“Physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for early mortality worldwide” (MUDD,2013). Being physically active comes with a wide range of benefits related to physical health, mental health, and emotional health! It is recommended for individuals, including pregnant women, to participate in 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Many view physical activity as a tool to lose weight by strenuous activity. In reality, weight loss is a side effect of keeping your body healthy.
Pregnant women generally are not trying to lose weight; but trying to better their health and feel the benefits of exercise. Exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Exercise during pregnancy is encouraged and can be beneficial for the pregnancy itself, as well as after delivery (postpartum). It can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and postpartum recovery time. Additionally, it has a positive impact on mental health during and after pregnancy.
DISCLAIMER: If you are pregnant, consult with your doctor if you are planning to make changes to your daily exercise routine!
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
- Flexibility and mobility
- Joint health
- Heart health
- Mental health
- Shortened postpartum recovery
- Lowers risk of gestational diabetes
- Encourages already active women to continue being active postpartum
The most recent guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy come from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018. Communication with your health care provider is key. When exercising you need to listen to your health care provider along with your body. Instead of monitoring your heart rate to determine your intensity level, listen to your body. This is going to vary depending on what stage in your pregnancy you are in, doctors orders, and your beginning activity level before pregnancy.
For women who are already consistently active and participated in vigorous workouts prior to pregnancy, the exercise prescription is more individualized based on exercise history. No matter how “in shape” a pregnant woman is, there will still need to be exercise regimen adjustments because their body is adapting and changing. Although pregnant women’s bodies grow, their organs become confined and shift. This has a high impact on their center of gravity, making balance and jumping risky. It can also decrease lung capacity.
Low impact physical activity recommended by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
- Stationary cycling
- Resistant exercises
- Stretching exercises
- Hydrotherapy (water therapy such as water aerobics or water walking)
It’s not healthy to live a sedentary lifestyle up until pregnancy and then begin a strenuous exercise regimen. Pregnant or not, it is important to slowly increase intensity and frequency when beginning a daily exercise routine. This allows the heart and the rest of your body to adapt and build up to strenuous activity.
Warning signs to stop exercise while pregnant from American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Regular painful contractions
- Amniotic fluid leakage
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness affecting balance
- Calf pain or swelling
In conclusion, exercise is so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and pregnancy should not be excluded! Always consult with your doctor about a safe physical activity regimen for your pregnancy.
MUDD, LANAY, OWE, KATRINE, MOTTOLA, MICHELLE & PIVARNIK, JAMES. (2013). Health Benefits of Physical Activity during Pregnancy: An International Perspective. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45, 268-277. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31826cebcb
Birsner, M. L., MD, & Gynamfi-Bannerman, C., MD, MSc. (2020). Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. ACOG Committee Opinion, 135(804), 178-187. doi:4/23/202