Why You Should Exercise During Pregnancy


sneakersI've always been a little jealous of the gym-orexics -- the workout fanatics with hot, trim, toned bodies who can't get enough of spinning and free weights. When I see these same women jogging while several months pregnant, a beautifully-shaped belly bump framed by tan, runner's legs and sinewy arms, I can't help but wish I had that kind of discipline.

It turns out that these women are on to something! Recently, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology updated their guidelines on exercise during pregnancy, encouraging moms-to-be to workout, even vigorously, barring any medical restrictions. Researchers found that "increasing physical-activity energy expenditure reduces the risk of gestational diabetes" and that strength training specifically had no negative effect on your unborn baby. Well, crap, now how are you going to get out of going to the gym?

More specifically, they suggest that for optimal pregnancy health, women should try to walk about 11 hours per week, if you're walking at around 2 miles per hour -- you can get away with just a few hours a week if you're moving at a faster pace. Ideally, they recommend about 4.5 hours per week on a stationary bike, at vigorous intensity. Strength training is also okay, but they suggest light weights and higher reps so as not to overtax your joints.

Now, I've been pretty good about exercise during my pregnancy, walking regularly and taking yoga twice a week. But, I'll admit that even though I knew it was good for me, I'd get a little nervous if I felt like I was huffing-and-puffing more than I should be, worried that maybe I was overheating and upsetting the delicate balance in my belly. When I felt a little like, "Oh no, this is too much," I'd take a break, or lay down for awhile after a workout. Yes, I pretty much knew that I wasn't overdoing it, but I felt like it was better to be safe than sorry.

I'm speaking in the past tense because now, at about 30 weeks pregnant with twins, I've become pretty sedentary, nervous about going into early labor. At my most recent ob appointment, he told me that everything was looking good, but I should probably start dialing back my exercise. "I would just cut out any heavy cardio you're doing," he advised. Heavy cardio?! Do I look like I'm running 5Ks? I think maybe my jazzy sweatpants were misleading because he seemed to have me confused with one of those sporty pregnant types. And just so you have the full picture here: I'm curvy and fleshy with hips and boobs and all that! So I'm not sure what made him think I was doing anything other than dragging my double-wide pregnant belly back and forth to the kitchen. Of course, I wasn't about to respond to his heavy cardio statement with, "Who me? Have you seen my jiggly thighs, doc?" so I told him, "Sure, no problem, I'll start taking it easy."

And that I have! I've stopped going to yoga and I'm walking much less. In fact, just strolling to the store yesterday with my husband, I found myself slowing down to a Grandma-with-a-walker pace, concerned that it might trigger early contractions. Yes, I know better, and I know I have to listen to my body, too. But, at this point in my pregnancy, I'm just going to listen to the overly-cautious, nervous Nelly inside of me and take it easy until my babies come out strong and healthy.

Have you kept up an exercise regiment during your pregnancy?

Image via janineomg/Flickr

pregnancy exercise


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melan... melanniek

Oddly, I exercise MORE when I get pregnant.  Why?  To fight depression and to make sure I actually do something the rest of the day.  I have the luxury of not working, therefore, I try to be harder on myself to do more.  I mow the lawn, and just this last weekend I helped my husband build a deck.  I also used a buffer/scrubber to do my basement floors.  The real killer was building the gazebo.  No, I'm not joking.  My OB is cool with whatever I do, so long as I am not in pain.  By keeping myself active, I feel my labor will go better.  I don't know if this is psychosomatic or not, but I feel good at the end of the day.  I've also LOST 4 lbs since I got pregnant, but the baby is growing just fine.  7 more weeks to go, THEN I'll take it easy lol.

littl... littlelambe

^^ Losing weight is not a badge of a healthy pregnancy! I gained 35 lbs, but kept fairly active and did things most people wouldn't dream of, including remodeling, moving furniture, camping at 36 weeks, biking up until 40 weeks.... My labor was short and uncomplicated. And the weight dropped in six months without diet or exercise pp.

nonmember avatar Susan

I don't think losing weight during pregnancy is bad if it's due to moderate exercise and eating right.

melan... melanniek

There is no medical reason why it's not okay for a woman to lose weight during pregnancy IF the fetus is growing.  So yes, it actually is a "badge" of a healthy pregnancy.  Sorry to tell you armchair Doc, but I'll trust my OB's opinion over yours.

Lesley Rae King

Melannie, I've known other women who lost weight during pregnancy, and I've always heard, as long as the mother has the weight to lose and the fetus is growing, it's fine. Kudos to you for staying healthy! And Jenny, have you tried swimming? I didn't start until I was about 32 weeks along with my twins (mostly because I was still working fulltime, and it was winter) but when I finally got in the pool, it was just... AAHHHHHH! Even doing just a few laps at a leisurely pace is good for you (and them). This time around, I was running more regularly but I gave it up around 16 weeks (just 10 days ago!) because I was getting very sore and achy around the, ah, pubic area. More yoga and swimming, here I come! I love exercising, even while pregnant.

Addys... Addys_Mom

I wanted to but i found walking, even for a few minutes excruciating. It was horrible. I went from exercising an hour a day 4-5 days a week, to pretty much nothing. It was hard to not exercise. I would have wanted to go swimming but couldn't afford a pass on top of my gym membership. Now I'm back to it 2 months PP. But i was pretty active throughout my pregnancy trying to get our house remodeled and ready to go up for sale.

melan... melanniek

@Lesley-  Thanks for the support!  I have struggled with my weight my entire life, therefore it was awesome to see how my body reacted to pregnancy.  My mom gained between 50-80 lbs with my sister and I, so I figured I would pack on the pounds with my children.  The pool on my joints is HEAVEN.  I hear people complain about about the heat of summer while being pregnant, but I'd rather be able to hit up the pool and soak up some vitamin D lol.  Pregnant women ROCK no matter the circumstance...our bodies go through hell for the most important job in the world.  Props to all the moms!

hutch... hutchfam2007

I wish I was one of the motivated ppl that LIKED to exercise... but im not. never have been... BUT when I was pregnant I was actually better than when not pregnant, ate better too. I guess I felt like I had something more important than myself to do it for. And I did walk a lot, almost every evening with hubby. After the birth... back to not exercising so much... I am not overweight but would like to get more toned as Im planning to try to get pregnant again and the next few months and would like to start off on the right path.... but im the worlds best procrastinator so..... maybe after I get pregnant my motivation will come back :) 

mrs.pyle mrs.pyle

losing weight during pregnancy for those who have some to lose is healthy for you and baby.... 

TheBa... TheBabyPlanners

Great article!  What are your thoughts on the Pregnancy Fit Kit?  Their website is http://www.PregnancyFitKit.com  I was thinking about getting one because a friend just loves hers.  Thanks for sharing your insight.

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