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.
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.