Questions about prenatal exercise are common for obstetricians to receive from both first-time and experienced moms. A pregnant woman with a protruding belly running on an elliptical may paint an unusual picture in your mind, but we’re here to tell you that it is completely normal and even beneficial! Here are some common questions and concerns regarding prenatal exercise and how you can make it a part of your routine.
Is it okay to exercise while I’m pregnant?
Prenatal exercise is safe for both you and your baby unless you have been instructed by your obstetrician to rest due to complications. Before you grab your running shoes or yoga mat, though, check with your obstetrician to ensure you are cleared. Exercising during pregnancy is not only approved but recommended to improve some challenges that come with pregnancy. Mayo Clinic says prenatal exercise can reduce physical discomfort like backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling. The benefits of prenatal exercise also include mental benefits such as better sleep and boosted mood/energy levels.
In addition to the immediate benefits listed above, prenatal exercise carries benefits into post-partum. Having a regular workout routine during pregnancy can make post-partum exercise feel more comfortable in your schedule. Postpartum exercise has similar benefits to prenatal exercise by improving mood and energy. It also can speed up recovery by restoring muscle strength and firming up your body.
What if I didn’t exercise regularly before my pregnancy?
Going through a pregnancy evokes a lot of change in your life, so why not make a change in your exercise routine? Pregnancy is not the time to try breaking a world record for weight-lifting, but you can pick up new exercise habits safely. Similar to beginning a new workout regiment outside of pregnancy, check with your doctor for approval and start small. Take it one class or workout session at a time.
How often and for how long should I be exercising?
The American Pregnancy Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days for pregnant women. Exercise every day is a lot for some women, but 20 minutes of activity three or four days a week can still be beneficial.
Listening to your body and your obstetrician are key to finding the perfect prenatal exercise routine. Signs you may be exercising too much or too hard include pain during or after a workout, fatigued muscles to the point of affecting your balance and feeling exhausted instead of energized after a workout. A good check-in during a workout is to see if you can carry on a conversation. If you are too out of breath to speak during your workout, take a break and dial back the intensity when you resume.
What precautions should I take?
You can take precautions to make prenatal exercise safer and feel more comfortable. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout to prevent dehydration. Wear proper apparel, like a supportive sports bra and belly support, to reduce discomfort and protect your breasts.
What are the best exercises for pregnant women?
A good starting point for picking a prenatal exercise is to avoid high-impact workouts. Some recommended low-impact workouts for pregnant women are yoga, walking, indoor cycling, swimming and pilates. Each of these workouts has many variations and options within them, so you can try multiple to find what best suits your preferences.
Pregnancy brings a lot of new experiences and sensations to ordinary life activities such as exercising. Always discuss new workouts and activities with your doctor to get it cleared, but in most cases, prenatal exercise is beneficial for you and your baby. Let’s get moving, baby!
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