When I was pregnant with my daughter, it didn’t occur to me to stop exercising. I was heading into unknown territory, after all—why would I give up on one of my anchors, one of the things that never fails to make me feel better afterward? So I Nordic-walked, did yoga and rode my Spin bike straight through the 40 weeks.
It wasn’t always pretty—by the third trimester there was a hint of waddling in my walk and I had to slit the front of my roomiest pair of bike shorts to fit my burgeoning belly. But I’m convinced that all that movement was at least partly responsible for an easy pregnancy and relatively short labor.
It seems not everyone has the same faith in exercising while expecting. In a preliminary study just presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), nearly half of the women studied exercised regularly before they got pregnant, but only about a quarter did so afterward. Many of those who stopped feared that working out would hurt their unborn child.
The experts, however, agree with me: Exercising during pregnancy makes you stronger so the delivery is easier on both you and your baby. And it makes you healthier overall, says NASM Elite Trainer Ann Scritsmier—and a healthy mama is more likely to have a healthy baby.
In fact, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Exercise is helpful during pregnancy to maintain good circulation, aid constipation and relieve insomnia,” among other benefits. And women who don’t exercise while they’re pregnant have a higher risk of abnormal glucose tolerance, one sign of pregnancy-related diabetes (a condition that can both affect the development of your little one and increase the risk of miscarriage), says Dawn Marcus, MD.
Of course, this isn’t the time to start training for an Ironman, and you’ll want to check in with your doctor before you begin exercising, especially if you were a bit of a couch potato before you got pregnant. The best kinds of pre-baby exercise? Light to moderately intense low-impact activities like walking, swimming, stationary cycling and prenatal yoga. (Notice that none of those are contact sports or depend a whole lot on balance—two types you want to avoid.) Overall, ACOG recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.
No matter what kind of activity you’re doing, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it safely. So drink lots of water, and make sure you’re wearing good shoes and a supportive bra (you may need to invest in a couple new ones as your breasts grow, but it’s worth it.) Stop exercising pronto and see your doctor if you feel short of breath or dizzy, develop chest pain or suddenly feel very tired during your workout.
And of course, what’s good for you while you’re pregnant is just as good—for both your health and your waistline—after you’ve brought Junior into the world. “Get back to activity as soon as possible after the baby is born,” says Sharecare Elite Trainer Mel Mueller. ”As soon as you get that green light from your doctor, you’d better get moving to lose those extra pounds that bundle of joy has left you!”
How did you exercise during your pregnancy? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
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