Youniverse Contributor Lindsay Wright
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are vast and they impact both the mother and the fetus. Studies show that exercise during pregnancy boosts energy, aids in sleep quality/duration, reduces stress/discomfort and eases childbirth. Youfit is here to encourage any new mother on her path to wellness. Whether you’re currently pregnant or a few years away from the bump, here are eight things you should know about prenatal exercise!
**As with any exercise program, we recommend you first consult your physician before beginning.**
Tips For Exercising While Pregnant
- Start slow or MAINTAIN!
If you’ve never stepped foot into a gym before you got pregnant, right now is probably not the best time to start a major overhaul. Start slow with exercises like walking, biking, light weight lifting or water aerobics. If you’ve already been working out, aim to maintain your current fitness level. Essentially, keep doing what you’re doing (within reason) and don’t make any goals to lift more weight or run longer during this time. After delivery, you can turn into an exercise machine, but for now, aim to maintain your current fitness level.
- Fuel your body properly.
A pregnant woman’s body needs around 300-500 extra calories per day during pregnancy. This extra fuel helps fetal growth, muscle repair and helps to ensure that both the mother and fetus’ nutritional needs are met. When exercising, make sure you factor in what you are burning into your daily calorie needs so your baby is getting the proper nutrition for development.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!
It’s also important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. If your body gets dehydrated, it could cause contractions or raise your body temperature to dangerous levels for you and your baby (source). The Institute of Medicine says pregnant women in temperate climates should aim to drink 12 or 13 glasses (they count a glass as eight ounces) each day, which is slightly more than the amount for non-pregnant women (source).
A tip for drinking more water? Invest in a water bottle that has a STRAW, which is proven to make you drink 30% more water throughout the day with no extra effort on your part!
- Listen to your body!
In years past, trainers and physicians used to tell pregnant clients to monitor their heart rates when exercising as an indicator to see whether or not they were pushing themselves too hard. These days, we use a Scale of Perceived Exertion. In a nutshell, the pregnant client learns to listen to her body and it’s cues (sweat rate, ability to talk, pain, fetal movement, etc.) and is in charge of determining how much is TOO MUCH. Always listen to your body and reduce the intensity or duration of activity if something seems off. Also, be sure you’re exercising to stay fit and not to lose weight or meet fitness goals – there will be plenty of time for that later!
- Avoid prone (lying on belly) and supine (lying on back) exercises.
After you’ve passed that 12 week mark, you’ll want to steer clear of any exercises that require you to lay flat on your back (think bench press or crunches) and/or flat on your stomach (think BOSU Back Extensions or some yoga poses). While safe for the average woman, these types of exercises put strain on various blood vessels in the pregnant woman’s body and should be avoided. A few other exercises and sports that should be avoided? Skiing, snowboarding, skating, and contact sports! Consult your doctor if you have questions about any activity.
- Buy a supportive sports bra!
Your belly isn’t the only thing that grows during pregnancy! Breast health is important for all moms-to-be. Investing in a supportive sports bra, especially if you’re running or doing group fitness classes, can make a world of difference when it comes to being comfortable. Many maternity sports bras can also double as nursing bras for post-pregnancy support.
- Ask for help!
If you need help determining how hard you should work out or what exercises are on the Do/Don’t list, ask a certified personal trainer to assist you! While all YouCoaches are certified to assist pregnant women, there may even be a YouCoach at your gym with a Pre/Postnatal Fitness Certification (someone who has taken courses specific to your prenatal needs). A certified personal trainer can show you exactly what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and can also help you in developing a plan for getting that postnatal body back into fighting shape!
- REST…and more than you think you should!
A woman’s body changes so much during pregnancy and we often push ourselves far more than we need to! Be sure to schedule 1-3 rest days per week that compliment your fitness regimen. Rest days give your body the chance to repair muscles and “reboot” your central nervous system from the stress that exercise places on it. As long as you’re getting some form of movement in your day, feel confident in the fact that your most important job right now is growing another human. Rest and recovery is essential!
Pregnancy is a wonderful time to connect with your body in a way like never before. It’s important to stay active for your own health AND for your growing fetus’ health. Remember, prenatal exercise doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A simple walk or swim can make a huge difference in your day.
Lindsay Wright is an NASM certified personal trainer with a specialty in pre and postnatal fitness. She writes the healthy living blog, Lindsay’s List and also manages her own fitness company, MoveMore LLC. Mom of three kids, she spends her free time homeschooling and eating brownies.