For Ali Ohlman, running was a way to let off steam and stay in shape. But when she got pregnant, she worried that exercise might be a misstep.
“I was nervous I would trip and fall and that somehow, I would hurt the baby,” she said. “But my doctor encouraged me to keep it up – with a bit of modification. It gave me the energy and even just going for a light jog helped me to relax throughout the pregnancy.”
In fact, exercise is an important part of staying healthy during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that all women with low-risk pregnancies participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercise before, during and after pregnancy. Board certified women’s health nurse practitioner Meghan Duffany says, “Most women will have to modify their routines as the pregnancy progresses, due to normal anatomic changes and the ever-changing needs of their baby.” That doesn’t mean you need to give it up altogether!
Exercise is considered to be safe during all three trimesters of pregnancy…
- Walking offers a great way to stay active during pregnancy. There’s no cost, it’s easy and it gets a women outdoors.
- Swimming is ideal because of its cardiovascular benefits while easing back and joint pain — common complaints during pregnancy.
…But you should plan to scale back or avoid some types of exercise.
- Pregnant women who regularly ran, lifted weights, and practiced HIIT (high intensity interval training) will want to lessen their intensity. Talk to your doctor, or a trainer, about the best ways to modify your workouts.
- Avoid contact sports such as soccer and basketball, and activities that might risk a bad fall (biking and skiing).
Yoga is a fantastic way to exercise and also address the various aches and pains that accompany pregnancy.
- Many women focus on low impact yoga and pilates toward the end of their pregnancy rather than high intensity training or running.
- Yoga encourages stretching and strengthening, and can ease carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, shortness of breath, nausea and indigestion.
- Pregnant women should avoid hot yoga.
Exercise, especially yoga, can help prevent complications during pregnancy, and can also be beneficial for women with high-risk pregnancies – with their doctor’s approval.
- Exercising keeps excessive weight gain at bay and reduces her chances of developing gestational diabetes.
- It may lessen the chance of preeclampsia, a serious complication characterized by high blood pressure.
There are great psychological benefits to exercise during pregnancy, and it could make delivery easier!
“Exercise has a significant psychological benefit: helping to improve self-image and reduce depression symptoms,” Duffany says. In addition, “[Yoga’s] focus on breath and mindfulness can help the aches and pains of pregnancy, as well as improve mood and even help with the delivery.” It strengthens the pelvic floor and lower back and abdominal muscles that can help prepare a woman for delivery.