If you’re pregnant, especially if you happen to be further along, getting in some exercise might not sound like the most attractive option. With the added weight of your growing baby—which will eventually tack on an additional 25-35 pounds towards the end of pregnancy—many activities that were once simple may now come with a completely new level of difficulty, and the motivation to move often decreases as a result.
But the truth is, maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy is one of the best things you can do to help you stay healthy and feel your best. Though at one point in the not-so-distant past women were told to cut down or even avoid exercise altogether during pregnancy, newer research has come to highlight the many benefits of physical activity, and has turned that logic on its head.
Regular exercise during pregnancy has been found to improve posture, decrease common discomfort like back pain and fatigue, and prevent wear and tear on joints. The stress-relieving effects of exercise will also help you sleep more soundly at night, and maintaining a proper regimen has been shown to help women regain their pre-pregnancy body much more quickly after giving birth. Some evidence even suggests that it may prevent diabetes in your developing baby and build more stamina for labor and delivery.
Best of all, so long as it’s the right type of activity and performed with caution, in most cases exercise is completely safe for pregnant women. A good rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you got pregnant, it’s likely safe for you to remain active at a similar level during pregnancy. But even if you’ve never exercised before, it doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to get active. Start small with some short walks or light swimming, and you will still experience some benefits.
Some types of exercise will be easier and more effective during pregnancy, while others should be avoided. Be sure to check with your obstetrician throughout the pregnancy and before trying any new activities, and know the signs of overworking. Here are some tips:
- Aim for a combination of cardio, strength and flexibility exercises
- Swimming and water aerobics are particularly great for pregnant women because of the buoyancy of water, which gives a relieving floating sensation
- Other safe and productive activities include brisk walking, stationary bike, step and elliptical machines, low-impact aerobics, yoga and Pilates
- Jogging is OK if you did it before, but you should modify your pace and routine
- Avoid the following: any activities with excessive hopping, skipping or jumping, contact sports like softball, basketball and volleyball, activities where the risk of falling is high, waist-twisting motions, deep knee bends and full sit-ups
- While exercising, you should wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing with good support bras, use proper shoes and equipment, exercise on a flat and level surface, drink plenty of fluids, and eat enough healthy calories to meet your needs
- Especially in your third trimester, be cautious that your joints are looser to prepare your body for labor, so there is greater potential for sprains; be mindful of balance changes because of this increased weight at the front of your body, and make sure not to exercise while lying on your back for any length of time due to its restriction of blood flow
Yes, being pregnant can make your life a bit more complicated, but that’s no reason to short on your exercise. Staying on top of your physical fitness could make all the difference throughout and after your pregnancy, and you may experience benefits you never thought possible. For more information on the best ways to stay active during pregnancy, or to schedule an appointment for any aches or pains, physical therapists in Kings Mountain and Shelby, NC from Cleveland & Associates Physical Therapy can help. Call us at 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.