Embraced and Not Feared: Exercise During Pregnancy
Our guess blogger today is Marissa Anderson of Fit4Mom Grand Rapids. Read on to gain valuable insight about prenatal fitness.
No matter what it looked like for you – plus sign, blue line, double line – the moment you knew you had a new life growing inside you, there were so many questions that needed answering. What should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat? What do I actually FEEL like eating? What should we register for? What classes should I take? Do I want a doula?
And for many new moms, there are questions about exercising. Should I be exercising? What type of exercise can I do? Can I run? Can I exercise my abs? Here are a few common questions that many pregnant mamas are asking:
Should I exercise during pregnancy?
Most likely – YES!! The majority of women are able to exercise safely and effectively throughout their pregnancy. However, in the case of a high risk pregnancy or complications, your doctor may advise you to stop exercising – either for a period of time or for the duration of your pregnancy. But for women experiencing a normal pregnancy, exercising can be one of the best things you do during these 9 months!
Exercise is so important during pregnancy because right after delivery, when you are at your weakest physical state, you are asked to care for another human being – and you want to be ready for that! Staying fit helps you to go STRONG into the second act of motherhood. Exercise can also help decrease or prevent:
- Excessive weight gain and postpartum weight retention
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Maternal discomforts (nausea, leg cramps, back pain, constipation, swelling, depression, etc)
- Surgical or medical preventions in pregnancy
And not only is exercise great for mom, it is also helpful in delivering a happy and healthy baby!
How Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?
The best rule of thumb for exercising during pregnancy is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If your body is telling you to slow down, then do it. But if your body is feeling great, then continue to work as hard as you feel comfortable. Instead of focusing on what your heart rate is (which is what doctors used to recommend), it is better to rate how you feel on an exertion scale. If 0 is not moving at all and 10 is going “all out”, you should try to keep your exercise between 5-8. Many women find that they can continue to do the same types of exercising they were doing before they were pregnant throughout most of their pregnancy. There are even pregnant women out there running marathons! But if that puts you over an 8 on the scale, then it’s best to choose something else.
One group of muscles that is really important to focus on during pregnancy is the upper back and shoulders. With the changes in a pregnant woman’s body structure, the shoulders tend to get rounded and the back hunched over. This only gets worse as the baby is born and you are spending time nursing, rocking, reaching into the crib, etc. These muscles can be strengthened with exercises like rows and pulldowns. Always remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together while doing these exercises in order to really activate those muscles!
Another group of muscles that is often overlooked during pregnancy is the core. The muscles of the abdomen and back are SO important to a new mom that they really should not be inactive throughout pregnancy. There are a lot of different opinions about what women should and should not be doing for core exercises during pregnancy. Many doctors will actually discourage all exercises targeting the core. However, this makes recovery so much harder after baby and can cause permanent lower back damage. Twisting exercises should be limited but everything else is safe during pregnancy as long as it is tolerated. Again – if something does not feel comfortable then make sure you are listening to your body. But most women can successfully exercise their core muscles throughout their pregnancy.
What should I be aware of during exercise while I’m pregnant?
As you all know, our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy. A woman’s body will go through more changes during the 9 months of her pregnancy than a man’s will in his entire life! It’s important to know how these changes can affect your exercise routine. And it’s also important to know what signs your body will give you to tell you to slow down or stop.
One of the ways your body prepares to give birth is through the hormone relaxin. This hormone kicks in to loosen your joints, particularly those of the pelvic bones in order to more easily deliver a baby. However, relaxin can affect other joints of your body as well, and you may notice that you feel a little wobbly at times. It is important to be careful during exercise while doing side to side movements or balance activities because your joints are more likely to give out in these situations. Another time to be careful of this is during stretching. Stretching is very important during pregnancy but overstretching can be a problem while the joints are so loose.
Keep cool and hydrated during your workouts! Pregnant women tend to get overheated more easily and lose water rapidly. It is also important to know that you need to bring in extra calories for the calories you are burning during exercise. Now is not a time to be worried about losing weight! Having a pre-workout snack helps to regulate your blood sugar and gives you the energy you need to exercise.
Most importantly – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you are experiencing any strange symptoms (bleeding, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, etc), make sure to STOP! It is always better to be safe than sorry. You have plenty of time to push yourself harder once you have your baby.
If you are interested in learning more about how to safely and effectively exercise during your pregnancy, make sure to check out our Fit4Baby classes that are led by certified prenatal fitness instructors!
You can contact Marissa with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org