Pregnancy is a time of significant transformation, and for many women, maintaining an active lifestyle can offer a sense of routine and normalcy. Contrary to common misconceptions, exercising during pregnancy is not only possible but can be highly beneficial. In fact, some women continue with high-intensity activities and even run marathons while expecting.
However, not all forms of exercise are suitable during pregnancy. Certain activities may be uncomfortable and others may pose serious harm to both the mother and baby. This guide will help you identify which exercises to avoid, highlight the benefits of staying active during your pregnancy, and provide tips for creating a safe and effective pregnancy workout plan.
The Benefits of Exercising Throughout Pregnancy
Some benefits of exercising during pregnancy include:
Staying in Shape
Regular exercise during pregnancy can help you stay in shape and prepare your body for labor and delivery. Working out during pregnancy can strengthen your core, improve your stamina, and enhance muscular flexibility, potentially aiding in a smoother childbirth process.
Maintaining Mental Health
Physical activity has been shown to reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression, and enhance overall mood. This is partly due to the release of endorphins, our body’s natural mood lifters, during exercise. Consider joining prenatal exercise classes or groups, as they can often offer social support as well.
Improving Your Child’s Postnatal Health
Exercise during pregnancy can positively impact the postnatal health of your child. According to one 2016 study, women who adopt healthy lifestyles while pregnant can decrease their child’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs)
Exercises to Avoid While Pregnant
While exercise benefits the health of both a woman and her baby, certain activities pose risks and should be avoided. When creating your pregnancy workout plan, ensure that you avoid:
1. Increased Fall Risks
Avoid high-risk activities that could result in falls, such as:
- Horseback Riding
- Skiing and Snowboarding
- Ice Skating
- Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
- Trampoline Cardio
2. Breath-Holding Exercises
During some workouts, people may be required to hold their breath or opt to do so to increase focus. Holding your breath can put additional stress on the abdomen, which, in severe cases can harm the health of both the mother and baby. Some exercises that may require or encourage breath-holding include:
- Weight/Power Lifting
- Some Forms of Yoga
- Some Forms of Martial Arts
3. Contact Exercises
When pregnant, it is important to avoid contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, for example:
- Martial arts
- American Football
Pay Attention to Your Heart Rate
Pregnant women often have a higher resting heart rate, so exercises that were less intense pre-pregnancy might increase a woman’s heart rate more than expected. While there is no defined upper limit for gestational heart rate for most pregnancies, staying informed and mindful is key. Consider using a fitness wristband like an Apple Watch or Fitbit to keep track of your heart rate during workouts. Be sure to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor, as high-intensity exercise may pose risks for certain pregnancies.
Running or Jogging During Pregnancy
Running or jogging during pregnancy can be a great way to stay active and maintain your fitness goals, but it’s essential to do it safely. For most pregnancies, jogging is safe as long as you feel comfortable and communicate with your physician to ensure your baby’s safety. Keep in mind that a woman’s center of gravity changes during pregnancy, which can affect your balance. To mitigate this, make sure to wear stable and supportive shoes that provide solid footing. Additionally, be cautious about running in icy, slick, or wet conditions to avoid slips and falls.
Planning Out a Safe Pregnancy Workout Plan
For most women, continuing your normal workout routine while pregnant is attainable for much of (if not all) of your pregnancy, provided you avoid the exercises listed above. However, consulting with your doctor or a healthcare professional can be beneficial. Your doctor can offer tailored advice based on your specific health conditions, pregnancy stage, and fitness level. Your doctor can provide essential guidance on the following:
- Appropriate exercise intensity and duration
- Risk factors specific to you
- Ideal heart rate
- And more
Exercising during pregnancy is a powerful way to support your health and your baby’s. By understanding the dos and don’ts, paying attention to your body, and consulting with healthcare professionals, you can develop a workout plan that is both enjoyable and beneficial.
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