The benefits of regular activity are undeniable for pregnant women. Keeping fit during pregnancy not only helps maintain energy levels but can also make it easier to get back in shape after childbirth. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day can reduce backaches, prevent gestational diabetes, improve mood, promote muscle tone, help you sleep and even give you more energy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Always check with your healthcare provider before starting, continuing, or changing an exercise routine. If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you can probably continue working out as before, with a few modifications (noted below). However, in some cases it's not okay to exercise during pregnancy, so talk to your provider about your fitness routine to make sure your activities don't put you or your baby at risk.
The first 24 weeks may be the easiest times to exercise because you don't have a large belly getting in the way. As the fetus grows, however, your joints are prone to injury because the hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments supporting your joints to relax, according to the ACOG. In addition, the added weight of the baby may affect balance or cause back pain.
If during the first trimester you'd much rather sleep than swim, that's fine. However, while there's little you can do to offset low energy levels early on in pregnancy, healthcare experts agree exercise and a balanced diet are the best ways to fight off fatigue.
For many women the second trimester gets easier. Most women have more energy in the second trimester and will be more inclined to exercise more regularly. Walking and yoga can be wonderful activities during this time.
Of course, in the third trimester, the extra weight and the lack of sleep can lead you full circle back to a state of exhaustion. But most experts say there's no reason women can't exercise in their final weeks of pregnancy; although the activity will probably need modification. Back and abdominal strength are important for the upcoming birth and the lifting you'll do after the baby comes.
You don't have to sign up for a special pregnancy exercise class if that's not your thing. Just getting outside for some fresh air and the sunlight is beneficial. Do some regular daily stretching when possible. Do Kegels during commercials. You don't have to run a marathon or overachieve, just go for a walk.
Talk to any of our doctors at your next appointment about what types of exercise are right for you. Whether you're pregnant or not, they can offer advice for activities that could fit your lifestyle and fitness level.