One of the most common questions we receive from newly pregnant women is “can I exercise during pregnancy?”, the answer for most is an emphatic yes! Consistent exercise has many positive impacts on health, both during and after pregnancy. Pregnancy is great motivation to change our habits for the better; use this pregnancy to create a sustainable exercise routine that will benefit you in the postpartum period as well.
Exercise has a long list of benefits including: improved mood, energy and muscle tone! Just 30 minutes a day will improve blood sugar and help with blood pressure. Exercise also helps with appropriate hunger cues and is a fantastic form of stress relief. Cravings are often a result of stress and boredom. Exercise gets you moving, acts as a release for negative energy and keeps you away from the kitchen. The piece de resistance is movement’s impact on constipation; simple daily exercise helps the large intestine move waste out of the body.
During pregnancy, the body undergoes several changes that will affect the way you feel during certain activities. Pregnancy hormones relax ligaments which cause increased joint mobility, your center of gravity changes and some women report feeling clumsy. Use the knowledge of how your body changes during pregnancy to shape your routine. Each week, month and trimester you will notice changes in your body that will affect your exercise routine, so evolve the routine to meet your needs. You may start out jogging in the first trimester and finish the third spending time in the pool.
Establish a routine that matches your abilities. If you are new to exercise, start with a simple activity like walking or swimming. If you already have an established exercise regimen, continue but listen to your body and make changes as needed. This is not the time to undergo a drastic training change. Do not get a wild idea to sign up for a marathon or triathlon! If you take classes or work with a trainer, make sure to take the instructor aside and let them know you are pregnant. Many activities are safe during pregnancy but may require modification. There is not a standard recommendation for heart rate levels during exercise. Our providers generally recommend you keep your heart rate under 160 beats per minute.
Safety is key. It is important to avoid activities where there is a risk of fall, collision, or sudden movements. Some activities that are commonly avoided during pregnancy include outdoor biking (try indoor cycling instead), contact sports, ice skating, downhill skiing, sledding, horseback riding and 4-wheeler travel. If you have questions, ask your provider. We hope to inspire women to keep moving but it is important to assess an activity for safety during pregnancy before beginning.
The body has many ways to communicate that an activity may not work for you. If you experience vaginal bleeding, dizzyness, chest pain, headache, contractions, calf pain/swelling, fluid leakage, or decreased fetal movement; contact your provider immediately.
What kind of movement do Alaskan women enjoy during pregnancy?
- Lake swimming
- Yoga in the Park
- Swimming; there are many pools in South Central Alaska
- Water Walking; checkout the lazy river walk open to adults only at H2Oasis
- Outdoor walking; don’t forget your ice cleats and maybe even poles
- Indoor Walking; try 1 of the many gyms in town or the Anchorage Dome
- Hiking with or without snow shoes depending on the snow load
- Prenatal Yoga Classes, offered at a variety of studios
- Prenatal Pilates
- Prenatal Fitness Classes with Alaska Mighty Moms and Fit4Baby
Movement is meant to be fun, join a group or create a date with friends! Aim for 30-45 minutes of moderate activity each day. If you have questions about safety, discuss them with your provider.
Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, FAQ0119. Frequently Asked Questions: Exercise During Pregnancy. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy
Exercise During Pregnancy: Myth vs Fact. Colette Bouchez, WebMD Feature. http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/exercise-during-pregnancy-myth-vs-fact