Pregnancy might seem like a great time to kick back and take it easy in terms of exercise, but getting up and moving is more important for you and your baby than you think. You should not be afraid to exercise while pregnant, as long as you’re taking the proper precautions.
There are numerous benefits of exercising, including helping to prevent or ease back pain, boosting your energy levels and reducing stress, helping you sleep better, preventing excessive weight gain and helping you get your shape back more quickly after childbirth. Additionally, by staying active, you might be able to reduce your risk for gestational diabetes and lessen symptoms of postpartum depression. Babies who have active moms are also more likely to be born at a healthy weight.
The first thing you want to do before beginning an exercise program is make sure you have the OK from your health provider. Your provider can determine if you and your baby are healthy enough for exercise.
If you’ve been experiencing vaginal bleeding, are at risk for preterm labor, have certain heart or lung diseases or other health concerns, your physician may warn you to take it easy and/or limit your exercise choices. Otherwise, you will likely find that your providers encourage you to get up and get moving.
Not sure what exercise is right for you? Walking is a great choice for many women. Make sure to walk in public places where you can access help if you need it. Walk with a friend or take a cellphone with you in case of emergency.
Other good choices include cycling on a stationary bike, swimming and other low-impact aerobic exercises. Don’t forget that stretching is important, too, and can be a great form of exercise.
Whatever exercise you choose, remember to warm up, cool down and stay hydrated. You want to increase your heart rate and get the endorphins flowing, but be careful of pushing it too hard, too fast.
Just as there are exercises that are beneficial for you, there are also some that are best to avoid. You should be wary of any sort of physical activity that includes bouncing, jarring and a risk of abdominal injury. This might include horseback riding, contact sports, skiing and similar activities.
If you begin bleeding while exercising, stop immediately and call your health care provider. Additionally, if you experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, headache or dizziness, stop exercising. Common sense should always prevail.
Another question that arises quite often includes running while pregnant. If you’ve been running for quite some time and have a solid base built up, many providers agree that you can continue running while you’re pregnant. You’ll want to keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect to run as far or as fast as you did before you were pregnant. You’ll also want to be very vigilant about staying hydrated, avoid overheating and wearing shoes that support you and your changing shape.
With a little planning and a quick visit to your provider, you’ll likely find that exercising while pregnant is great for the health of your baby and you.
Jessica Shuman, MD, is an OB/GYN provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group in State College.