You’re expecting a baby! Congratulations! You may be wondering if the impending arrival of your bundle of joy automatically means the departure of your fitness regimen. The answer is no—with a few caveats.
Studies prove that exercise during pregnancy has a number of important benefits, including the control of gestational diabetes, improved energy levels, posture, muscle tone, strength and endurance, reduced backaches and swelling and a potentially easier delivery. Having said that, there are a few sports and exercises that are better tabled until you’re are no longer exercising for two.
What exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
Bring your good judgment to both workout room and playing field to steer clear of sports and exercises that could increase your risk of injury and put undue stress on your body and the baby.
Activities to AVOID include:
Heavy weight training involving isometric muscle contractions that can overtax your heart.
Holding your breath during yoga and weight lifting. If you are not breathing, you are over exerting yourself and should stop immediately.
After the first trimester, exercises lying on your back can affect the blood flow to the baby.
Exercises lying on the stomach, for obvious reasons.
Abdominal strengthening exercises will cause discomfort as the abdomen stretches to accommodate the baby.
Contact sports, and high impact sports like ice hockey, soccer, basketball as well as scuba diving.
Any activities or sports that can increase your likelihood of falling and injuring yourself and the baby. That includes gymnastics, horseback riding and water skiing.
Vigorous racquet sports like squash and tennis that change the center of gravity can cause balance issues.
What Kind of Exercises Can You Do While Pregnant?
Assuming your pregnancy is classified as low risk and you have been cleared by your doctor to engage in appropriate pregnancy workouts, there are plenty of excellent, moderate options for keeping the body moving and maintaining fitness while awaiting your little miracle.
Start with a warm up
Any exercise during pregnancy should begin with a warm up and end with a cool down. Be advised, pregnancy hormones make women more flexible than usual, so be careful not to overstretch especially after the first trimester.
Take a Walk
Walking is the go-to exercise for pregnant woman. Safe for everyone, with a low risk of falling and easily moderated exertion levels, walking is low impact and yet provides a total body workout complete with cardio benefits.
Get in the Water
Soothing and energizing, swimming works the entire body without the risk of falling, losing balance or overheating. Whether you swim laps, go for a water walk, or enjoy your favorite water aerobics class, immersing your body in the water lifts the spirits and helps alleviate the swelling and back pain that often accompany pregnancy.
Hop—or carefully climb—aboard a stationary bike and combine strength training with a cardiovascular workout. Best to stick to the stationary bike especially during the third trimester when balance can be an issue.
To lift or Not to lift?
According to studies, if you have always engaged in light to moderate resistance training using free weights, there is no harm in continuing your regimen during pregnancy. However, for women who have never lifted weights, pregnancy is not the time to start.
Think Before You Run
If you have always been a runner, a moderate, less intense, less frequent running routine is just what the OB ordered. It is not advised to take up running as a new activity while pregnant. If you want to add running to your workout program, post pregnancy is the time.
Is it Safe to do Squats While Pregnant?
Squats can be beneficial to both you and the baby before, during and after delivery. But, be careful about adding dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands into the mix. The safest bet is to use your own ever blooming body weight as your mode of squat resistance.
Body Weight Resistance Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
Hold your arms straight out in front of your body for balance if you don’t have weights or a bar.
Lower yourself into a squat position. Only go as far as you’re comfortable while keeping your back straight, weight in your heels, and knees behind or in line with your toes.
Return to starting position, squeezing your glutes on the way up.
Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Use Common Sense
Pregnant women are not made of glass, but it is important to practice moderation and be aware of the signals your body is sending you. Monitor your energy levels and watch for any red flags like vaginal bleeding, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or headache that may be an indication you’ve been overdoing it.
With a little common sense, you and your baby can enjoy 9 months of fitness togetherness!