Babies & Families: Is exercise safe in pregnancy?

Congratulations, you’ve found out you’re pregnant! You’re taking all your folic acid, eating the appropriate amount of calories, and getting plenty of rest. What about exercise? Is it necessary? One of the normal symptoms of pregnancy is weight gain, and it often shows a healthy pregnancy if you pack on a few extra pounds. But you see pregnant women going to yoga classes, and pregnant celebrities rolling in and out of the gym. But how safe is it? And how important is it to get regular exercise while you’re busy growing a human and living your life? The first thing you should always do is consult your doctor, as you do with everything in pregnancy. Each pregnancy is different, and no exercise advice is meant to be appropriate for every person.
So, back to our first question: “Is it safe?” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has guidelines about everything when it comes to pregnancy and birth, including guidelines for exercise for pregnant women. “Physical exercise does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. However, it is important to discuss exercise with your obstetrician … during your early prenatal visits.”
So, after you’ve spoken to your doctor and been given the green light to work out while growing your proverbial bun in the oven, what’s next? Well, recognize that working out when you’re pregnant isn’t really just about stopping excessive weight gain, it’s about keeping your heart rate up, working your muscles and staving off any complications or chronic health issues. You want to be healthy, and exercise can decrease your risk of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes affects, on average, 18 percent of women during pregnancy. It can also reduce back pain and strengthens your heart and blood vessels.
The type of exercise you choose to undertake is important. Now might not be the time to begin intense Crossfit. According to ACOG your joints are more at risk for injury, your balance is different now that your center of gravity has shifted, and ultimately, your increased need for oxygen means you can get short of breath more easily. All of these things should be taken into account. They also mention that although yoga itself is great, the very trendy “hot” yoga should be avoided, as you are trying to avoid the possibility of getting dehydrated.
Prenatal yoga classes are usually available in our area, but if you’re not finding any of those local pregnancy spinning classes that you’ve just been dying to try, remember that you can always modify any existing class. You can attend some group fitness classes within reason as long as you modify the intensity to suit your health. This is another question you can ask your doctor, what intensity should your bike or elliptical be set to? And always remember to open a line of communication with your class instructor. They need to know that you’re pregnant and that you want specific guidance on how to appropriately adjust the class to fit your needs.
Emily Miner, a personal trainer at Middlebury Fitness, said that there were several things to consider when modifying any workout. “Modifying all depends on the person and the pregnancy,” Miner said. She mentioned there are even different modifications for different trimesters, as after the first trimester you should no longer be lying supine on your back.
Emily trains people with TRX, a suspension training system. She said that it is a way for people to train with their extra body weight in a safe manner. “I’ve had a client who trained TRX right up until she gave birth,” Miner noted. She has known of some people even training with their babies after giving birth, strapping them in a baby carrier against their chests and working out. Miner is a strong advocate for TRX. Other trainers have their favorite routines.
Should you start exercising during pregnancy if you’ve never been into exercising before? Yes, of course. Everything in moderation, and take baby steps. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has a guideline for that as well. They say swimming, stationary biking and walking are all great ways to get active during pregnancy.
And always remember to bring water and snacks! Your body will thank you.

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