The following is a guest post by Karen Borsari, Freelancer for Life by DailyBurn.com
Exercise is always a great solo act, but when you’re pregnant it has benefits for two. Not only can getting active lower your risk for gestational diabetes, it can give your baby’s heart health a boost and make labor quicker and easier for you.
Some research suggests that moderate exercise can also help you sleep better, lower your risk for depression and reduce aches during pregnancy. Whether you’re an avid exerciser or just getting started, the key is putting safety first.
1. Call the doctor.
For most moms-to-be, daily moderate exercise is perfectly safe but there are potential risks that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Bleeding, trouble breathing, high blood pressure and other factors need to be considered before engaging in physical activities. Once you’ve gotten the “all clear” it’s time to get moving!
2. Quit the crunches.
After the first trimester, lying on your back can obstruct the veins responsible for carrying blood into and out of the heart leaving vital organs, including the brain and uterus, with reduced blood flow. In fact, it’s important to keep your head above your heart as much as possible. Although sit-ups and crunches are out, it doesn’t mean you can’t work your core. Standing abs exercises are just as effective.
3. Lift a lighter load.
You don’t have to give up strength training entirely, but studies have shown that repetitive, strenuous work, such as weightlifting, can lead to early deliveries and small-for-gestational-age births. However, a study conducted by the University of Georgia found that moderate weight training is safe for expectant mothers, even if they haven’t weight trained in the past. Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start for at-home workouts since no equipment is necessary.
4. Keep cool.
Elevated core body temperature during pregnancy can result in abnormal fetal development, but this doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising the second you start to sweat. Overheating only becomes a concern when your body produces more heat than it can dissipate, resulting in hyperthermia. Working out in a climate-controlled gym and taking frequent water breaks will keep body temperature in check. Eating water-rich foods like watermelon and cucumber is another great way to stay cool and hydrated – without as many bathroom breaks!
5. Quit the team.
Steer clear of sports with “a high potential for contact” like basketball, racket sports and hockey, as they pose a risk of trauma to both mom and baby according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM). Likewise, activities with a high risk of falling, such as downhill skiing, gymnastics and mountain biking, should be skipped as well. If you just love team spirit, try group fitness classes, or low-risk activities like golf and bowling.
6. Know the signs.
Even if your doctor has given the all clear to get active, there are a few reasons you may need to cut back – or even terminate – your exercise regimen. According to the guidelines of the ACOG, you should stop exercising if you experience vaginal bleeding, shortness of breath before exertion, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, decreased fetal movement or amniotic fluid leakage.
7. Breathe easy.
Because a baby’s heart rate has been shown to elevate with that of the mother, monitoring your own is important when working out during pregnancy. In the past, doctors have recommended staying under 140 beats per minute (BPM) while pregnant but, because BPM varies so much from person to person, it’s important to determine your own baseline. If you do not have a heart rate monitor, try the talk test. When you’re in the target zone, you should be able to maintain light conversation while working out.
8. Pick your poses.
Due to a shift in your center of gravity, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) advises minimizing the risk of falls meaning no single-legged poses (without support) or inversions in yoga class after the first trimester. Although inversions and complex poses are out, you can still enjoy your practice. The newest workout program by DailyBurn.com called Beautiful Belly is led by yoga supermom Briohny Smyth and guides moms-to-be through a variety of prenatal yoga classes to help keep moms and babies healthy and safe through pregnancy.
9. Know when to cut back.
Even if you’ve always been physically active and show no signs of preterm labor, the ACOG recommends reducing activity in the second and third trimester. Whether this means shorter sessions on the elliptical, benching less weight or cutting back on reps, easing up on exercise intensity is important for your health – and that of the baby as pregnancy progresses.
10. Go easy on your joints.
According to the BJSM, pregnancy may increase the stress on your hips and knees by as much as 100 percent. Not only is this uncomfortable but it can aggravate arthritic or unstable joints. If activities like running, hiking or stair climbing become uncomfortable, try low-impact activities such as swimming, yoga or the elliptical machine instead.