Sweaty Mommy Survival Guide Tip #4: Exercising During Pregnancy - Now is the Perfect Time to Start
When many women become pregnant, they are given tons of information about what they should and shouldn’t do, but what women rarely hear is “If you haven’t been exercising already, now is a great time to become active!” While every woman’s body is different and every woman has different needs, the fact that you should stay active during your pregnancy is true for most women who don’t have any contraindications or pre-existing conditions that would limit their activity level.
Exercising during pregnancy is encouraged by most medical professionals, even if you weren’t active before becoming pregnant. Exercising during pregnancy strengthens and prepares your body for all the changes it will go through while your baby is growing, as well as prepares you for the birthing process, and helps you return to your normal activity level after giving birth.
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
Before becoming active during pregnancy is important that you check with your OBGYN first; especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy or have not exercised before becoming pregnant. When you are exercising, make sure you are not overdoing it; ALWAYS listen to your body. Do movements that feel good, and if something feels painful, uncomfortable, or does not feel right, then stop what you are doing and re-evaluate.
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
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 promote relaxation of muscles, so it's easier to get injured while stretching)
- Exercising in hot, humid conditions
- Holding your breath for an extended period, 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.
If you normally get little to no exercise, walking 30 minutes a day is a great, low impact way to become 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 can walk for 30 minutes and maintain a conversation without becoming short of breath, you should start looking into other forms of exercise such as yoga, swimming, dancing, and free weights.
Don’t be afraid to start exercising if your doctor says that it is safe for you to do so. You will most likely find that you feel better, stronger, and have more energy after exercising. Being pregnant should not stop you from leading a healthy and active lifestyle, it should help motivate you to be the healthiest and strongest woman you can be for yourself, and for your growing child.
Dr. Elina Skripochnik PT, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Elina has been working as a pediatric physical therapist in various settings (Early Intervention, Preschools, outpatient pediatrics) and has private experience in women's health.
Dr. Elina created Elina Physical Therapy to educate women about the importance of achieving a healthy and active pregnancy through informative articles and safe exercises geared at women of all activity levels. Elina offers consultations, private, and group lessons to women who wish to become active and stay active.
Elina Physical Therapy also aims to help parents connect with their children of all ages (newborn, toddler, etc...) through safe, fun, and educational activities and exercises, which can be performed by parents to help their child reach age appropriate milestones and excel physically. Connect with her by email, website, Facebook, or Instagram. You can also join her Facebook group to have open discussions about exercise safety, proper exercise form, and any other fitness related questions.