Fitness & Pregnancy
Being physically active throughout your pregnancy will help you stay healthy and feel your best. At Allegheny Health Network, we understand that regular exercise can improve posture and decrease some of the common discomforts of pregnancy, such as backaches, constipation, bloating and fatigue. And it can also help relieve stress, improve your sleep and build the stamina you’ll need for labor and delivery. Research has also shown that exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
Here are some of the Allegheny Health Network's suggested exercises and tips to help you focus on the importance of fitness for you and your baby during this exciting time.
Smart Tips for Safe Fitness
- 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day is sufficient. Break it up into smaller increments of 10 minutes, three times per day if necessary.
- Start slowly and progress gradually.
- Wear comfortable clothes, a good-fitting support bra, and the right footwear for the activity you’re doing.
- Always begin with a five-minute warm-up. Follow the activity with a cool-down period and some light stretching.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after the activity.
- Avoid exercising in hot, humid weather.
- Tell your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program, especially if you were not a regular exerciser before your pregnancy.
- Listen to your body. Stop exercising and call your doctor if you have pain, vaginal bleeding or discharge, rapid heartbeat, uterine contractions, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or difficulty walking.
Which exercises should be avoided?
Certain exercises can be harmful during pregnancy. They include:
- Holding your breath during any activity
- Contact sports (softball, football, volleyball)
- Sports where falling is likely (skiing, horseback riding, gymnastics)
- Extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing or running
- Deep knee bends, full sit-ups and double-leg raises
- Waist-twisting movements while standing
Moves to Choose Before Baby Arrives
Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and don't overexert yourself. Swimming, brisk walking, yoga and low-impact aerobics are your safest bets. Tennis and racquetball are generally safe, but changes in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movement. Jogging is also relatively safe, in moderation.
- Swimming – gentle on the joints, relieves swollen ankles
- Yoga and Pilates – strengthens core muscles, eases back pain and relieves stress. After the first trimester, avoid stretches that require you to lie on your back.
- Indoor Cycling – boosts your heart rate without stressing joints
- Weight Training – helps you stay toned before and after delivery. Avoid heavy weights or routines where you have to lie on your back.
- Brisk Walking – safely tones muscles and improves your mood. Can be done indoors or out, right up until birth. Start slowly, and increase your time and speed a little each week. Build in some hills as you get stronger.
- Low-impact aerobics – keeps your heart and lungs strong, tones your body all over and gives you a burst of endorphins.
Getting Back to Fitness after Baby
Ask your doctor when it's appropriate for you to return to your exercise program. Most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal delivery (three to four weeks after a Cesarean birth). Exercise with caution. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Bright red vaginal bleeding
- Chest pain, pressure or tightness
- Severe muscular discomfort
- Headaches, dizziness or nausea
- Feeling cold or clammy
- Irregular or rapid heart beat
- Sudden swelling of the ankles, face, hands or calves
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty walking