Exercise during pregnancy won’t just give you extra energy — it can put you in a better mood, keep your muscles nicely toned, help you sleep better and make it easier on your body during your delivery and post-pregnancy recovery, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG. The best exercise program for you includes activities that are effective and safe, and that can be performed with minimal discomfort.
Pregnancy doesn’t preclude physical activity, but it does impose some limitations. Different spinal alignment, decreased endurance and 25 to 40 lbs. of added weight make some activities more difficult. Low-impact, weight-bearing exercises or low-impact, non-weight bearing activities are best if you’re new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a long time. Contact your doctor before exercising during your pregnancy.
Walking places the least amount of stress on your bones and joints. Swimming, a non-weight-bearing activities, is easy on your joints and connective tissues, reducing your risk of injury. Swimming also can prevent you from getting overheated and can decrease the swelling in your legs. Bicycling also gets your heart pumping, but as your belly grows, riding a bicycle may be unwieldy, putting you at risk for falls. Use a stationary cycle instead.
Outside the Box
Consider yoga, dancing or, if you’re already in shape, group aerobics. Choose classes designed for expecting mothers. Regardless of which exercise you choose to perform, remember to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Drink plenty of water, and avoid getting overheated.
Avoid dangerous activities, such as scuba diving, downhill skiing, horseback riding and all contact sports, advises ACE. More challenging activities — running, racquet sports and strength training — may be appropriate in moderation if these were part of your workout program before you got pregnant. After your first trimester, avoid exercises that involve lying on your back on the floor; this decreases blood flow to your body and your baby. And when you stand up again, you may get dizzy.
How Much Exercise?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises getting 30 minutes of exercise as many days of the week as you can. If you’ve been sedentary, start by exercising five minutes every day for a week. Add another five minutes to your routine each week until you’re able to exercise for the entire half-hour. You’ll probably find it easiest to stay moving during the first 24 weeks of your pregnancy; during the last three months, your exercise program will likely become more difficult.