Exercising during pregnancy is safe for most women as long as they are monitored by their physician. Many physiological changes will occur during pregnancy: you will gain weight, your center of gravity will shift, hormones will make your mood go on roller coaster rides, it might be hard to sleep and the list goes on and on and on. Exercise will help ease the uncomfortable manifestations of these changes. The following guidelines help you make the most of your exercise routine during this important period of your life.
- Always consult your personal physician for clearance.
- You should not begin a vigorous exercise program shortly before or during pregnancy. Keep your exercise level moderate at most.
- Gradually reduce the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise during the second and third trimesters. The extra weight will make your body work harder as it gets heavier. For example, if you ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a 6.0 speed, you might need to to 30 minutes and reduce the speed to 5.0. If you lifted weights doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions per exercise, you might want to reduce it gradually to 1 of 15 repetitions towards your third trimesters.
- Avoid exercise when temperature and humidity are high. That holds true even if you are not pregnant. Body temperature should not exceed 100 F (38 C) during exercise. Invest in a thermometer, especially if you exercise outdoors.
- Avoid exercising on your back (supine position), especially during the second andthird trimesters. They have been associated with decreased cardiac output and decreased uterine blood flow. So, avoid crunches on your back and bridges like the one on your right.
- Try to run or walk on flat, even surfaces to avoid falls. Also avoid any sports or activities where balance is challenged frequently leading to a risk of falls: skiing (water or snow), gymnastics, horsebackriding, all racquet sports (tennis, raquetball, squash), contact sports (basketball, hockey, soccer).
- Wear supportive shoes while walking and running during pregnancy for obvious reasons. If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you may be able to keep it up with some modifications. Wait after your pregnancy to start running. If you were not active before your pregnancy, start by walking since very beneficial and it is easier on your joints.
- If you were overweight before you became pregnant and are thinking of starting an exercise regimen, try water aerobics or swimming since buoyancy will protect your joints, but water will offer enough resistance to make the activity challenging.
- When running becomes uncomfortable during your second and third trimesters, walking, swimming and riding on a stationary bikes will become good alternatives.
- Extend warm up and cooling periods. Remember to use active stretches or light aerobic activity for warm ups and static stretches (traditional stretches you hold for 30 seconds) to cool down.
- Performing resistance exercises (machine, free weights, resistance bands, bodyweight) is a great preparation for the challenges of pregnancy. They strengthen your muscles so that you are able to cope with the ever changing center of gravity during your pregnancy and the challenge of picking up and carrying your baby’s weight around multiple times during the day after delivery.
- Use rating of perceived exertion scale instead of heart rate to monitor exercise intensity. Basically keep exercise intensity to a challenging, but comfortable levels.
- Eat a small snack before exercising to avoid hypoglycemia.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
- Avoid over-stretching or going beyond normal range of motion. Your joints become more flexible during pregnancy from increased secretion of the hormone relaxin. For the same reason you should avoid activities that require jerky movements that can injure your joints.
- Any unusual physical changes, such as vaginal bleeding, severe fatigue, joint pain or irregular heart beat should be immediately reported to a physician.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has a very informative website: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp119.cfm.