A Fit Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be both a beautiful and an awkward experience in a women’s life. It is highly recommended that women exercise regularly before becoming pregnant and during a pregnancy in order to achieve an overall sense of wellness. .Here are some exercise prescriptions for low-risk pregnancies.

What Do the Experts Say?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise for pregnant women on most, if not all, days of the week. Typically safe exercise is based on a woman’s pre-pregnancy level of fitness. As a general rule of thumb, if a woman was active or followed a structured exercise program prior to her pregnancy, then she can continue the program with slight modifications. If a woman was fairly inactive prior to becoming pregnant, it may be wise for her to wait until the second trimester before beginning a structured exercise program.

A recent study published in Journal of Reproductive Medicine (2005) reviewed several studies on the effects of exercise during pregnancy and suggested that moderate exercise during a low-risk pregnancy does not lead to adverse outcomes for the fetus or mother and improves overall maternal fitness and well-being. However, regardless of fitness history or health, it is always recommended that a woman speak to her OBGYN before beginning or resuming any type of exercise program during pregnancy.

What Kinds of Exercise Should Pregnant Women Do?
Many times I sit and wonder if stories I’ve heard of women who go for a jog a week before their due date are in fact true. Recently, I met a woman who did, in fact, go for a jog close to her due date. While I was amazed at her fitness ability, I also realized that she is definitely an “exception” to the norm. Usually, when a woman enters into her third trimester, it is important to decrease the level and frequency of her exercise program.

Pre-pregnancy fitness level and how quickly the body responds to changes will determine the extent to which a program is modified during a pregnancy. Modifications to programs are often necessary because of the changes a woman experiences during pregnancy such as balance, nausea, weight gain, energy level and overall discomfort. Women can participate in resistance training with light weights and higher repetitions (15 to 20 reps) and low, impact cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming or yoga.

All exercise should start with a proper warm-up and stretch and should end with a relaxing cool-down. A woman should listen to her body and know when it needs a rest. Exercise during pregnancy should not be used to control or lose weight, but rather it should maintain the strength, endurance and overall health of the body while always keeping the baby’s health in mind too.

What Kind of Activities Should a Woman Avoid?
Obviously, full, impact sports such as soccer, hockey or football are out! Abdominal exercises can probably be performed during the first and early part of the second trimester, but not afterwards. Activities that can be performed in upright positions are recommended. As long as an activity is not classified as “high risk”, it should be OK.

It is not necessary for a woman to avoid exercise. She should just modify how she performs an activity. Exercising to exhaustion is out of the question. Breathing should always be performed slowly and rhythmically and a woman should never exercise in hot or humid conditions. It is very important that she never exercises on an empty stomach or perform exercises while lying on her back (after the first trimester).

Keep Growing and Keep Moving
Exercise is beneficial during pregnancy. Women who exercise moderately and regularly seem to experience fewer discomforts during pregnancy compared to women who do not engage in regular physical activity. If a woman is unaccustomed to exercise or activities such as resistance training or aerobic classes, pregnancy is not the time to start a fitness program. Pregnant women should simply follow a walking and stretching program and purchase a rubber band that can be used to perform various resistance exercises. If something doesn’t feel right, women should be aware that they might be over-extending themselves or they should just stop doing the activity altogether.