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Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

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Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body. But what if you’re pregnant? Does this change the constructive nature of exercise to a potentially dangerous activity?

There are many factors that go into answering this question, such as how often you exercised before you became pregnant and what kind of exercises your body is accustomed to doing.

If you follow certain guidelines, exercising during pregnancy may be more than safe — it may be extremely beneficial!

The list below shows the impact of exercise on labor and delivery:

  • Women who exercise are thought to have a higher pain tolerance and may experience up to a 35 percent decrease in need for pain relief
  • 75 percent decrease in incidence of maternal exhaustion
  • 50 percent decrease in need for induction or use of Pitocin to stimulate labor
  • 50 percent decrease in need for interventions due to abnormalities in fetal heart rate
  • 75 percent decrease in need for operative interventions (forceps or cesarean)

According to the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy,” women who continued to exercise through pregnancy were greater than 30 percent more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal delivery, and shorter active labor time.

Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances psychological well-being. Your physical activity may help to reduce constipation and swelling and women who exercise while they are pregnant are generally able to lose their pregnancy weight at a faster rate after delivery. Physical activity also prepares you for the big day because being in labor is like running a marathon – the more endurance you have, the more prepared you will be.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) suggests exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. In addition, ACOG also suggests that perceived exertion is a more effective tracker than heartrate. Non-exercisers should focus on walking and swimming or finding a trusted program that specializes in prenatal exercise. If you’re a runner, you may continue to go on your normal run if it is approved by your obstetrician. Though strength training in pregnancy is very beneficial, some modifications are appropriate. You should be mindful of form and to not exceed weight totals that compromise your ability to move well. In addition, avoid long periods of lying on your back.

These exercise guidelines have been the subject of studies that looked at the effects on the fetus and mother immediately after exercise, during labor and even later in the child’s growth. As a result, we know they’re backed by sound medical research.

Great exercises to do at home if you don’t have any equipment are squats, lunges, stationary bikes and going for brisk walks. You can also do arm exercises with make-shift weights such as using canned goods from your pantry or water bottles. Pregnant women should avoid riding bikes on a busy street, running up and down the stairs and abdominal exercises (which can cause diastasis recti to worsen), or anything else you think could be unsafe for falling or getting hit in the abdomen.   

Physical activity during pregnancy is only safe if done correctly and if all contraindications have been ruled out by your provider. Make sure that you’re staying properly hydrated and receiving an adequate amount of calories (which you can calculate at freedieting.com). If you have any vaginal bleeding, leakage of fluid, contractions, chest pain or decreased fetal movement, stop your regular exercises and contact your provider right away.

Below are a few of the many exercise programs online that you may want to check out.