by Elina Skripochnik, PT, DPT
When many women become pregnant, they are bombarded with tons of information about what they should and shouldn’t do:
“Eat for 2”, “Gain 20-30lbs”,
“Don’t lift heavy weights”,
“Take it easy as much as you can”, etc.
What women rarely hear is “If you haven’t been exercising already, now is the perfect time to start!”
While every woman’s body is different and every woman will have different needs (not everyone has to gain 30 lbs, eating for 2 is an over statement, and you don’t necessarily need to be on bed rest throughout your pregnancy as long as your doctor says you are ok to stay active), the fact that you should be active during your pregnancy rings true for most women.
Exercising during pregnancy is not only recommended, but it is encouraged by most doctors, even if you weren’t active before becoming pregnant. Staying active is not only healthy for you, but it is also healthy for your growing baby. Exercising during pregnancy not only strengthens and prepares your body for all the changes it will go through while your baby is growing, but it will also prepare you for the birth, and help you return to your normal activity level after giving birth and help you keep up with your child.
Exercise helps with:
- Regulating blood sugar
- Regulating blood pressure
- Improving mood
- Easing back pain
- Strengthening your cardiovascular system (improved circulation helps prevent hemorrhoids, varicose veins, leg cramps, and ankle swelling)
- Strengthens the respiratory system
- Improving metabolism and digestion (helps prevent constipation)
- Improving sleep quality
- Preparing your body for a quicker recovery after delivery
While exercising and staying active during pregnancy is often encouraged, it is important that you check with your OBGYN first; especially if you have a high risk pregnancy or have not exercised prior to becoming pregnant.
Take caution when exercising if:
- You have a history of preterm labor
- You have poorly controlled diabetes
- You have high blood pressure
- You have a history of heart disease
- You have placenta previa
- You are at risk of preterm labor or are carrying multiples
If you normally get little to no exercise, walking 30 minutes a day is a good way to start getting active. Walking is usually safe because it does not put too much pressure on your joints and still gives you a full body workout. Once you feel as if you can walk for 30 minutes and maintain a conversation without becoming out of breath, you can start looking into other forms of exercise:
- Walking: Simple, can be done almost anywhere, easy on your joints
- Swimming: Helps keep your body toned, does not put extra weight or stress on your joints
- Prenatal Yoga: Easy on the body, helps with breathing
- Prenatal Pilates: Helps with core strengthening
- Dancing: Good way to get your heart rate up and keep active; avoid excess spinning and jumping
- Light weights: Help with muscle strengthening, muscle tone, muscle endurance
- Physioball exercises: Incorporates balance, strengthening, endurance, and provides an alternative to being on the floor while exercising
- Pelvic exercises: Helps improve pelvic floor muscles to help with incontinence (during and after pregnancy), help with labor and delivery
- Strengthening Exercises for large and small muscle groups are great for your body as long as you are being safe and do not put a strain on your body
While exercise is good for you, make sure you are not overdoing it, ALWAYS listen to your body. Do what feels good, and if something feels painful, uncomfortable, or does not feel right, then stop what you are doing and re-evaluate.
What to avoid during pregnancy:
- Activities that increase the risk of falling
- Activities that can cause trauma to your abdomen
- Intense jumping, bouncing, or hopping
- Intense stretching, or bouncing while stretching (your body is full of hormones that promotes relaxation of muscles, so its easier to get injured while stretching)
- Exercising in hot, humid conditions
- Holding your breath for an extended period of time, or not breathing correctly through exercises
- Exercising to the point of exhaustion; you should be able to keep a conversation while exercising, or not be out of breath during activities
- Laying on your back for prolonged periods of time; after the first trimester, your baby can put pressure on your inferior vena cava, and decrease blood supply to you as well as the baby itself
- The Inferior Vena Cava is the big vein in your belly that brings blood back to the heart
Important to remember:
- Your joints are more flexible due to hormones which cause muscles to relax, so be very careful if you chose to do some stretches.
- Center of gravity might be shifted due to extra weight from the front, which will affect your balance
- Extra weight and nutritional/ physical demands cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant. This means that you will become tired quicker and have less energy. (Exercising will help improve your energy levels over time)
- When you exercise, blood flow shifts from internal organs to the muscles, lungs and heart. This means that less blood flow is going to your uterus (and your baby), so you need to be careful that you do not over-exercise and maintain a healthy heart rate so that your baby is still getting the proper oxygen amount.
Don’t be afraid to start exercising if your doctor says that it is ok for you to do so. Most likely, you will find that you feel better, stronger, and have more energy after exercising. Being pregnant should not be a deterrent from becoming active; it should help push you to be the best and strongest woman you can be for not only yourself, but your baby as well.
- Elina Skripochnik PT, DPT, CSCS
Source: New feed