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Exercise During Pregnancy

As a part of your prenatal care, your doctor has probably already talked to you about the importance of exercising during pregnancy. Benefits include everything from better sleep and improved mood to an easier birth and better outcomes for you and baby. Even if you weren’t regularly exercising before pregnancy, you can still start a simple program and begin to smartly exercise during pregnancy.

If you’re new to exercise, it is very important to start slow. Avoid activities that include a risk of falling or potential injury to the stomach area. An indoor cycle and elliptical are great options. Walking on a treadmill is also a good program to start with, though if you are not already a runner, you’ll probably want to wait to start until after delivery.

Every woman is unique (and we encourage you to speak with your doctor before starting any sort of fitness program), but current recommendations are to work up to a half hour of exercise daily for the best benefit for you and your baby. After the first trimester, avoid exercise that involves lying on your back for extended periods of time, and respect the increased elasticity of your body by avoiding overstretching or unbalanced load bearing activities (such as weighted lunges), if those cause discomfort for you.

If you’re already committed to your training program, you can probably safely modify it throughout your pregnancy. Previous heartrate guidelines of staying below 140 are no longer recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can now work within the exertion levels in which you are used to training. Provided that you do not have any physical risks associated with your pregnancy (such as bleeding or history of premature births), you can continue moderate and high impact activities (such as jogging and running), as your comfort allows. For more pregnancy information on safe exercise during pregnancy, ACOG’s website provides a wealth of resources for moms to be.

During my own pregnancies, I found that with special attention to pre/post workout nutrition, working out helped tremendously with nausea and energy levels. Sticking to a diet that was high in protein and contained plenty of natural electrolytes was especially helpful in alleviating dizziness during exercise. I also used compression tights to help with the light-headeness that can happen after exercise due to the expansion of the circulatory system. Late in pregnancy, an SI belt was also very helpful in improving my comfort while running and assisted me in avoiding associated joint pain.

Most importantly, choose the exercise program that allows you to enjoy your pregnancy or at least feel better throughout it. Talk with your doctor to help craft the right program will leave you with more energy, better health, and will make it easier to recover following labor and delivery.

-Joli

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Ask an Expert: Fitness for New Moms

Question: As a new mom, there are days I can barely get a shower, let alone eat right and exercise. Do you have any tricks to help me lose the baby weight, while still caring for my newborn? — Julia

Congratulations on your new family member! While it may seem like the baby weight takes forever to come off, you’re probably been burning a lot of calories just through sleep deprivation and your new mother duties!

But to answer your question on fitness for new moms, for the biggest impact on body composition and metabolism, take advantage of short windows of opportunity to squeeze in intense sessions of cardio or strength training.

If you’re struggling with a training plan, you can even use the interval setting on your Horizon home fitness equipment for an effective workout in just 20 minutes. When it comes to nutrition, preparation will be your best friend. Use your smart-phone or tablet for meal planning and recipe research during nap times and delegate shopping and meal preparation, whenever possible.

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Look for a time of day that is a little easier on you and baby (it probably isn’t in the evening!) to do some of the prep work you need for healthy grab-and-go options or to throw food into your slow cooker.

Lastly, try to be patient. Remember that you, your family, and your body are all going through some of the biggest changes you’ll ever experience. Take this transition one day at a time. Days won’t always go according to plan (welcome to motherhood!), but with flexible planning and preparation, you’ll find yourself progressing in no time.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Exercising During Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy is just as important as eating right and getting good rest. Sure, we women attempt to take good care of ourselves on a regular basis, but pregnancy seems to elevate our focus on seeking out nutritious foods to help baby develop. But sometimes fitness can fall by the wayside to first trimester exhaustion or third trimester aches and pains. So how does one healthfully incorporate fitness into their daily routine once she finds she is expecting? Here are some tips to get you going on the right path.

The first question you have to consider is, were you exercising when you got pregnant or are you looking to start a program now that you are pregnant? Either scenario is fine, but different precautions and plans should be followed based on your situation.

If you were exercising before you got pregnant, it is advisable to continue. Be sure to communicate this with your physician so that together you can determine appropriate frequency, duration and intensity. There are many advantages to exercising prior to getting pregnant but, in my opinion, the number one advantage is that you know how to listen to your body. During pregnancy, you are naturally sensitive to your body’s changes. Mainly because there are so many! If you are in tune with your body already, some of these changes can be welcomed with little alarm. However, if you do not already have that built in awareness, every little change could potentially cause you to worry. The last thing you need right now is stress (save that for the sleepless nights the first few weeks).

If you were not exercising before you got pregnant but want to start now, no worries.  Your timing is just fine. The key is to take it slow. As with experienced exercisers, be sure to discuss your plans with your physician. And as with all exercise programs, start out slow and build into a routine of longer and more frequent workouts. If you are totally new to exercise, I would advise you to seek out a fitness specialist who can give advice on proper programs and techniques. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself!  There is a great deal of information out there on the subject of exercise and pregnancy.  Just keep in mind that this is written for the general public. That is why it is important to discuss your intentions with your physician and possibly a fitness specialist who can tailor your needs based on your situation.

Once the baby is born, it seems like our number one goal (aside from taking care of Junior) is losing that baby weight. Just think how much easier that can potentially be if you exercised and ate well during your pregnancy! During both of my pregnancies, I exercised all the way through. Swimming was my main focus. The one thing no one told me was how hard it was to get back into the swing of things six to eight weeks after the babies were born. I was so ready to start back, but when I actually went out to walk, run or swim – things felt different. I had stop and remember what my body had just been through. I took it slow and eased back into my workouts. I definitely could not just jump back in like I imagined and that was a little frustrating. I am so glad that I did work out during my pregnancy because if I did not and felt the way I did after each of my babies was born I probably never would have started exercising!

Jen is the mother of two children: Sarah, age 3 ½, and Connor, age 9 months.