The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells us that regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. That includes women who are pregnant. Starting from that recommendation, we will provide some guidance on the proper amount, the best type, and some necessary precautions and exceptions for exercise and pregnancy.
Why Is It Important to Exercise During Pregnancy?
Most experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), agree that moderate exercise while pregnant is not only safe and desirable, but also has minimal risks and promotes health benefits.
Moderate Exercises While Pregnant
Finding the right exercises for you will help make it more enjoyable. Moderate exercise consists of the following types:
- Walking at a moderate pace provides a total workout which is easy on all the muscles and joints. If you can’t talk while walking, slow down as you are walking too fast.
- Swimming and water workouts are another good choice. They support your weight to help prevent injuries.
- Riding a stationary bike is safer than biking due to the possibility of falls because of balance changes while pregnant.
- Prenatal modified yoga and Pilates classes are available in most areas. The poses are modified to accommodate a pregnant woman’s shifting balance.
Be sure to consult with Florida Women’s Health in Ocala, FL about these exercises to be sure they are safe for you.
What Is the Right Amount of Exercise During Pregnancy?
Try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Moderate intensity is defined as enough to increase your heart rate and sweat, and you should be able to talk, but you should not be able to sing.
Brisk walking, general gardening tasks like weeding and raking would all be moderate intensity. Divide up the 150 minutes however works for you. 5 days of 30 minutes is ideal or choose less time each day to reach 150 for the week.
If you didn’t do exercise before, start very slowly and build up.
With a healthy and normal pregnancy, it’s safe to begin or continue with physical activity. There is no increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.
Precautions and What to Avoid
Drink plenty of water when exercising. Watch for signs of dehydration like dizziness, a racing heart, and dark urine.
Avoid being overheated. Wear loose fitting clothing while exercising, and avoid exercise outside when it’s hot or humid.
When Is Exercise Not Safe During Pregnancy?
Women with certain conditions or complications should not exercise.
- Certain types of lung and heart disease
- Preeclampsia or high blood pressure developed during pregnancy
- Severe anemia
- Giving birth to multiple babies
- After cerclage, where a stitch closes the opening of the cervix to prevent early birth
- Preterm labor
Never do any activities that can cause an increased risk of injury like contact sports, something that can end in a fall, or scuba diving. Be sure to ask obstetrician Michelle Wood, MD if you have any questions or concerns.
When to Stop Exercising and Call Your Doctor
You should immediately stop exercising if you:
- begin to bleed from the vagina
- feel dizzy or faint
- are short of breath
- have chest pains or a headache
- experience muscle weakness, swelling, or pain in the calf
- have regular contractions
- are gushing fluid from the vagina
Bleeding may not always be a problem, but when it occurs with the other above symptoms, stop exercising. Many women bleed or spot early in pregnancy, like after a PAP test or after a pelvic exam.
Bleeding in later pregnancy can be due to something more serious. Regardless of when it occurs, you should always check in with your obstetrician.
Contact Florida Women’s Health at (352) 369-5999 with questions of concerns about exercise during pregnancy.