Exercising While Pregnant

SO many things can change during pregnancy, but not everything has to. During this time, it might be scary to try and figure out what you’re allowed to do and what might need to be paused. When it comes to exercising, the general answer is, it’s a great idea! There are lots of benefits, and unless you’re experiencing complications, it’s recommended to exercise during pregnancy. The most important thing to remember however, is to always ask your healthcare provider first. They will provide you with more detailed information about what’s best for your body. Before you start, we answered some frequently asked questions about exercise during pregnancy so that you’re well prepared. Let’s dive in!

How much exercise is appropriate during pregnancy … ? 

In general, if you’ve been exercising regularly before getting pregnant, it’s perfectly fine to keep up at that pace! After checking with your doctor, feel free to continue on your schedule as much as you’re comfortable with. If you weren’t exercising previously, that’s no problem! Starting during pregnancy is a great idea and has a lot of benefits. The recommended amount to exercise is 30 minutes a day, for around 5-7 days a week.1 It can be hard to jump into a routine like that, so starting off with just 10 minutes a day and working your way up is a good way to begin. One of the best exercises to start off with is walking! It gets your heart pumping but isn’t too hard on the joints. Other suggested movements include swimming, stationary biking, and low weight strength training.1 If you have any questions about the best exercise for you, don’t hesitate to ask your provider!

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy … ?

Exercising in general is a great way to keep both your mind and body in shape, and it doesn’t have to be olympic level training to have awesome benefits! When you’re pregnant however, there are some added bonuses to staying active. These include… 

Graphic by Kaylah Nicholson

Overall, having an exercise routine helps to prepare your body for labor. It increases your energy levels and your overall strength for the big day.2 

What is diastasis recti… ?

As previously mentioned, preventing diastasis recti is one of the great benefits of exercising during your pregnancy, but what exactly is it? This condition occurs when your abdominal muscles separate, which causes discomfort and potential complications postpartum. In fact, it may even need to be treated surgically. A study found that exercising during pregnancy decreases the risk of developing diastasis recti  by up to 35%!4 To learn more about specific exercises to prevent this condition, talk to your healthcare provider!

Is there anything to avoid … ?

As your pregnancy goes on, there will be some limitations you experience in terms of movement. It’s not recommended to play contact sports, activities that have a high risk of falling such as gymnastics or skiing, or heavy weightlifting.1 In addition, activities where you have to lay on your back may cause discomfort. Activities where you may get dizzy like hot yoga or climbing at high altitudes also pose a risk. Since every body is different, bringing up this conversation at your first prenatal visit will  help you to get a better understanding of what the right exercise plan is for you. If you experience certain heart diseases, severe anemia, preeclampsia, being pregnant with multiples, placenta previa, or some other complications, your doctor may not recommend exercise. 

Tips and tricks for working out while pregnant!

  • Stay hydrated and keep cool
  • Understand that things won’t stay the same. Your body will move and feel different, so listen to your body’s signals and go at the right pace for you. 
  • Wear a heart rate monitor
  • Find supportive friends, maybe even a walking group!
  • Try a class! Activities like pilates and prenatal yoga have awesome benefits in a supportive environment.
  • The first step is the hardest, don’t be afraid to ask for help, support, or suggestions for working out!

Resources

  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, March 12). Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move! Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-exercise/art-20046896. 
  2. Exercise during pregnancy. Home. (n.d.). https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy.aspx. 
  3. Benjamin DR;van de Water AT;Peiris CL; (n.d.). Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24268942/. 
  4. ​​Benjamin, D. R., van de Water, A. T., & Peiris, C. L. (2014). Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy, 100(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2013.08.005

Claire Dowell