Exercising is just one component of a healthy lifestyle that should be maintained during pregnancy. While some exercises require modification, many pregnant women can continue their overall workout routines. If you are new to exercise, it is best to work your way up to a consistent routine so you don’t cause harm to you or the baby. Furthermore, you should be able to identify signs of when to quit working out or when you need to call a doctor. Rather than focusing on solely staying in shape, hone in on good exercises to do when pregnant that are healthy for you and your growing baby.
Benefits of Exercise
Understanding the many benefits exercise provides during pregnancy is just one of the motivating factors to help you stick with a routine. Not only does working out help you feel better, but it also conditions your body in preparation for labor. Overall, exercise during pregnancy can:
- Prepares body for delivery by strengthening muscles and conditioning joints
- Promotes healthier weight gain
- Increases energy
- Reduces backaches and leg swelling
- Promotes better sleep
- Increases mood
- May help prevent gestational diabetes
If you regularly exercised pre-pregnancy, your doctor will likely give you the go-ahead to keep up with your routine as long as you feel comfortable with it. This includes running, swimming and working out with gym equipment. Weight-lifting is an effective method of building muscle strength, as well as conditioning ligaments that can become soft during pregnancy. However, you should avoid lifting weights above the head so you don’t strain muscles in the neck or abdominal area.
Individuals new to exercise shouldn’t be discouraged. Now is as good a time as any to add regular workouts to your routine. Pregnant women who are new or accustomed to exercise can benefit best from aerobic exercises, such as walking and dancing. These are great energy-boosters that help to combat fatigue and morning sickness—both common ailments during the first trimester.
The morning sickness may be gone by the second trimester, which makes it easier for many women to engage in regular exercise. However, your body is going through more noticeable changes that requires you to further adapt your workout routine. At this point, you should no longer do any exercises flat on your back. This includes sit-ups and leg-lifts, which can place excessive strain on the abdomen. Jumping exercises are also not recommended during the second trimester.
Before you get discouraged, there are numerous exercises that you can safely conduct during this stage, including:
- Baby yoga
- Stationary bike riding
- Elliptical machine
The majority of pregnancy weight gain occurs during the third trimester. At this point, your baby is growing more rapidly and extra fluids are being built to help support him or her. If you add back aches and leg or ankle swelling on top of that, exercising might be unappealing to you. However, the benefits of working out are just as important during the third trimester as the other two, and you shouldn’t let your body changes discourage you. Generally, women who have already exercised throughout the first two trimesters feel more up to workouts during the third trimester.
No matter what the scenario, walking and swimming are considered the safest and most effective exercises for this stage of pregnancy. Both are aerobic exercises that help get the blood flowing, and they also help build muscle. At the same time, walking and swimming is not as strenuous as more intense exercises—this makes working out more comfortable and reduces the risk of complications.
Unsafe Exercises for All Trimesters
Certain exercises are good for all stages of pregnancy, while other forms may need to be avoided the further along you get. However, there are workouts that should be avoided during every trimester to avoid significant injuries and/or miscarriage. These include:
- Horseback riding
- Scuba diving
- Contact sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc.)
Warnings & Considerations
While there are good and bad exercises to do when pregnant, any workout can become dangerous under certain conditions. The biggest danger lies with possible oxygen depletion. Most often associated with intense workouts, decreased oxygen intake can become dangerous for a growing fetus. For this reason, you should not work out to the point of breathlessness. Call your doctor if you feel dizzy after any exercise.
Overheating is another danger that can cause fetal brain damage. Avoid exercising in hot weather and make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout. If you live in a warm climate, your best bet may be to work out indoors or to swim in a pool.
There is a common misconception that exercising causes miscarriage. On the contrary, the American Pregnancy Association states that working out is not a cause for miscarriages in low-risk pregnancies.
Given the benefits of exercise, it makes sense to continue working out during pregnancy. Your regimen might change to suit your condition and it is important to discuss all fitness choices with your doctor before starting a new activity. The important thing is to stick with your plan as much as possible, and to stay in tune with your body when you need to stop.