengthening the same muscles that are weakened during pregnancy. You may be able to find a prenatal class in your area.
- Strength Training: If you are already lifting weights, there is no need to stop your workouts. You will likely want to reduce the weight you are using during pregnancy. If you are being careful and smart, strength training is a great way to keep your muscle tone during pregnancy.
- Indoor Cycling: Riding an exercise bike is a great way to get your heart rate up without a lot of stress on your legs. As your belly grows, you can adjust the handlebars to fit you more comfortably, so it's an exercise that can be done throughout the entire pregnancy.
Listen to Your Body
Exercise doesn't have to be a special class that you go to or a specific set of "pregnancy exercises", it can be built into your everyday life. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or spending the day cleaning the garage can be hard work, especially when you are nearing the end of your pregnancy. If the recommended 30 minutes is too long for you, break it up into smaller chunks. You can do ten minutes, three times a day and get the same effect as one thirty minute session. A brisk 10-minute walk after dinner is a great, relaxing way to end your day.
As your middle grows, there is less room for your lungs and other organs. Be sure not to overdo it when you are exercising. Keep your workouts low impact, low enough that you can talk throughout the workout, and don't get overheated. If you start to feel dizzy or overheated, its time to stop. Listen to your body and drink plenty of fluids. You might not be capable of doing everything you could do before you were pregnant, but you can still be active and move your body.
Regular exercise can help you cope with the changes your body is going through and it can help you prepare for the challenges ahead. If you haven't been a regular exerciser in the past, use your pregnancy as motivation to get started.