I have never been pregnant. I haven’t learned first hand how to have a fit pregnancy. So why am I writing about whether or not you can exercise while pregnant?
Moms that take the time to exercise during and after their pregnancy are my ultimate motivation. More than shocking transformation photos, more than the shimmery six-packs on “instafamous” fitness stars, way more than motivational quotes or anything else for that matter.
My friends that have children have worked as nurses, business managers, and commercial fishermen in Alaska – not easy jobs.
They all agree, without a doubt, that being a mom is the most difficult and most rewarding “job” they’ve ever had. To make the time for exercise on top of carrying, birthing, and raising another human makes them, in my mind, total badasses. So, in honor of my rockstar friends and ultimate motivators, I did some research and put together the basics for all those who will follow in their footsteps.
To write this article, I used information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOB) and the stories of my friends who have had a fit pregnancy. It should answer the question “Can you exercise while pregnant?” loud and clear and help you to figure out how to have a fit pregnancy!
Exercising during pregnancy is totally safe and absolutely recommended!
According to the Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOB) physical activity during pregnancy doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. My friend, Cassie, brought up a good point when she said that, “Some women get scared during their first pregnancy and stop doing their normal activities. This is a mistake because you can exercise!” If you are healthy and don’t have any complications (the ACOB gives a list of complications on their website), having a fit pregnancy is doable and will definitely benefit you and your baby.
How much should you exercise while pregnant?
The answer to this was more than I thought it would be! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for pregnant women. “Moderate-intensity aerobic activity” means that your heart rate rises and you sweat but aren’t at your maximum effort. 150 minutes works out to 30 minutes of activity 5 days per week!
If you were already this active before you became pregnant, that’s great! You can do the same workouts (with your doctor’s approval). However you may need to adjust your calorie intake to meet your body’s demands. If you weren’t already active, you might need to start with shorter bouts of activity and work up to the recommended amount.
What are the benefits of exercising while pregnant?
My friend Terada, who had a fit pregnancy and is now mom to an adorable 2 year old, says that exercising while she was pregnant really helped.
Some days I was so tired and sore that it was hard to get motivated to workout but I always felt a burst of energy after. It helped to relieve my back pains and made me feel so much better in general.
Exercising throughout your pregnancy:
- may decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
- will promote healthy weight gain
- will reduce back pain
- will ease constipation
- will strengthen your heart and blood vessels
- will help you lose weight after your baby is born
What to expect during a fit pregnancy…
My friend, Cassie, talked to me about how the changes to her body affected her ability to exercise, especially during her third trimester. In response, she changed up her routine and learned to listen to her body more closely.
Three major changes to expect are:
- Breathing – When you exercise, oxygen and blood flow are directed toward your muscles. And as your baby and belly grow, the uterus puts more pressure on the diaphragm (a muscle that helps you breathe). All of this, plus the fact that you need more oxygen while you are pregnant, will probably make you get short of breath quicker than you normally would.
- Joints – During pregnancy, your joints and ligaments will be more mobile because you’re producing hormones that relax them. This means you are more prone to injure (sprained ankles, torn ligaments, etc.) Try to avoid high-impact or jerky movements. Doing what you normally would but with more attention to proper alignment will keep you safe.
- Balance – Increased weight on the front of your body during pregnancy adds stress on your joints and muscles (especially in your pelvis and lower back). It also changes your center of gravity. This means that you could be at a greater risk of falling. As always, be careful!
*Some pregnant women develop varicose veins, which occur due to a combination of increased pressure on the veins and hormonal changes. Increased progestin dilates the veins and increased blood volume increases the pressure on them. The American Pregnancy Association lists a number of ways to treat and prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, including – you guessed it – getting regular exercise!
Precautions to take when exercising while pregnant…
- Try not to stand still or lie flat on your back for too long. Both of these positions might cause your blood pressure to decrease because when you’re pregnant, the uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. You can easily modify abdominal exercises and savasana in yoga so that you aren’t spending a lot of time lying on your back.
- Stay hydrated! This is good advice for everyone to follow, including soon-to-be moms.
- Wear loose clothing, drink plenty of water, and don’t exercise outside when it’s extremely hot. This will keep you from overheating, especially during your first trimester.
- Use a belly-support belt later in your pregnancy if it helps you to be more comfortable while walking or running. (None of my friends used one of these, so I’m not sure how helpful this would actually be. If you have used one, please let me know in the comments below.)
What are the best exercises to do while pregnant?
At 8 months pregnant, my friend Cassie says, “Spin an PiYo are my favorite exercises to do. They’re low impact and the PiYo videos have a modifier to follow, which helps.”
Here’s an example of a PiYo workout that I found on YouTube!
Yoga (and Pilates) are relaxing, they incorporate flexibility, and they encourage a focus on breathing. Cassie has added a lot more yoga to her fitness routine during her third trimester because of this.
Yoga helps with breathing. During birthing classes, they say it’s important to have something to focus on because contractions only last a short time. Yoga has helped me to develop my focus. I practice focusing on my breathing throughout a yoga class. You’re in uncomfortable positions during a yoga class and focusing on your breathing helps to get you through it.
- Walking is a total body workout that is easy on the joints and muscles. Make sure to go at a brisk pace!
- Swimming is a good way to stay active if your lower back pain keeps you from walking or running. Water supports your weight which makes it easy to avoid injury and muscle strain.
- Indoor cycling is another great option. It’s a safer way to cycle than regular cycling and you get a killer aerobic workout. Cassie has taught indoor cycling throughout her entire pregnancy!
Do what you normally do 😀 As long as you are listening to your body’s signals, following the advice of your doctor, and not putting yourself at risk, you can keep doing what you’re doing! I’d love to heard others’ thoughts on this subject. If you are already a fit mama, are a soon-to-be mom, a future mom … know that you are my inspiration! I admire your efforts and successes and would love to hear about them. Thanks for reading!