It is becoming increasingly known that exercise is good for both mom and baby during pregnancy. Virtually every ache, pain and discomfort that goes along with pregnancy can be alleviated or lessened with exercise. Most women can continue with their pre-pregnancy workout throughout pregnancy, although they may have to make certain modifications to make it more comfortable. To keep mom and baby safe, and to keep your body balanced, it’s important to create a workout that is geared for pregnancy.
Moderate physical activity is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week. This moderate exercise would be equivalent to walking at about 3 – 4 miles per hour. Higher intensity workouts are considered safe three to five days per week, but not recommended two days in a row. Women who exercised before pregnancy can continue throughout. Women who were totally inactive should wait until their second trimester to begin. It is agreed by most authorities that consistency is most important. Women should begin with three times per week and work up to 4 – 5 times per week, anything less than that is inconsistent and could potentially cause harm.
You can choose both cardiovascular and strength workouts, but focus on activities that will adjust for postural changes in pregnancy. Just about any aerobic activity is appropriate, if comfortable. Non weight bearing exercises are usually most comfortable, especially in later stages of pregnancy. Exercise that poses risk of falling (such as skiing or mountain biking) or trauma to the abdomen such as in contact sports are not appropriate due to possible injuries.
The general consensus amongst experts is that sessions of 30 – 60 minutes of activity are appropriate for prenatal exercise. The two primary concerns in relation to long durations of exercise (over 45 minutes) are energy deficit and thermoregulation. It is no longer appropriate to “eat for two”. In fact, new recommendations are to eat to appetite. However, it is necessary to make sure you are taking in enough calories if you are exercising, particularly for long sessions.
When Should You Stop Exercising?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop exercising and seek medical advice.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea prior to exertion (Out of Breath, prior to exercise)
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Preterm labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Amniotic fluid leakage
* ALL pregnant women should get their doctor’s approval before beginning any exercise program.