Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

Chris Keith and Jaime Howe

A woman recently joined my gym and then found out a few days later that she was pregnant. She asked me if she should cancel her membership and, thus, this essay was born (pun intended).

Exercise during pregnancy has great benefits!

First of all, it can help you prepare for a smooth labor and childbirth as well as making you feel strong and healthy, boosting your overall mood. Sorry, kiddo, my biceps aren’t going anywhere. So whether you’re a competitive athlete looking to maintain or just want to become a healthy, active mom, keep the following points in mind to keep you and junior safe. This may also be advantageous for you coaches out there training pregnant clients!

Talk to Your Doctor First

Before even thinking about stepping in the gym, it is very important to have a conversation with your doctor about the right options for you. If you were a regular exerciser pre-pregnancy and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you will most likely get the green light to keep up your routine with modifications. However, in some cases, it’s not okay to exercise while pregnant, so get that confirmation from your healthcare provider so you do not put you or your baby at risk.

Take in Extra Calories

If you are exercising, you will have to take in some extra calories to nourish not only your body, but your baby’s! You can expect to gain weight during pregnancy so the amount you’ll need to gain will be determined by your pre-baby weight. A healthy body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 will require you to take in about an extra 300 plus calories a day than you were taking in before pregnancy. Your doctor will be monitoring your weight and how to stay on track with diet and exercise.

Keep it Safe

Steer clear of the stunts and dangerous sports. Not to state the obvious, but avoid sports and activities that put you at risk of throwing you off your balance, such as horseback riding, skiing, or biking. The stationary and recumbent bikes will become your new friends, especially later in pregnancy. Even if you are an experienced athlete, note that during pregnancy increased levels of the hormone relaxin loosen all ligaments and joints, giving you a higher affinity for sprains and injuries. The body’s purpose for releasing this hormone is to relax your pelvic joints to prepare for childbirth.

Wear Loose-fitting, Breathable Clothing

Bring layers and peel them off once you are properly warmed up. Make sure your maternity bra and athletic shoes fit properly and give you the support you need. Invest in a new pair of sneakers if your foot size has changed due to feet swelling.

Be Mindful of Having a Good Warmup

It’s really important to prepare your muscles and joints for exercise and to build your heart rate up slowly. If you skip out on a warm-up and go into a strenuous workout, you could easily strain your muscles and ligaments and experience increased post-workout soreness during this sensitive time. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Get in some H2O before, during, and after your workout. Becoming dehydrated can cause contractions and raise your internal body temperature to possibly dangerous levels. A good guideline is having about a cup every 20 minutes of your workout.

After the First Trimester, Don’t Lie Flat on Your Back.

This positioning puts a lot of pressure on your vena cava, a major vein, which reduces blood flow to your heart, brain, and uterus, making you dizzy and even nauseated. Placing a pad or pillow under your hips/glutes will allow you to be the most supine without putting intense pressure on the vena cava.
Keep on moving girl! Staying in one position for extended periods of time can decrease the blood flow to the uterus and cause blood to pool in your legs, making you dizzy. Keep switching it up or walking around.

Be Smart and Don’t Overdo It

A good rule is to slow down if you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation. Stay in-tune with your body. If something doesn’t feel right, then that means something is wrong. You should feel like you’re maintaining and working your body not punishing it.

Don’t Get Too Hot

This is especially critical in the first trimester when the baby’s major organs are developing. You’ll naturally feel hotter than usual when pregnant as there is increased blood flow and higher metabolic rate, so you might get overheated much faster than what you normally would. Pay attention to sweating a ton, feeling too warm, dizziness, and shortness of breath. To cool down, stop exercise, take off layers, and seek out the AC or hop into a cool shower. Hydrate!

Get Up Slowly

Make a conscious effort to get up from the floor slowly. As your belly grows, you center of gravity shifts. That’s why it’s important to take caution when moving around because you are more susceptible to losing your balance and falling.

Cool Down

Cool down after every workout to get your heart rate back down to normal and to prevent soreness. Look up pregnancy-friendly stretching to find a routine.

Be Consistent

Make a commitment to work out regularly. A consistent routine is easier on your body than random spurts of exercise. Most obstetricians and gynecologists recommend engaging in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most days of the week and long as you have the go-ahead from your doctor.

I hope this article was helpful in giving you some confidence in continuing your workout regime or helping out a pregnant client continue hers. Workout smarter and go for it!

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