We’ve all heard common myths when it comes to exercising while pregnant: “exercising will take nutrients away from the baby,” “running is too stressful for the baby,” “avoid abdominal exercises,” etc. The truth is, although your body is in a increasingly vulnerable state, safe exercise can provide a number of benefits before, during, and after pregnancy. Some of these benefits can include:
- Reduction of backaches, constipation, inflammation
- May prevent gestational diabetes
- Boosts your energy and mood
- Improves sleep
- Improves posture
- Physically prepares your body for labor
- Decreases recovery time after labor
- And more!
With this being said, the keys to adopting these benefits in a safe and effective manner are knowing what to do, how much to do, and what to avoid. Below are some common guidelines to follow:
- If you participated in a regular exercise program before pregnancy, you are most likely okay to continue exercising (make sure to consult with your health care professional)
- If you did not participate in a regular exercise program before pregnancy, it is not too late to start! Now is not the time to jump into an intense regimen, but gradually progressing into a safe routine will help yield some of the benefits described above
- There is no “do or die” heart rate that you must stay at - everyone is different. However, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the “talk test.” Try exercising with a friend - if you are able to say a complete sentence without gasping for air, you are most likely at a good, moderate intensity
- Squat, squat, squat! Squatting can help create a passageway for the baby during labor, so practicing squatting before can help prepare you for the big day. But remember, you are already loaded with 10-30 extra pounds, so body weight squatting is often enough! Make sure to perform this exercise with proper form to prevent injury
- Abdominal exercises are great for preparing you for labor, but knowing what to do and what to avoid is key. Avoid any exercises laying on your back after the first trimester, rotational exercises, and any exercise that will place a great deal of stress on your abdominals. Something as simple as belly breathing, standing pelvic tilts, or contracting and releasing your abdominal muscles are great to do
- Drink lots of water!
And a few things to avoid:
- Contact sports where impact with the ground, another person, etc. is likely
- Exercises where a large amount of balance is required and falling is likely
- Ballistic (bouncing) stretching - your ligaments become more slack which can increase risk of injury
- High impact and/or jerking movements
- Exercise in excessive heat/humidity
Although there are hundreds of well-researched guidelines out there, the most reliable source is yourself. Be aware of how you feel during exercise and move in ways that will be beneficial for you and your baby in order to put yourself in the best position for this beautiful experience!
-Stephanie Spoto, CSCS