Exercising during pregnancy can help “would be mothers” to stay in shape and prepares her for labor and delivery. Though, pregnancy seems a perfect time to sit back and relax as you might feel more tired than usual, your back might ache, and your ankles might be swollen. But guess what? There's more to pregnancy and exercise than skipping it entirely. Unless you're experiencing serious complications, sitting around won't help. In fact, pregnancy can be a great time to get active — even if you haven't exercised in a while.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, exercise can:
- Ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts.
- Boost your mood and energy levels.
- Help you sleep better.
- Prevent excess weight gain.
- Increase stamina and muscle strength.
Exercise during pregnancy might also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related hypertension and might help in reducing the symptoms of postpartum depression. In addition, it might reduce the risk of fetal macrosomia (a condition in which the baby weight exceeds more than 8 pounds or 4000g).
Pregnancy and exercise: Getting the “OK” from your doctor
Before you begin an exercise program during pregnancy, ensure an “ok” from your doctor. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, your doctor might advise you not to exercise if you have any of these conditions:
- Some forms of heart and lung disease.
- Pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
- Cervical problems.
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Risk factors for preterm labor such as history of preterm labor or multiple pregnancies.
How to commence
For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended at most, if not all, days of the week.
Walking is recommended as a great exercise for beginners as it provides moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on the joints. Other good choices include swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is also OK as long as lifting very heavy weights is avoided.
Remember to warm up and cool down. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and be careful to avoid overheating. The pregnant woman should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising and if speaking normally is not possible while working out then it suggests that she is probably pushing herself too hard.
Follow these guidelines:
- If you haven't exercised for a while.
Begin with as little as five minutes of physical activity a day and gradually build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so on, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.
- If you exercised before pregnancy.
You can probably continue to work out at the same level while you're pregnant — as long as you're feeling comfortable and your doctor says it's OK.