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Exercising When Pregnant: Dos and Don'ts

Once you find out you’re pregnant, staying healthy becomes a priority, and most moms-to-be focus on eating right. But don’t forget exercise, which reaps many benefits for you and your growing baby.

Why Exercise?

  • It reduces back pain caused by carrying around your baby bump
  • It eases constipation by reducing the amount of time it takes for food to pass through your intestines
  • Exercise may decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean birth
  • It can keep your baby within recommended weight ranges, helping prevent delivery complications, cesarean delivery, and obesity during childhood  

If you’re already physically active, you can maintain the same level of intensity and duration that you’re used to. As your pregnancy progresses, continue to check in with your doctor and discuss your exercise plan.

Staying Active – and Safe

Don’t take on any new vigorous activity. You’ll want to avoid starting any intense activities or regimens that you haven’t tried before pregnancy. With any new activity, you have to build stamina. The closer you are to your due date, you should steer clear of new strenuous exercises, which could raise blood pressure and increase your risk of a condition known as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can put undue stress on your heart and other organs, which can cause serious complications.

Avoid remaining on your back when exercising. Lying on your back while pregnant affects blood flow. This could lead to feeling dizzy or lightheaded. Avoid any exercise done on your back, whether that’s yoga, sit-ups or anything with weights. Note that special yoga classes for pregnant women tend to avoid these positions.

Don’t get dehydrated. When you’re pregnant, you’re at greater risk of dehydration, which can cause several pregnancy complications, such as:

  • Neural tube defects
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Inadequate breast milk production
  • Premature labor

Watch for any unusual symptoms. During exercise, if you experience any of the following, call your OB-GYN as quickly as possible.

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Any contractions
  • A feeling of dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult with your OB-GYN. Your doctor can also monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure to ensure you’re not developing diabetes or high blood pressure as your pregnancy continues.

Best Exercise Practices When Pregnant

Ideally, you’ll be getting 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. This can be spread out across as many days as you like, such as just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Recommended activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Gentle yoga, which can help soothe joint pain
  • Pilates, as long as you avoid slot positions
  • Biking
  • Jogging
  • Using low resistance machines or weight training; both are great for bone health

If you don’t want to commit to an exercise plan, you can squeeze in extra activity during your day. Some examples:

  • Park your car at a far-away parking spot when you’re headed to the grocery store
  • Take the stairs
  • Walk around the block after a meal
  • Meet friends for a walk at a park rather than for brunch

Wear a supported pregnancy belt. An abdominal binder, as they’re sometimes called, is worn mostly for comfort. Think of it as a sports bra for your belly. Running or jogging can put constant pressure on your belly, causing discomfort if you don’t have support.

Try to use exercise as a stress-reliever. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, making exercise the last thing you may want to do. However, any physical activity that you make time for can help you feel better physically and mentally. Pregnancy can be stressful, especially for women who experience mood swings or body aches, so don’t forget that it’s a tool that reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, and helps release feel-good hormones, including endorphins. You may also find that you sleep better and have more energy — which are just added benefits from taking care of yourself physically.

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