What should I do for exercise during pregnancy?
What should I do for exercise during pregnancy?
If you’re reading this, chances are you know that you SHOULD be exercising during your pregnancy, but you don’t know exactly what to do. I hope this post helps guide you in the right direction. My goal is to give you a general guideline that you can use to determine the specific types of exercise that are appropriate for you.
The sad reality is that the majority of pregnant women don’t get the amount or type of exercise that’s recommended. Most pregnant women fall into one of these categories: no exercise at all, prenatal yoga only, or sporadic exercise mostly during the second trimester. The recommendation is for pregnant women to exercise for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. Research tells us that weight-bearing aerobic and resistance exercise have the most impact on critical health factors for mom and baby.
Assuming you’ve been cleared to exercise (talk to your doctor or midwife to be sure you don’t have a medical or obstetric condition that contraindicates exercising during pregnancy), here’s what you’ll want to be sure to include in your exercise program:
1. Weight-Bearing Aerobic Exercise
Weight-bearing aerobic exercise includes activities such as: walking, jogging, stair climbing and dancing. Walking is one of the best forms of weight-bearing aerobic exercise for pregnant women because it’s safe and effective for women of many fitness levels. If you’re just starting out, try walking for 10-15 minutes and as your fitness level improves, increase the time and pace. Hill walking is great for women at higher fitness levels that want more of a challenge. Jogging/running gets a bad rap, but the truth is that it’s safe for some pregnant women and unsafe for others. It really depends on your exercise history, fitness level and how your body feels. Some women are able to safely continue running throughout their entire pregnancies while others can’t because of pain or discomfort. Now’s a good time to mention that exercise during pregnancy should ALWAYS make you feel better, not worse. You should never exercise to the point of pain or discomfort. If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, that’s your body’s way of telling you to stop. Don’t ignore those signs. If before pregnancy you enjoyed higher intensity exercise such as running or spinning, stair climbing can be a good alternative for you. Just walking up and down stairs can give you a great cardio workout while still keeping you and baby safe. Dancing is also another great form of weight-bearing aerobic exercise that’s enjoyable and safe for women of many fitness levels.
Quick aside to talk about non weight-bearing aerobic exercise…
There are other forms of aerobic exercise that aren’t weight-bearing and feel great during pregnancy. Swimming is a great alternative form of aerobic exercise. It especially feels great as you get bigger and exercising on land becomes more difficult or in the heat of the summer. The recumbent bike is another alternative form of aerobic exercise that many pregnant women enjoy, however some report discomfort when using the recumbent bike at the end of pregnancy when the belly is bigger. Doing non weight-bearing aerobic exercise is fine, just be sure to also include some form of weight-bearing aerobic exercise in your program.
2. Resistance Exercise
Resistance exercise (strength training) isn’t just about lifting heavy weights to get huge muscles like body builders. Strength training is good for all of us, including pregnant women. And you don’t have to lift super heavy weights to get the benefits from strength training. Dumbbells (appropriate for your fitness level), resistance bands and even your own body weight are great tools to use when doing resistance exercise during pregnancy. One example of a great exercise to incorporate into your routine during pregnancy is the squat. Depending on your fitness level, you can do them just with your body weight or add external resistance like dumbbells. If you need more guidance about specific resistance exercises to do (and what not to do), seek out a qualified prenatal exercise specialist.
3. Relaxation/Breathing/Stretching Exercises
Relaxation, breathing and stretching exercises are a great supplement to your exercise program, but should not be the only type of exercise you do. Relaxation and breathing techniques come in very handy during labor and delivery. Taking a prenatal yoga class is great at any point during your pregnancy, but especially in the third trimester. Aside from prenatal yoga, incorporating stretching (tailored for your specific needs and workout) into your cool down is a great way to end your workouts.
That’s a general outline of the types of exercise you’ll want to include in your prenatal exercise program. If you need more help figuring out specifically what’s right for you, contact us. One of our specialties is creating exercise programs for pregnant and new moms, which are tailored specifically for you and tell you exactly what to do and when. We’d love to put one together for you. And the good news is, you don’t have to live in Los Angeles (where we’re based) to work with us. We put programs together for women all over the world (yes, the world).