Exercising During Pregnancy

by | January 21, 2018


Is Exercising During Pregnancy Safe?

For a healthy low risk pregnancy, there is no concern about continuing or starting most exercise regimens, with a few adjustments. Physical activity doesn’t increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery, so have no fear! Though it’s important to discuss exercise with your OBGYN and healthcare provider during your early prenatal visits. If your health care professional gives you the go ahead, you can decide together on an exercise routine that will work best for your health and pregnancy! I’m always grateful for the health benefits of a vegan diet, which leads many benefits for pregnancy. Exercising during pregnancy is an excellent self care method along with the health benefits.

Are there conditions that make exercising during pregnancy a bad idea?

Women with these conditions or pregnancy complications should not exercise during pregnancy:

  • Certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • Cervical insufficiency
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Preterm labor or ruptured membranes (your water has broken) during this pregnancy
  • Severe anemia
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Being pregnant with twins or triplets (or more) with risk factors for preterm labor

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your developing baby in these awesome ways:

  • Reduces back pain
  • May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
  • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
  • Eases constipation
  • Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born

How much should I be exercising during pregnancy?

MThe CDC recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Aerobic activities where you move large muscles of the body (leg day!) in a rhythmic way. Make sure never over exert yourself.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking and good news for gardening vegans — this counts too. The recommended 150 minutes can be split into 30-minute workouts on 5 days of the week or into smaller 10-15 minute workouts throughout the week.

If you are new to exercise, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Add
5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.

If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories that you eat.

What changes occur in the body that can change my routine now that I am exercising during pregnancy?

Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. It is important to choose exercises that take these changes into account:

Joints—The hormones made during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to become relaxed. This makes the joints more mobile and at risk of injury. Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions that can increase your risk of being hurt.

Balance—During pregnancy, the extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity. This places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in your pelvis and low back. Because you are less stable and more likely to lose your balance, you are at greater risk of falling.

Breathing—When you exercise, oxygen and blood flow are directed to your muscles and away from other areas of your body. While you are pregnant, your need for oxygen increases. As your belly grows, you may become short of breath more easily because of increased pressure of the uterus on the diaphragm (a muscle that aids in breathing). These changes may affect your ability to do strenuous exercise, especially if you are overweight or obese.

What precautions should I take when exercising during pregnancy?

There are a few precautions that pregnant women should keep in mind during exercise:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, a racing or pounding heart, and urinating only small amounts or having urine that is dark yellow.
  • Wear a sports bra that gives lots of support to help protect your breasts. Later in pregnancy, a belly support belt may reduce discomfort while walking or running.
  • Avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing, and exercise in a temperature-controlled room. Do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
  • Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back as much as possible. When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. Standing motionless can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet.

What are some safe exercises I can do during pregnancy?

Whether you are new to exercise or it already is part of your weekly routine, choose activities that experts agree are safest for pregnant women:

Walking — Brisk walking gives a total body workout and is easy on the joints and muscles.

Swimming and Aqua Aerobics —  Water workouts use many of the body’s muscles. The water supports your weight so you avoid injury and muscle strain. If you find brisk walking difficult because of low back pain, water exercise is a good way to stay active.

Stationary Bike — Because your growing belly can affect your balance and make you more prone to falls, riding a standard bicycle during pregnancy can be risky. Cycling on a stationary bike is a better choice.

Modified Yoga/Pilates—Yoga reduces stress, improves flexibility, and encourages stretching and focused breathing. There are even prenatal yoga and Pilates classes designed for pregnant women. These classes often teach modified poses that accommodate a pregnant woman’s shifting balance. You also should avoid poses that require you to be still or lie on your back for long periods.

If you are an experienced runner, jogger, or racquet-sports player, you may be able to keep doing these activities during pregnancy. Discuss these activities with your health care professional.

What should I cut out of my routine while exercising during pregnancy?

While pregnant, avoid activities that put you at increased risk of injury, such as the following:

Contact sports and sports that put you at risk of getting hit in the abdomen, including ice hockey, boxing, soccer, and basketball. High risk activities sucha as skydiving and scuba diving. Activities that may result in a fall, such as downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding. Also, “hot yoga” or “hot Pilates,” which can cause overheating.

What are warning signs that I should stop exercising?

Stop exercising and call your obstetrician or other member of your health care team if you have any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Calf pain
  • Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

Keep up the Routine Postpartum!

Exercising after your baby is born may help improve mood. In addition to health benefits, exercise after pregnancy can help you lose the extra pounds that you may have gained during pregnancy, but remember not to stress about that, mental health and your new baby are the priority!

For further assistance with nutrition to go along with you’re exercise regimen, check out the group, Ask A Plant Based Dietitian for 24/7 access to registered dietitians and affordable meal planning for inspiration to get you through your vegan pregnancy.

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