**NOTE: before starting any exercise program PLEASE consult your doctor, make sure you don't have any of the pre-existing conditions listed below, and be sure to ask if you're at risk for anything that could be triggered by exercise and/or positioning your body in certain ways during exercise. The recommendations below are general suggestions-results and effects vary based on the individual***
This post was inspired by a friend of mine who had some questions about exercising while pregnant. I can't take credit for a lot of the information in this post because my main source was one of my favorite fitness professionals Annette Lang.
If you are extremely active before pregnancy it makes a lot of sense to stay active. There are tremendous benefits to being active while pregnant. Exercise alleviates a lot of the normal aches and pains that go with pregnancy, reduces weight gain and stress, improves sleep, and also makes it easier to lose the weight and recover after giving birth.
A few precautions you want to take:
Reasons NOT to exercise would be any preexisting conditions and/or conditions that develop during pregnancy like heart disease, lung disease, incompetent cervix, multiple gestation at risk for premature labor, persistent second or third trimester vaginal bleeding, pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure), any water breaks before 36 weeks, placenta previa, premature labor.
Some reasons to discontinue exercise would be: (some are pretty obvious)
vaginal bleeding or leakage of amniotic fluid, preterm labor, dyspnea (difficult/labored breathing), heart palpitations or chest pain, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, muscle weakness, sudden change in body temperature, swelling or pain in ankles or calves, decreased fetal movement.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer recommends a specific heart rate but rather recommends moderate exercise which really means on a scale of 1-10 of how hard you feel like youre working you should stay b/w 4-6. Most importantly you want to gauge the intensity of your exercise with the objective of maintaining a favorable environment inside the uterus so if you do cardio make sure you warm up and cool down, avoid warm pools, steam rooms, saunas and etc. Avoid outdoor activities in hot temperatures. As pregnancy progresses certain things may become uncomfortable and your center of balance will shift so be careful to avoid things with a high risk of falling. (again some of this is really obvious....)
Starting in the second trimester you want to avoid exercises in the supine position (laying on your back)...due to the weight gain your circulation can be affected and cause a drop in blood pressure and/or heart rate which would make you feel anxious, dizzy or nauseous. If this happens at all rolling to either side can immediately relieve the compression on your veins and restore normal heart rate. The left side is especially recommended because your major blood vessels are primarily on your right side.
Keep your posture in mind, try not to give into the tendency to arch your back and push your pelvis forward as your tummy grows. You can do this by engaging your core muscles and consciously trying to maintain a neutral spine. Towards the end of pregnancy be conscious of keeping your shoulders and head upright and straight so you dont restrict your breathing at all.
To avoid weakening or damaging pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy or childbirth Kegel exercises (which you usually read about in Cosmo and other such magazines more related to sex than helping you during pregnancy) are recommended. Your pelvic floor muscles are what you would use to stop the stream of urine while you're going to the bathroom. You dont want to perform the exercises while using the bathroom, but when you do them you want to contract the muscles for up to 5 seconds and repeat 10x. Do this a few times a day-it's an easy exercise to perform while sitting at the computer/watching TV, in the car and etc. Very efficient!
Walking, Swimming and Cardio machines (as you are not exposed to the elements, and can easily manipulate intensity and track time). 30 minutes or so is recommended for many of the reasons listed above although again-people who are very active before pregnancy may push themselves a little harder.
Strength training is ok again you just want to avoid anything that compromises your balance or could cause a fall. Keep the weights light and remember "moderate" means don't push your self past working at a 4-6 on a scale of 1-10 of exertion.
Also check out this article from webMD on myths vs facts of working out while pregnant!
As always, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions, ideas and concerns!
Currently certified through NASM and studying to be a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA Liz DiAlto is passionate about health, wellness and fitness. She recently created www.fithealthyandbeautiful.com to expand her reach beyond local clients in Hoboken/NYC to anyone anywhere looking to flick the switch and start getting results. Liz works well with clients of all shapes, sizes, personalities, schedules, backgrounds and etc. With an insatiable hunger for knowledge Liz will begin her Masters in Exercise Science next fall and looks forward to writing books and teaching seminars in the future. Be sure to check out www.fithealthyandbeautiful.com and see what she's all about!