There is no cookie-cutter answer for what is safe when it comes to working out when you are pregnant. The same rules apply for postpartum, the reason is simple; every pregnancy is different. For some women, exercising during pregnancy can be scary – there is still this idea that working out while pregnant can increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. This is not the case, but keep in mind that every situation is different, so you want to create an open dialogue with your doctor to determine what is the right plan for you.
The following workouts are typically classified as safe during pregnancy:
- Water aerobics
- Riding a stationary bike
- Yoga and Pilates classes
- Low-impact aerobics classes
- Strength training
Sara Haley, AFPA Pre & Postnatal exercise specialist says: “The general rule for a long time was to do what you usually do at a moderate level, but this has even changed in recent years for very active women. They can do so much more than we used to think.”
This piece of advice can leave women feeling confused as well as in limbo with wanting to be active and keep their baby safe at the same time. Perhaps your scenario is not so cut and dry. What if you work out from time to time or perhaps not at all? Should you not work out if you weren’t working out regularly? Haley says “No, absolutely not.”
MYTH: If you don’t usually exercise, you shouldn’t start during pregnancy.
There are so many benefits that come with working out while pregnant. Some include:
- Reducing back pain
- Decreasing the chance of constipation
- Strengthening your heart and blood vessels
- Decreasing your risk of gestational diabetes
- Decreasing the chance of preeclampsia
- Boosts your mood
- Reduces swelling and bloating
- Assists with sleep and stress reduction
Note: You should always ask your doctor what is considered safe if you are unsure.
Sarah explains if you’re new to exercise begin with walking, swimming, water workouts, stationary bike, or prenatal yoga. Below is an example of a good fitness routine to start with.
Begin with 10-minutes a day of movement for the first week. Each week, add 5 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week. Be very mindful of how you feel while you’re working out (this goes for all pregnant women).
If something doesn’t feel good you should always stop and consult your physician.
MYTH: The only value of exercise during pregnancy is to help you lose weight more easily after your baby is born.
Remember your goals for exercising while pregnant are most likely different than before pregnancy. As a result, your routine will change from frequency to the type of workout. “For instance, you are no longer working out for weight loss and flat abs. Your goals will shift to maintaining endurance (for labor and delivery) and good core strength. This means you may adjust your cardio workouts to be more low impact and easy on the joints,” Sarah explains.
There are moves you should most definitely avoid including:
- Lying on your stomach
- Isometric movements like leg lifts, which can cause the stomach to bulge.
- Crunching movements
- Rotational movements
- Holding your breath too long (puts too much pressure on the pelvic floor)
- Lying flat on your back
Can you get a good sweat while pregnant? Sure you can, but it’s so important to take note of your heart rate and how you are feeling. Investing in a heart rate monitor is a good idea if you are having a hard time easing up on the intensity of your workout due to habit. Be mindful of not going breathless too often or for too long. If you are taking an actual class in person or virtually make sure the instructor knows you are pregnant so that they can offer proper cues and modifications if necessary. There are so many instructors on Recess.tv who have pre/postnatal workouts, and there so many VODs specifically for expecting and new moms.
It’s important to always check in with yourself before you make any exercise choices. Taking note of how you feel physically and mentally will be a good guide if you should pursue the workout or need to scale back. Remember key things to avoid like jumping, any heated classes, or a form of movement that leaves little room for modifications.