Exercise and Pregnancy
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. It can also improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue.
If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. Don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now.
If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your health care provider.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, exercise can:
- Ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts
- Boost your mood and energy levels
- Help you sleep better
- Prevent excess weight gain
- Increase stamina and muscle strength (needed for labour and delivery later on)
- Prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy)
The all clear
Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you have your health care provider’s OK. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, your doctor might advise you not to exercise if you have any obstetric condition.
These may include pregnancy-related high blood pressure, a history of early labour and premature births, cervical problems and vaginal bleeding to name a few.
For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week.
Walking is a great exercise for beginners. It provides moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on your joints and can be continued until birth. Other good choices include swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is recommended, too, as long as you avoid lifting very heavy weights.
Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation. You may want to choose exercises or activities that do not require great balance or coordination, especially later in pregnancy.
Remember to warm up and cool down. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and be careful to avoid overheating. In general, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you’re exercising. If you can’t speak normally while you’re working out, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard.
You’re more likely to stick with an exercise plan if it involves activities you enjoy and fits into your daily schedule. Consider these simple tips:
- Start small.You don’t need to join a gym or wear expensive workout clothes to get in shape. Just get moving. Try a daily walk through your neighborhood. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, walk the perimeter of the grocery store a few times.
- Find a partner.Exercise can be more interesting if you use the time to chat with a friend. Better yet, involve the whole family.
- Try a class.Many fitness centres and hospitals offer classes designed for pregnant women. Choose one that fits your interests and schedule.
- Give yourself permission to rest.Your tolerance for strenuous exercise will probably decrease as your pregnancy progresses.
Listen to your body
As important as it is to exercise, it’s also important to watch for danger signs. If you ever experience symptoms such as dizziness, chest pains, uterine contractions or vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement, stop exercising and contact your health care provider.
A healthy choice
Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and build stamina for the challenges ahead. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, use pregnancy as your motivation to begin.