One issue I focus on with my pregnant patients during their regular appointments is the importance of exercise during pregnancy.
It may not seem obvious, but pregnancy is actually a great time to adapt a healthy lifestyle. If you’re someone who doesn’t exercise at all, it’s important to start. If you already exercise regularly, then maintain your routine.
Why is it so important?
- You need to be in good shape for the labor and delivery process.
- It will help with your pregnancy weight gain. Most women should gain 25 to 35 pounds. If you’re overweight or obese, that amount drops to 11 to 20 pounds.
- Exercise helps promote the growth and health of your baby.
How much exercise are we talking?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend that, in the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, pregnant women exercise at a moderate level for 30 minutes or more per day on most, if not all, days of the week.
For those just beginning, I recommend cardio or muscle-building exercises. Walking, an elliptical machine or pregnancy yoga are great starting points. Whatever you choose, the pace should be comfortably uncomfortable. Meaning that during exercise you should be able to speak but be slightly out of breath.
If you already have an exercise routine, keep it up. If you run, continue to do so. The same is true with stationary cycling or other cardio options. However, as your pregnancy progresses, you’ll need to decrease the intensity of the activity. You don’t want to push yourself over the edge. Professional athletes need to be monitored even more closely. So if this applies to you, be sure to speak with your doctor about your routine.
The following applies to all pregnant women: Listen to your body. If you start to hurt, not only is it not healthy for you, it’s not good for your baby either. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to modify your routine due to joint pain, muscle changes or weight gain. You’ll need to lower the impact. At this point I often recommend swimming or water aerobics. Being in the water reduces the amount of pressure on your pelvis, and it can be easier on your muscles and joints.
Keep in mind there are some women who should not exercise at all during pregnancy. This would include women with significant heart or lung disease, cervical incompetence, ruptured membranes, multiple gestations, preeclampsia or a history of pre-term labor.
If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, start exercising now. If you already are pregnant, get your body moving. Use your pregnancy as a time to improve your health for yourself, for labor and delivery and for your family going forward.