Pregnancy and Exercise

So you’re pregnant, or your girlfriend or wife are pregnant, and they’re looking into exercising during the fun filled 40 weeks of carrying a bowling ball. You’re worried (or they’re worried) of gaining ‘x’ amount of weight during the life of the pregnancy. It’s not something to fret about. Think about it, a new life is growing inside the body, one has to gain weight in order to maintain a healthy baby.  This helps provide a safe haven for the fetus inside.  Also, exercise is what alleviates a lot of those aches and pains, as well as the lack of ‘ZZZZZzzzz’s’ during the night.

Is it safe?

Of course! But there are some limits. I’m going to walk you through why exercise is so crucial during pregnancy.  I did it twice: once last year, and going on number two this year in September (I know, they’re close together. Had to go through the heat twice, but hey, it’s all for good reason 😉

I notice that most women use pregnancy as an excuse to get out of exercise and eat unhealthy. Why would anyone take their body through that adventure and provide and unhealthy term for the baby? It only makes it harder on the baby, and most of all, the person carrying the child. I was deadlifting 150lbs and doing chin ups until I was 30 weeks pregnant with BOTH babies! On top of that, I still teach private classes and bootcamps (and taught until I was 40 weeks pregnant with the first one).

Granted, anyone who has been regularly exercising before getting pregnant will be ok continuing on with their program, but they will find that later in the program, it may be only to a certain extent. One must ALWAYS discuss their activities with their doctor before engaging in your programs. This is to ensure safety for you and your baby.  The types of activities that one does really depends on their risks (if any).

If someone has NOT been engaging in regular exercise before their pregnancy, and decide that they would like to start, it would be best to start off slow, then slowly increase as the body gets used to the activity. For example, swimming is a GREAT exercise to start with: it’s safe on the joints, requires no high impact movement, and it’s FUN!

The Benefits

  • Increased energy
  • Strong back muscles which will help manage backaches and pain as the belly grows
  • Better posture
  • Helps control EXCESSIVE weight gain
  • Relieves stress (this is a given)
  • Get some extra ZZZzzzzz’s
  • Prepares the body for a hard core labor
  • Quick recuperation after labor
  • Bounce back into that pre-pregnancy body in no time
  • Better preparation for the physical demands of motherhood

As you can see, there are MANY benefits to exercising. So get that pregnant booty off the couch, ditch the ice cream, and go for a walk will ya?

Changes During Pregnancy

There will be MANY changes in the body during pregnancy. Some will affect your ability to exercise. So like I said, always discuss your activities with your doctor to be sure that everything you are doing is safe and effective with your baby.

The changes that will be experienced are:

  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Hormones, such as relaxin, will loosen the ligaments causing the body to be more flexible than the norm. Yes, it’s fun to do the splitz, I love showing it off too, but remember, the looser the joints, the more injury prone. So keep that in mind!
  • The center of gravity will change a bit. So be careful on any single leg exercises, especially as the belly grows, the balance will be thrown off more. So be careful when showing off those ballet skills, it’ll be harder than it used to be, trust me (I took ballet during my last pregnancy, my belly really effected my awesome releve skills!)!
  • Changes in blood pressure will affect the body, especially coming into the second trimester. Now, everyone’s bodies are different: the blood pressure may increase or decrease during this time.  So be sure to take it easy when getting up and down or changing directions quickly.

Some Good Exercises During Pregnancy

Now, if someone is just starting out an exercise activity, start off SLOW. Some good workouts for first timers are:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Recumbant bike
  • Stretching
  • Yoga (beginner class, not intermediate!!)

If there is an exercise goru, and are the type that just can’t steer clear of a marathon, then go for it.  It’s not unheard of a 30 week pregnant woman running a marathon!  But seriously, everyone knows how their body works.  Listen to the body and do what’s best. Just NEVER over exert (I’ll explain later).

Here are a few examples what the ‘goru’s’ may continue doing:

  • Weightlifting (just remember, LISTEN TO THE BODY. TALK TO THE DOCTOR. Always let the doctor know how much you are lifting. This is to ensure safety!)
  • Planks: I find that planks are COMPLETELY OK to continue throughout the pregnancy. Just keep in mind, the bigger the belly, the harder it is, and the more arching of the back.  Some modifications of the plank is by bracing the body at an upright angle on a deficit (for example, a table or banister).
  • Running
  • Rollerblading
  • Cross country skiing, no downhill, snow shoeing (for those of you in the mountains! I did these fine and enjoyed the day while everyone else downhill skied)
  • And many more!

Mind you, this is ONLY if that individual has been engaging in these activities for some time. Never stop what you love doing 🙂

Exercise No No’s

There are some limits to exercising. The body is going through some major changes, so there will be some activities that should be avoided:

  • Flexion/Extension Exercises: This includes crunches, leg lifts, etc. Granted, NO ONE should be doing these due to injury to the spine, however, when there is a baby in the belly, soooooooo what’s the point?
  • Do not lie on the back. After the fetus has hit 12 weeks, it can lay on a blood vessel that can slow the blood pumping to the heart. So be sure to modify any exercises by putting them at an incline or side position.
  • Contact Sports. I LOVE football, but will refuse to play during the pregnancy. It’s just not smart. The risk of injury is so high, but when I think about it, no one would touch me, so should I play? NO.  Avoid all contact sports such as, downhill skiing, ultimate frisbee, soccer, baseball, dodgeball, etc. Now, I have heard of women continuing on with their contact sports, but it’s not smart.  If they were to get hit, then injury will likely follow. So hold off for the 9 months, and be patient.
  • Do NOT over exert, nor workout in the high heat.  When this happens, the blood pressure can rise, hence increasing the heart rate. This can decrease the oxygen supply to the baby. Also, when exercising in high heat, the body will over heat and the same effect can happen. This can and will hurt both mom and the baby.  So it’s always good to listen to the body.  One should always know their limits.  This was a tough for me as I LOVE to push myself to that breaking point! But I can handle a few months off 😉 It’s worth it.

The warning signs to STOP!

An expectant mom should always be sure to hydrate during a workout! They should pay attention to their bodies, and know what they can/cannot do.  If they don’t feel comfortable doing a certain activity, then don’t do it. No need to be a daredevil!

Below are just a FEW warning signs to STOP the activity or go see a doctor when experiencing any of these signs:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Discharge of amniotic fluid
  • Any type of swelling
  • Contractions
  • Pains in joints
  • Chest pains
  • Changes in heart rhythms

Now, these are just a FEW, but always be sure to consult a doctor if the body is acting funky in any sort of way!

There are MANY benefits of exercise and pregnancy! I will tell you, it really helps with the labor and pregnancy process, as well as post pregnancy! If I wasn’t active before, during, or after the my first (even my second), then I would not have been able to participate in the triathlon after I had Ayda!  Also, my body recuperated so FAST. I started to run 2 miles/day 3 weeks post baby! I’m not saying that everyone should do that! Everyone’s bodies are different! However, what I’m saying is get off the couch and quit making pregnancy an excuse to opt out of activities! Enjoy life to it’s fullest. It goes fast! Be a good role model for the baby!  Get up, get out, and GET FIT!!!!! NO EXCUSES!

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6 thoughts on “Pregnancy and Exercise

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