Why You Should Exercise During Pregnancy

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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

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