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Exercise and Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Exercise

Facts, myths, and skepticism can hold individuals back from creating a healthy environment. Pregnancy and exercise can be an issue for some individuals: “I am not healthy enough to exercise,” “I will take nutrients away from my baby,” “If I heighten my heart rate, I will put my baby in danger,” and “I have never exercised before.” Many of these thoughts and more can run rampant in the mind of a pregnant women, after all the last thing they want to do is to create an unsafe environment. Is there a safe way to workout? Are there contraindications to exercise? If it is safe to workout, are there exercises that should be avoided. Is there a certain time I should stop or change routine within the pregnancy term?

Let’s begin with understanding the contraindications for exercise while pregnant. Here is a list of reasons not to exercise during pregnancy:

  • Severe anemia

  • Unelevated maternal cardiac dysrhythmia

  • Poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes

  • Extreme obesity

  • Extreme underweight

  • History of extremely sedentary lifestyle

  • Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy

  • Orthopedic limitations

  • Poorly controlled seizure disorder

  • Poorly control hyperthyroidism

  • Heavy smoker

  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease

  • Restrictive lung disease

  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage

  • Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor

  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding

  • Placenta Previa after 26 weeks of gestation

  • Premature labor during the current pregnancy

  • Ruptured membranes

  • Preeclampsia/pregnancy induced hypertension.

There are certain contraindications that a doctor might supersede as the benefit may outweigh the risk, i.e. extremely sedentary. As a side note, this is not the time in life to train to lose weight and prepare for any form of competition. Regardless where you are in health, and in pregnancy, always keep an open line of communication with your doctor. Here are some positive outcomes of exercise and pregnancy:

  • Helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling

  • May help prevent, or treat, gestational diabetes

  • Increases your energy

  • Improves your mood

  • Improves your posture

  • Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance

  • Helps you sleep better

  • Shorter active phase of labor and less pain

  • Faster return of pre-pregnancy weight, strength and flexibility.

  • May reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus

  • Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your baby is born. (

ACSM guidelines for pregnant women are as follows:

  • 3-4 days a week (shown to be ideal frequency by birthweight of babies)

  • Moderate intensities for women with BMI <25 Light intensity with women having a BMI of ≥25

  • For time ≥15 min a day working up to 30 minutes a day

  • Use dynamic, rhythmic exercise and resistance training that utilizes large muscle groups.

Exercise also can depend on the individual. If a woman is an avid runner, then running is an acceptable modality, with the precautions to keep cool, hydrated, support the belly, and listen to the body. However for the most part, as the gestation period increases we want to focus on reducing activities that can cause: jarring, lying supine (second/third trimesters), and requires balance as balance can be adversely affected during and after second trimester. Water aerobics is one of the safest ways to ensure a safe and effective workout. The low impact environment can offer resistance, buoyancy and support, while encourage free range of motion and movements used in Yoga.

At the end of the day the answer is YES. Exercise is safe as long as you do not experience any contraindications or your doctor says otherwise. Most all exercises can be properly adjusted to accommodate pregnancy. Changing from a supine to a side laying position, or briskly walking in lieu of running are some examples of how easily exercises can be changed, yet still yield benefits. Finding a qualified personal trainer can help further understanding of how to change the exercise and when to change them.

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