While you are pregnant is no exception. The American Pregnancy Association says that if you followed a regular exercise program pre-pregnancy, that you can maintain that program to some degree during pregnancy. That does not mean that you should be able to, that you have to be able to in order to be healthy. It does mean that if you were fit before, you should be able to continue some exercise, but not necessarily all that you did before. In my first pregnancy, I learned that I couldn't set that expectation for myself, otherwise, I would be pretty annoyed. Before I had Sam, I was a 3-mile a day kind of girl. Once I was pregnant, I found that I had to go a lot slower, drink a lot more water, and take it easy. I even had to stop running and start walking as I got further along in my pregnancy. My lower back just couldn't handle that kind of working out! I would think to myself "what is wrong with me?" Ha. The answer was very clear--there was nothing wrong with me, I was just pregnant. So if you are a marathon runner, and you can do just as much as you did before. Great! Good for you. If you are like the rest of us, just do what you can and stop with any discomfort, breathlessness, or exhaustion.
So, what about if you are light on exercise before your pregnancy and now you want to get healthier? Great! That is a great goal to set for yourself. I would say, start really slow and begin with lower impact exercise. Walking, swimming, stretching and practicing yoga are amazing ways to move your body while you are pregnant and will help with your overall health and well being. It will feel good and should feel good to move your body. The goal is not to beat up on yourself, it is to move in ways that feel comfortable, uplifting and even fun!
Fun. Exercise, fun? Isn't that an oxymoron you ask? Physical activity can be fun, yes. It shouldn't be a chore or a punishment. That kind of physical activity isn't sustainable in most lifestyles. Ever wonder why most people use their treadmill as a coat rack? Movement doesn't need to be exhaustive or even planned as such. Movement can be a nice walk with your partner around the block, walking your dog, a relaxing yoga class to meet other pregnant friends, a romp in the snow with your other children, shopping with your sister or good friend (you can get a ton of walking in) or could even be cleaning the house! Even sitting on your floor and stretching everyday is beneficial. So, start thinking outside the box (and off your couch) and think of non-conventional ways you like to move!
Last but not least, while considering any type of physical activity, you should follow the American Pregnancy Association's guidelines I have listed below that I pulled directly from their website http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/exerciseguidelines.html:
- Listen to your body. Your body will naturally give you signals that it is time to reduce the level of exercise you are performing.
- Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. This is a sign that your baby and your body cannot get the oxygen supply they need.
- Wear comfortable exercise footwear that gives strong ankle and arch support.
- Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of fluids during exercise.
- Avoid exercise in extremely hot weather.
- Avoid rocky terrain or unstable ground when running or cycling. Your joints are more lax in pregnancy, and ankle sprains and other injuries may occur.
- Contact sports should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Weight training should emphasize improving tone, especially in the upper body and abdominal area. Avoid lifting weights above your head and using weights that strain the lower back muscles.
- During the second and third trimesters, avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back as this decreases blood flow to your womb.
- Include relaxation and stretching before and after your exercise program.
In health and wellness,