Pregnancy is an exciting time in your life and it is important to remember to maintain healthy habits – including exercise! Unless there are medical reasons to avoid it, such as high-risk pregnancy, the American College of Obstetrics and Gyneclogy (ACOG) recommends pregnant women should exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days. This may be done all at one time or in shorter sessions. If you haven’t been active, start slowly and build up to 30 minutes or more.
Exercise during pregnancy can increase your energy, relieve or prevent aches and pains of pregnancy, lift your spirits, improve posture, control gestational diabetes and help you relax and sleep. According to Kristin Hermanson, MD, FACOG, Sanford Clinic Women’s Health, “Being physically active helps keep you at the recommend weight gain of 20 - 30 pounds for an average weight woman. Frequent exercise during pregnancy will help make your labor and delivery process run smoothly. When you deliver a baby it can be very physically challenging and demanding and being physically fit helps. It also is good for your cardiovascular health.”
The type of exercise you can safely perform during pregnancy depends on your health and fitness level. “The majority of women who experience healthy pregnancies should not be afraid to exercise,” Dr. Hermanson says.
If there are certain exercises that you love to do, you should bring those up with your OB/GYN provider. Some of the general exercises that are safe in pregnancy are swimming, walking, riding stationary bike and light weightlifting. “If you can’t talk normally during your workout, you are working too hard,” says Dr. Hermanson. Take a break if you need one and never exercise until you are exhausted. Remember to drink plenty of fluid before, during and after your workout.
Helpful Hints for Exercising During Pregnancy
- Avoid quick jerking movements
- Dress in cool comfortable clothing and exercise in a cool, vented area
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your exercise.
- Avoid exercising on your back after the first trimester.
- Practice the “talk test” while exercising. You should be working out a level that you feel some exertion but can carry on a conversation without being winded.
- Always start slowly and increase your target heart rate. In pregnancy this should be 140 beats per minute or lower. Then slow down gradually before ending your workout.
- Stop exercising if you experience any warning signs, pain or discomfort and check with your healthcare provider before continuing.
Signs of a problem:
- Dizziness or faintness
- Increased shortness of breath
- Uneven or rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Trouble walking or calf pain, swelling
- Vaginal bleeding
- Uterine contractions that continue after rest
- Decreased fetal movement