One common concern I hear from moms-to-be is whether or not they can exercise during pregnancy. There is a tremendous body of scientific evidence that shows women who stay active and maintain a healthy weight during their pregnancy can dramatically decrease their risk of having a variety of issues during pregnancy (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, etc.) and also increase their chances of having a safe, uncomplicated delivery. Here are a few of the most common questions I am asked about pregnancy and exercise and what I recommend to keep you and your little one healthy.
Am I Allowed to Exercise During Pregnancy?
Absolutely, in fact encouraged! If you maintained a regular exercise regimen before your pregnancy, you can and should continue to participate in those activities that you enjoy and make you feel good. If you were not very active before pregnancy, then this is the perfect time to adopt some new healthy habits for you and your baby– habits that will hopefully stick with you long after you deliver. It’s often said that it takes 21 days to establish (or break) a habit. Imagine the transformation that can occur in 9 months! In terms of safe exercise in pregnancy, we do try to be careful to avoid you getting your heart rate up way too high for too long, or overheating yourself (and thereby your little passenger). While this does not mean you can never raise your heart rate, we usually say that if you are still able to carry conversation with someone next to you during the activity – you are probably in good shape.
How Often Can I Exercise During Pregnancy?
The answer to this question often depends on how much physical activity you were doing before your pregnancy. For pregnant women who are experiencing a normal, low-risk pregnancy, three to four days per week of 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is perfectly fine. If you are finding your exercise regimen especially tiring, think about turning down the intensity and giving your body plenty of time to rest and recover. Regardless of your routine, however, always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
What Exercises Can I Do During Pregnancy?
You can actually safely perform most exercises during pregnancy as long as they are performed in moderation. Low impact activities such as swimming, stationary bicycling, monitored aerobics and yoga are all fantastic, low-risk exercises that keep you healthy during pregnancy.
What Exercises Should I Avoid?
You are smart enough to not partake in the family Thanksgiving football game, but there are a few more exercises to stay away from while pregnant. Be sure to refrain from lifting any heavy weights and holding your breath during exercise. Also, any exercises that may cause you to lose your balance and fall should be avoided to keep both of you safe. I know its sad news for Denver moms, but that means that skiing and snowboarding should really be avoided as well.
As I mentioned, we want you to be careful of activities where your own body temperature or heart rate will be elevated for extended periods of time. That probably includes your favorite Bikram class, but a long run on a blazing hot day can be just as tough on your system(s). As always, if you have any questions about what may be safe, just ask us!
When Should I Stop Exercising?
You know your body better than anyone else. If something does not feel right, or if you are experiencing pain, immediately stop what you’re doing and reevaluate that particular program. Any unusual shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness we want to know about. Abdominal pain or contractions should also make you take pause. If any of these feelings do not subside after you stop exercising, do not hesitate to call your doctor.
The safety of you and your baby is our top priority. If you are ever uncomfortable with even the smallest aspect of your exercise program, please consult a doctor so we can help you stay healthy and safe throughout your pregnancy. With the proper guidance, keeping up with an exercise regimen during pregnancy is a wonderful way to promote an active lifestyle and stay healthy long after you welcome a new addition to the family.
Dr. Jeremiah McNamara is an OB/GYN provider at The OB/GYN Center, and specializes in obstetrics and minimally invasive surgery. He has a passion for delivering personalized, quality care for women across the many phases of their reproductive lives. An avid cyclist and yogi, Dr. McNamara feels most at home in the Colorado mountains.