Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. However, a lot of people are apprehensive about doing pregnancy exercises. They fear that too much activity can be harmful to their pregnancy. The million dollar question is this: can you exercise while pregnant?
The short answer is yes! Exercise should be a part of any healthy pregnancy. Expectant mothers should stick to some rules in order to account for their pregnancy. This article discusses eight easy pregnancy exercises that can help pregnant women become fitter.
In addition, this article discusses why pregnancy exercises are safe as well as the benefits and risks of pregnancy exercises. Finally, this article states some general rules on promoting safety for pregnancy exercises.
Why Can You Exercise While Pregnant?
Some people believe that exercise might damage your baby or induce labour, but this is mostly incorrect. With proper guidelines and some modifications, pregnancy exercises are just as safe as regular exercises. Your body has adapted to be able to move about while keeping your baby safe from harm. Supportive tissues and muscles cushion your baby while you get going. Otherwise, humanity would have died out millennia ago, when constant motion was required for survival regardless of your pregnancy status.
The Benefits of Pregnancy Exercises
After addressing the question of “Can you exercise while pregnant?” it is now time to discuss what exercise is doable for expecting mothers. Everyone knows that exercise is healthful. However, not everyone knows the exact benefits that physical fitness can do. Many pregnant mothers think that it is not worth it, given that they have a thousand other things to do. Knowing the exact benefits of pregnancy exercises will hopefully encourage more people to incorporate pregnancy exercises into their daily lives.
Exercise alleviates some of the undesirable side effects of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is no walk in the park. The body of an expectant mother is using up a lot of resources to bring new life into the world. Giving birth to another human being takes up a lot of work, and this is evident in the many physical struggles that expectant mothers have to face.
For instance, many pregnant women complain of bloating and swelling of their ankles and other body parts. Many also experience constipation. Others frequently feel a bit dizzy or nauseous. Finally, back pain is a frequent complaint. The extra weight of the baby tends to put additional loads on the back muscles, which have to work overtime in order to maintain balance.
Fortunately, strengthening the cardiovascular system as well as the different muscles of the body can alleviate many of these symptoms. Exercise does precisely that, which is why physical activity is highly recommendable for everyone, especially pregnant women.
Physical Exercise acts as a mood booster.
Exercise can be tough, especially when working on strenuous activities. Many people feel some discomfort during workouts, and that is normal. However, many people are in a lighter mood after completing the workout. In general, exercise brings about a mild but consistent sense of satisfaction.
This phenomenon is due to the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters responsible for regulating positive moods. These chemicals are responsible for the pleasant state we usually feel after a hard workout. Pregnancy exercises also cause the release of endorphins, helping the expectant mother feel more at ease and prevent mood disorders such as postpartum depression from setting in.
Exercise helps you make a faster recovery after childbirth.
Childbirth is an arduous process, and it can tax many of your bodily systems. Exercise can help by strengthening your body, enabling you to have safer childbirth and to make a faster recovery. For example, pelvic floor exercises can strengthen the muscles that assist during labour. These exercises also prevent urinary incontinence, which occurs more frequently for mothers who undergo natural delivery.
Additionally, it is normal to gain weight during pregnancy; aside from the baby itself, the maternal body constructs new tissue to support the baby’s development. This added weight is not easily discarded even after giving birth, and it can take months for you to reach your weight before pregnancy. Fortunately, pregnancy exercises help increase your metabolism, enabling you to shed those added pounds faster.
Best Pregnancy Exercises
Professionals recommend that pregnant women engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for most days of the week. Doing this ensures that your body gets enough exercise to remain healthy. However, not all routines are equally suitable for pregnant mothers. Listed here are some of the safest and most effective forms of exercise for reaping benefits during pregnancy.
While being one of the basic movements of the human body, walking is still a great exercise. It stimulates the heart and lungs, strengthening the cardiovascular system. It also works out the muscle groups on the legs, as well as the core muscles. Brisk walking is perfect for people who are not yet accustomed to higher-impact activities. Additionally, you can incorporate this activity as a warm-up or cool-down exercise for other pregnancy exercises.
Walking is a natural activity, but be sure to practice some basic guidelines first. Do some stretches first before going on a long walk. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that can support your feet, and avoid uneven or heavily sloped terrain to reduce the chance of accidents. Focus on maintaining a straight posture and correct form by engaging your core muscles.
As a variant, you may try changing the speed at which you walk.
Cycling is a more intense cardio workout that can drastically increase your fitness and improve your blood circulation. Aside from giving your heart and lungs a good work out, cycling also works out multiple muscles in your legs and thighs.
The safest variant is indoor cycling since there is minimal risk of falling. You may have to raise the handlebars though, especially when you are several months into your pregnancy. Also, you have to be careful not to overexert yourself.
You may also try bicycling outdoors, but only if your doctor approves. Even then, practice extra caution. Make sure that your bicycle and your safety gear are in good working condition. Avoid difficult routes and surfaces covered in ice or water. Finally, engage your core muscles to stay balanced.
Unlike the two previous pregnancy exercises which emphasize the development of endurance, yoga focuses more on balance and flexibility. Nevertheless, comprehensive yoga exercises can work out entire muscle groups throughout the body. With its primary emphasis on maintaining form, yoga is a useful exercise for strengthening the core muscles, including muscle groups in the back and the belly.
Performing yoga will depend on the particular exercises that you will be doing. However, you should perform yoga with an instructor who can guide you and watch out if you are making any dangerous mistakes. Talk to the instructor and clarify your pregnancy so that you can avoid hazardous maneuvers. These poses include those that put a load on your belly or those that require a great deal of balance.
While yoga focuses more on developing flexibility, Pilates more effectively targets the core muscles in your abdomen and back. By strengthening these muscles, your body becomes more effective at carrying the weight of your unborn baby. Thus, you gain a better sense of balance, and you become less accident-prone. Pilates also helps stretch and tone the muscles in your limbs, improving your figure.
Similar to yoga, various movements fall under Pilates. What particular routines you engage in will depend on your instructor, who should consider both your current physical fitness and your month of pregnancy. You should avoid those that require you to lie on your back or your belly. Also, make sure that you have a good set of shoes to ensure traction.
Barre classes represent a combination of yoga and Pilates, with a little bit of ballet mixed in. These classes will help you strengthen core muscles and maintain your flexibility. These traits will come in handy to prepare you for other pregnancy exercises and childbirth. The jumping motions that the ballet-inspired movements add can also further strengthen your legs while posing a minimal risk.
Again, consult your instructor about your pregnancy. Some of your movements may be modified to accommodate your growing womb.
The extra strain you bear while pregnant requires a safely and effectively regimented fitness program. CrossFit can do this for you. CrossFit is infinitely scalable. This program works for young kids, elite athletes, average teenagers, moms, seniors, and even pregnant women.
If you are doing CrossFit before you got pregnant, it is highly recommended that you still continue it during pregnancy. Some avid CrossFitters continued on their workout routine despite being nine months pregnant. You just need to talk to the coach and make sure to modify movements to accommodate your growing belly.
The weightlifting aspect of this program helps with training your body for the additional weight. The gymnastics feature helps you to be more flexible especially after the major changes going on inside your body. As per the metabolic conditioning, it trains soon-to-be moms to keep up with their breath while chasing down their toddlers in the future.
Pelvic Tilt Exercises
Pelvic tilt concerns the orientation of the pelvis relative to the rest of the body. The pelvis can become misaligned due to the weight of your uterus. This condition can cause back pain and posture imbalances. Fortunately, pelvic tilt exercises can help realign your pelvis.
To do a pelvic tilt exercise, lean back on a wall so that your shoulders and bottom make contact. Contract your abdominal muscles so that your back flattens and makes contact against the wall. Return to the neutral position and repeat for at least ten times.
Again, only move as far as you can without causing any discomfort.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Your pelvic floor includes a muscle group that spans your pelvis. These muscles act as a layer that supports your uterus and other abdominal organs. Pregnancy takes its toll on the pelvic floor, and the muscles may stretch during childbirth. A weak pelvic floor may make it hard for you to control urination and passing gas.
Pelvic floor exercises can help prepare these muscles for childbirth, decreasing the risk of injury and preventing incontinence.
To start with this exercise, sit down and lean forward slightly. Imagine that you are stopping urination and contract the muscles. Hold for eight seconds, release, then repeat for at least eight times.
This exercise is flexible enough that you can do it anytime you are in a seated position. Just remember to keep breathing as you hold. Also, avoid contracting your buttocks.
Risks and Contraindications for Pregnancy Exercises
Despite the benefits of pregnancy exercises, there are still some people who have to be wary of starting an exercise routine while pregnant. Pregnancy exercises may not be for everyone, and getting permission from your doctor before doing vigorous physical activities should be a priority. In addition, it also comes with some risks, but knowing about them will help you manage them properly.
Can you exercise while pregnant? If you have any preexisting morbidity, such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, it is critical for you to have yourself assessed first by a medical professional. Your doctor should consider your current fitness, the status of your condition, and the risk involved with your pregnancy. If your doctor gives you the green light to exercise, then do so provided that you strictly adhere to any modifications that your doctor might provide. For example, your doctor might discourage you from high-impact activities or might prescribe a set of exercises specifically for you.
Exercise might not be recommendable if you have the following conditions:
- A low placenta
- A history of miscarriage or premature labour
In addition, monitor yourself constantly for these signs. Seek medical assistance immediately if you feel any of these signs:
- pain that persists
- vaginal bleeding
- a persistent liquid discharge from your vagina, which may indicate a rupture of the amniotic sac
- regular uterine contractions, which can signal the start of labour
Finally, pregnancy exercises can be risky if performed improperly. The most dangerous part of pregnancy exercises is probably maintaining balance since falls can injure both you and your baby. If the amniotic sac breaks due to trauma, you may have to undergo induced labour.
Balance is also made more difficult by the weight of the uterus, which means that your core muscles have to endure harder to maintain equilibrium. In addition, endurance is limited during pregnancy since your body is already consuming a lot of its resources to sustain the pregnancy. Without proper care, you can easily overexert yourself.
Fortunately, you can always seek the advice of a medical professional and make some adjustments to your exercise routine. These will help minimize the risks of pregnancy exercises.
Some Exercising Tips [5,6,7]
Merely knowing about the exercises outlined in this article is not enough. Performing these pregnancy exercises is the only way you can get the benefits of exercise, both for you and your baby. However, it is important to realize that pregnancy imposes particular changes in your body. Failing to account for these changes can make exercise unsafe and ineffective. Hence, it is essential to take note of some general guidelines when exercising while pregnant.
Consult with a medical professional first.
To bring about its benefits, exercise stimulates the body by temporarily imposing stress on the body. However, this stress has the potential to endanger some individuals. This risk is more considerable for people who have preexisting conditions that strain their cardiovascular systems, such as anemia. During exercise, the combined strain of supporting a developing baby and enabling the body to do strenuous activities might become too overwhelming. In these cases, mothers become more prone to injury and may collapse from exhaustion, leaving both her and the baby in danger.
You should undergo a thorough screening first prior to starting any type of exercise routine. Make sure that your doctor gives you the green light to start and continue working out during pregnancy. Also, discuss whether you are allowed special activities such as weight lifting. Finally, consult about any special precautions that you will have to take to ensure maximum safety for you and your baby.
Know when to stop exercising.
Too much exercise, like everything else in life, can be harmful to your health. Applying too much stress to your body can make you pass out or, in some cases, trigger a heart attack. Even if you used to run ultra marathons or complete a hundred burpees a day, you would find that pregnancy reduces your endurance. If you do not adjust your exercise regimes accordingly, you risk overexerting yourself.
Fortunately, there is a single test to figure out when you are exercising too much already. Try to speak one phrase or hold a conversation. If you frequently have to pause after a few words, or if you are having difficulty in maintaining proper pacing and diction, then you are probably exerting yourself too much. Other signs to watch out include dizziness, light-headedness, chest tightness, and a very rapid heartbeat. If you feel any of these signs, stop what you are doing and take a short break until you can safely continue your journey.
Try to match your activity levels before you became pregnant.
Again, it is vital to avoid any additional stress if you plan to exercise while pregnant. Make sure that any pregnancy exercises you do are similar in difficulty to those you used to do before you became pregnant. Deciding to try harder variants or adopting new activities might not be a good idea during pregnancy, given that the risks are too high. There will always be more time to do that after you successfully deliver your baby.
Always do warm-up and cool-down exercises.
Helping your body prepare for a good workout is much more than just maximizing the benefits of exercise. A good warm-up exercise will help stretch your muscles, getting them ready for intense activities. Warm-ups will also elongate your joints and ligaments, increasing the range of motion that they can handle. These activities will also gradually raise your heart rate and breathing rate, prepping your cardiovascular system for action. In similar ways, cool-down exercises eventually help your body return to a resting condition, making recovery quicker.
Your unborn baby experiences some of the stress that your body undergoes during exercise, underscoring the need to begin and end a workout gradually. Make sure that you perform some stretches in order to loosen your joints and ready your muscles. Start with light activities and slowly increase the intensity as your body adjusts to the workload. Finally, fight the urge to sit down after a workout immediately. Instead, do more stretches and wait for your heart rate to return to normal.
Avoid exercising in extreme environments.
This tip should be straightforward. As mentioned before, trying extreme activities is probably best done after you have given birth. If you used to taking a dip in ice-cold waters or surfing 20-foot waves, you might want to taper it off during your pregnancy. Practising this tip will help reduce the chance of any unfortunate accidents. Use the time and energy instead to prepare for the day when you will give birth to your baby.
Drink enough water.
Dehydration can drastically hurt your endurance, reducing the benefits you can gain from exercise. Make sure that you are well-hydrated by always having a good supply of water nearby. Do not ignore any signs of thirst for an extended period, or you might put yourself at risk for dehydration.
Focus on maintaining posture and correct form.
Carrying a child puts a strain on your body. In particular, the extra weight at the front can make it harder for you to maintain balance, increasing the chances of falls. To counter this, make sure to pay special attention to your posture as you complete the exercises. Emphasize keeping the correct form and stop when you feel your body start to go out of alignment. Do this even if you think that you can complete the activity; the risk of injury is just too high.
As a bonus, focusing on form makes your workouts more effective. Even if you are unable to complete your entire exercise, the increased efficiency can partially make up for that.
Do not lie flat on your back.
As your pregnancy progresses, the weight imposed by the baby can start to compress your organs. While your body is well-adjusted to deal with the growing heaviness of your uterus, certain positions may still be unsafe for you to try. Major arteries and veins pass behind the womb, so when you lie on your back, these vessels might be compressed. The increased pressure can reduce blood flow to your heart, making it harder to complete the activity. In worse cases, you may pass out suddenly.
Avoid contact sports.
Sports where players can potentially hit each other such as soccer, basketball, and boxing are a big no for expecting mothers. The probability of injuring your womb is too high. Consider gentler sports instead.
Avoid high-impact exercises unless you are explicitly allowed by your doctor.
The concern with high-impact exercises is their effect on your joints. Pregnant mothers produce relaxin, a hormone that helps relax muscles and loosen joints. It makes it harder to keep balance and for your bones to support you during vigorous movements, increasing the chances of sustaining injuries.
Avoid exercises that involve a lot of impact. It would also be a good idea to focus on core exercises and joint-strengthening exercises to help you regain some stability.
Can you exercise while pregnant with multiple babies? In many cases, yes. There is not much of a difference even if you have multiple babies with your pregnancy. However, note that your body would be using even more nutrients and energy to sustain your babies. You might want to cut down the intensity of your exercises. Again, consult with a doctor first before starting an exercise regime.
Can you exercise while pregnant using high-impact activities? As much as possible, avoid high-impact exercise, for they may affect your joints. As mentioned, the relaxin hormone loosens up your muscles and joints, which makes balancing and forceful movements harder.
8 Best Pregnancy Exercises Infographic
Share to spread the awareness or print this out as a great reminder to keep fit and fab while you're waiting for your bundle of joy! (Just right click on the image and save)