Exercise During Pregnancy?
We’re explaining the who, what, when, why, and how of exercise being beneficial during pregnancy.
A big question that many women have when considering pregnancy (or when finding out they’re pregnant) is whether or not it is okay to exercise. During pregnancy, it is necessary to take precautions such as avoiding smoking and drinking to avoid harming the baby. Many times, people take unnecessary precautions and assume that many other things (and even exercise) will be detrimental to their or their baby’s health. While some women who are exercise junkies are upset that they’ll need to miss out, others who don’t have an extensive exercise history with exercising might see exercise as the last thing they’ll want to do when carrying a child. What’s important to know for both groups, is that exercise does not have to be completely given up and will definitely be a good habit to pick up if you’re not already doing it. The purpose of this week’s blog is to explain the who, what, when, why, and how of exercise being beneficial during pregnancy.
Overall Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
- Decreased risk of gestational diabetes and decreased risk of diabetes for baby.
- Improved blood flow, decreased blood pressure, decreased heart rate for baby → decreased fetal distress during and after birth
- Decreased incidence of pregnancy-related back pain along with improved strength
- Decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood
- Faster recovery post-delivery
- Decreased weight gain
As mentioned previously, exercising is 100% safe to do while pregnant. However, there are some guidelines which will be helpful to follow specifically based on the trimester of your pregnancy as there are some exercises that will be better to avoid specifically during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
Good Exercises to Practice While Pregnant
- During the First Trimester, most exercise is safe to perform. For those who don’t have an extensive exercise background, it is not necessary to jump into high level exercise. Find something simple for you to do that will help you maintain fitness (walking, cycling) and slowly build exercise tolerance rather than aim to significantly increase your training regimen.
- 1st Trimester Exercises: Pelvic Tilts, Bridges, Farmer’s Carry, Squats, Deadlifts, Rows, Step Ups/Lunges, Planks, Side Planks
- Getting into the 2nd and 3rd Trimester it is important to avoid exercises that will have you on your back or stomach as well as those that may put you at risk of ending up in these positions (Pelvic Tilts on your back, Bicycle Kicks, Crunches, Supermans).
Exercise/Activity to Hold Back On While Pregnant
- High Impact Activities
- Exercises which will cause you to hold your breath (increasing intra-abdominal pressure)
- Supine and Prone Positions in 2nd and 3rd Trimester to avoid pressure on fetus and mother’s inferior vena cava which is a major vessel that returns blood to the heart.
When factoring in a baby bump, our center of gravity shifts and our body’s muscles must work harder to carry extra weight, so it is in our best interest to exercise and strengthen ourselves before and during this time so that we will be better able to tolerate the added load.
Listen to Your Body
Regardless of your prior exercise history, if you feel you need to stop then stop. Especially for those new to exercise, it is not recommended to do extremely high intensity workouts where you’re drenched from sweat, can barely catch your breath, or feel wiped afterwards.
If you have a good history of exercise, you can typically continue with moderate exercise until the 3rd trimester and start decreasing intensity as you feel you need (your body will definitely be speaking to you at this time as well).
During the pregnancy is not necessarily the time to try to achieve PRs for different lifts, but more so aiming to maintain fitness and decrease weight with time as you listen to your body.
It should be expected to gain at least 20 lbs during a healthy pregnancy as women will need to eat more and have more body fat in order to support another life. What many women fear, however, is that they won’t be able to lose the weight afterwards. Exercising during the pregnancy will help to keep weight gain from becoming excessive and also set you up for a solid habit post-pregnancy so you won’t feel like you’re starting from square one.
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