Whether you’re an experienced athlete or consider yourself more of a laid-back kind of gal, one thing’s for sure – getting regular physical activity is good for most pregnant women. As long as you’re healthy and your doctor gives you the OK, exercise can benefit your changing body in many ways — even if bending down to lace up your shoes is trickier than you remember.
The benefits of regular physical activity
The calm, clear-headed feeling you get after a workout can be doubly sweet when you’re expecting. In addition to mental health benefits, regular exercise can:
- Decrease your risk of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or C-section delivery.
- Ease some physical symptoms, such as back pain or constipation.
- Maintain your general fitness and strengthen your heart and blood vessels.
How much to exercise
Aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). You can spread that time out however works best for you, for example, exercising for 30 minutes five times a week, or in more frequent 10-minute increments.
The goal is to find workouts you enjoy and that get you moving enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. You don’t need to overdo it — you should still be able to talk normally throughout your sessions.
Fun activities to try
When exercising, it’s important to protect your joints (since they’re more sensitive to injury during pregnancy) and choose activities you can do safely even as your sense of balance shifts. Some good ways to keep moving include:
Riding a stationary bike or elliptical machine. It can become more difficult or even risky to keep your balance on a regular bike outside, so stationary options can be a safer choice.
Swimming. Working out in the water can be wonderfully refreshing if you have access to a pool. The water supports your body while you move and helps you avoid injury.
Taking modified yoga or Pilates classes. These gentle classes avoid poses that aren’t advised for pregnant women, such as lying on your back (which can constrict blood flow). As an added bonus, the focus on breathing can help prepare you for labor.
Walking. Brisk walking is one of the simplest exercises and it engages your whole body, without being too tough on your joints.
How to get started
If you didn’t work out regularly before pregnancy, start small and increase the length of your workouts gradually. Five minutes a day can be a good place to start.
If you’re already an experienced runner or are used to doing other vigorous activity, it may be safe to continue your workouts during pregnancy with a few modifications. Talk to your doctor at your next appointment.
Keeping you and your baby safe
Unless you have a medical condition, the risks associated with moderate physical activity for healthy pregnant women are very low. And it doesn’t increase your chance of early delivery, low birth weight or early pregnancy loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Activities to avoid
Of course, not every exercise is advised when you’re expecting. High impact sports or other activities could potentially be dangerous to you or the baby. Hit pause on:
- Activities where you might fall, such as skiing, surfing or horseback riding.
- Contact sports and games where you might accidentally get hit, such as basketball, soccer or hockey.
- Workouts done at high temperatures, such as hot yoga.
When preparing to work out, take extra care to support and protect your changing body. A good sports bra can help, as can a supportive belly band in later months. Drinking plenty of water and wearing light, loose-fitting clothing can keep you comfortable and prevent you from overheating.
If you feel any of the following symptoms while you’re exercising, check in with your doctor:
- Chest pain
- Fluid leaking or bleeding from vagina
- Muscle weakness
- Pain or swelling in legs
- Painful contractions
You can do it!
Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part: Give yourself a pat on the back every time you get those shoes laced up. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about what activities might be right for you as your needs change throughout your pregnancy.
To connect with other moms in San Antonio, ask questions and share advice, visit www.facebook.com/groups/mwhbabybump.