Pregnancy can diminish your overall energy levels, but regular bouts of exercise will help you get through your day. The good news is that you can safely start an exercise program during pregnancy even if you’ve been an avid couch potato until now.If you were sedentary before you became pregnant, it’s important to review your exercise plan with your healthcare provider before you begin.Pregnancy isn’t the time to try to lose weight or begin a vigorous exercise routine, but if you aren’t in any of the high-risk categories, you can pursue an exercise regimen at a mild to moderate level.
Weight training during pregnancy is an excellent way to improve your muscle tone, strength and stamina which will help you through labor and delivery.Aside from making you feel better there are several other benefits to physical activity during pregnancy.Exercise can help relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and thighs.It also helps reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestine and help prevent wear and tear on your joints (which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes) by activating the lubricating fluid in your joints.Other benefits of being active during pregnancy are helping you sleep better by relieving the stress and anxiety that might make you restless at night, helping you look better by increasing the blood flow to your skin giving you a healthy glow, gaining more control over your breathing to help manage pain during labor and helping you regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly.
It is always best to be exercising under the supervision of a personal trainer to ensure your program is appropriate for your level of fitness.The level of exercise recommended will depend on your level of pre-pregnancy fitness.For most women, the goal is to maintain their fitness level throughout pregnancy. If you have been following a regular exercise program prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to maintain that program to some degree throughout your pregnancy. Exercise does not increase the risk for miscarriage in a normal low risk pregnancy. If you are just starting an exercise program as a way of improving your health during your pregnancy, you should start very slowly and be careful not to over exert yourself. Consider a prenatal yoga class that is specifically designed for pregnant women. Listen to your body. Your body will naturally give you signals that it is time to reduce the level of exercise you are performing. A good rule of thumb is to slow down if you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation.You should never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. This is a sign that your baby and your body cannot get the oxygen supply they need.Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of fluids during exercise.It is important to wear comfortable exercise footwear that gives strong ankle and arch support. Avoid lifting weights above your head and using weights that strain the lower back muscles. During the second and third trimesters, avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back as this decreases blood flow to the uterus. Include relaxation and stretching before and after your exercise program. Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
Remember that physical activity isn’t limited to resistance training.If the gym isn’t your thing, that’s ok but do not be afraid to be active during your pregnancy!Walking is still better than nothing!Exercise will only benefit you and your baby’s health in the long run.The stronger, fitter and healthier you are during this time the better this wonderful experience will be.Listen to your body and follow the recommendations of your health care provider for a safe and active pregnancy.
By Marie Wheeler, CPT