Not only will pregnancy exercise help you avoid gaining unnecessary extra pounds, but it will help reduce your pregnancy-related aches and pains, improve your circulation (varicose veins and hemorrhoids be gone!), and best of all it will help you when the time comes to shed your pregnancy pounds!
What You Must Know About Exercise and Pregnancy
Now that you’re all fired up and ready to go, there are some basic rules that you need to know before you begin any type of exercise routine during your pregnancy.
1. Don’t start right into your routine!
Give yourself time to warm up before you engage in the “workout” part of your routine. Aim to do at least five to ten minutes of light activity before you increase your pace/intensity. This will get your blood flowing, allow oxygen to get to your muscles, help lubricate your joints, and aid in preventing injury!
2. Avoid exercises that involve jerky movements or rapid changes in direction (e.g., basketball, squash, and tennis).
During pregnancy, your joints get looser, your center of gravity shifts, and your balance and coordination change, so the risk of injury is much higher. Stick to traditional exercises (e.g., stationary bike, walking, or swimming).
3. Do not hold your breath during your workout (especially when lifting weights).
If you hold your breath for more than a few seconds while you’re exerting yourself (called the valsalva maneuver), you’re doing too much and your baby will lose precious oxygen. Make sure you breathe out during the difficult part of your exercise.
4. Do not perform any exercises (including abdominal work) that require you to be on your back after the first trimester.
This includes the bench press (for all of those people who wrote me asking about it!). Lying on your back puts too much pressure on your major blood vessel—so don’t do it! Instead, do exercises sitting up on your elbows, lying on your side, or my favorite—sitting on a body ball.
5. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion!
Pregnancy is not the time to improve your fitness level—it’s the time to maintain it. Don’t push yourself up that extra hill or for that extra five minutes as you did pre-pregnancy.
6. Do not sit down right after exercising!
Give yourself time (five to ten minutes) to cool down after you exercise. This will prevent the blood from pooling in your lower extremities, which can cause you to pass out.
Although it may seem like there are lots of rules now that you’re exercising for two, regular exercise is one of the best gifts you can give your pregnant body and your baby (of course, if you’ve been given the okay by your doctor!).
To keep yourself safe, aim for non-impact and non-weight bearing exercises (like swimming, stationary cycling, walking)—this will lower your risk of injury and falling.