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Exercise during Pregnancy Questions & Answers

Posted by Dr. Angela Langer, on September 05, 2014

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
Exercising during pregnancy is safe and recommended. The rule of thumb is: in a normal healthy pregnancy, the exercise that you did before becoming pregnant can usually can be continued throughout the pregnancy, with modifications as the pregnancy progresses. Moderate exercise is recommended for 30 minutes a day, 4 – 5 times each week; strenuous exercise can be performed in pregnancy with physician supervision. Complicated or high risk pregnancies should avoid exercise in pregnancy. As always, talk with your doctor before starting your exercise program. You’ll also need to reassess your exercise program with your doctor on a regular basis as your pregnancy progresses.

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?
Exercise in pregnancy helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduce discomfort and improve sleep. Additionally, it may help decrease your risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure.

What types of exercises are best for pregnant women?
Most exercises are safe in pregnancy. Yoga, Pilates and stretching exercises can be easily modified for each trimester of pregnancy. Aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, running, swimming or aerobic classes) are recommended to maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular health. Weight lifting can be performed, typically with the recommendation of more repetitions and less weight. Supine exercises, such as lying on your back for sit-ups, can be performed, but should be used with a hip roll after the first trimester in order to avoid low blood pressure. While sit-ups are okay in pregnancy, as the pregnancy progresses, patients are often so uncomfortable in the sit-up position that it is not reasonable to continue that type of exercise.

Do pregnant women need to consume extra calories on days they're exercising?
Mild increases (200-300 calories) in caloric intake are recommended for all pregnant women, whether they are exercising or not. Pregnant women who are exercising should ensure that they’re increasing their water intake – this is crucial.

What types of exercises should pregnant women avoid?
Exercising in a temperature-neutral environment is important. “Hot yoga,” for instance, would not be recommended for women who are pregnant. Pregnant women should also avoid working out in a gym without adequate cooling mechanisms and running for long distances in the heat of the day. Remember to stay well-hydrated and cool off when needed!

What are the warning signs that a pregnant woman is pushing her body too hard?
Listen to your body! That is the best advice for a woman in pregnancy. If you feel too hot or short of breath, it's time to stop and rest. Other warning signs are: feeling faint, headache, nausea/vomiting, leg pain, chest pain, vaginal bleeding, or contractions/abdominal pains that are painful. Complicated or high risk pregnancies should avoid exercise in pregnancy. For example, patients with a heart condition or high blood pressure may need to avoid certain activities. Consult your physician about your specific condition. Remember: stay hydrated, don’t get too hot and pay attention to your body’s warning signs.